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Wicked Weather Nationwide; Jersey Shore: The Comeback; Woman Found Dead in Lawyer's Tub; Special Moments At Indy 500

Aired May 27, 2013 - 06:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Deadly flash floods leaving parts of Texas under water. Near record-breaking rainfall devastating a community. More could be on the way.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Destroyed by Superstorm Sandy Seven months ago, the Jersey shore rebuilt and ready for business, but will summer travelers return to the beachfront?

ROMANS: A mysterious death. A young paralegal found dead, naked, inside her boss' home. Was this murder?

BERMAN: Intrigue.

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

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. Twenty-nine minutes past the hour.

BERMAN: We're going to start right now with the historic weather.

The flash flooding claiming lives of several people in southern Texas. San Antonio's been under water since torrential downpours started on Friday. The waters are subsiding but the damage, it remains.

Texas not the only part of the country experiencing this extreme weather, either. Flash floods also inundating eastern and central Iowa over the weekend.

And get this -- a near impossible three feet of snow dumped on an upstate New York ski resort this weekend. Three feet of snow, and it's May. Not just May. It's the end of May.

ROMANS: Oh, wow.

CNN's Indra Petersons is monitoring all of it for us.

Good morning. Is it Memorial Day? I'm not sure.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Just want to keep you guys on your toes, right?

We were talking about some of those heavier thunderstorms also in Iowa and we're still dealing with that this morning. Look at this lightning around Des Moines. We're still looking for heavy thunderstorms anywhere from half an inch to an inch of rain possible, of course, larger amounts in those heavier downpours.

But one place starting to feel a little bit better, the Northeast. All that cold air finally getting out of here, starting to warm up today. In fact, we're talking about temperatures 30 degrees warmer. That's what we're looking for in Vermont where they had freezing temperatures yesterday. Today, they're seeing some 60s over in New York itself looking for some mid-70s.

So, beautiful weather for us. One of the things we have to be watching is still once again the slight risk area. Not really big tornado day. Most likely seeing some damaging winds and some thunderstorms with some large hail out there.

But it is covering about 10 million of us. We're talking about for Montana down through Texas, even stretching through portions of Illinois. We are going to be monitoring that threat.

Unfortunately, the threat will be enhanced by the time we go to the middle of the week. The reason for that is we're going to be watching a low that's producing some showers currently on the West Coast.

Now that low, very cold for this time of year, is going to make its way to the middle of the country. When that happens, we have the potential for another tornado outbreak by the middle of the week. Of course, unfortunately, it does include the plains, including Oklahoma, as well. So that severe risk again coming to us about Wednesday or so.

Until then, today we are going to be dealing in Moore, Oklahoma, with clearing skies, sunshine. They had a lot of thunderstorms over the weekend, but gusty winds in the forecast for them today with gusts about 58 miles per hour. But, unfortunately, we're still looking ahead to more of this spring-like weather with the tornado outbreaks.

BERMAN: Not out of the woods yesterday in Moore, Oklahoma.

Thanks so much, Indra. Appreciate it.

And amid the heartbreak and all the loss there, the healing, it begins. Thousands gathered for memorial service last night in honor of the 24 people who died in the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. This came just hours after President Obama toured the devastation and promised the people there that America stands with them.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whenever I come to an area that's been devastated by some natural disaster like this I want to make sure everybody understands I'm speaking on behalf of the entire country. Everywhere, fellow Americans are praying with you, thinking about you, and they want to help. And so, I'm just a messenger here today, letting everybody here know that you are not alone, that you've got folks behind you.


BERMAN: The president's visit getting a positive response from those trying to piece their lives back together again.


RYAN MARLER, MOORE, OKLAHOMA FIREFIGHTER: The president's message was like Jeremy said, extremely personal, was not in a hurry, was really about shaking the hands, encouraging the community to rebuild and get us back to where we need to be. Extremely personal. Very surprised.


BERMAN: The president acknowledged it will take a long time for that community to rebuild. And get back on its feet.

ROMANS: Speaking of rebuilding, the Jersey shore back from the brink and just in time for summer. It's been seven months since superstorm Sandy devastated many of the beachfront communities. In Seaside Heights, New Jersey, a town that relies on tourism for 65 percent of its economy, the importance of a strong start to summer cannot be emphasized enough.

Our Poppy Harlow is live in seaside heights. When it was bad weather on Saturday I felt so bad for those homeowners. But -- or business owners, rather.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But now, it's sunny, Christine. It was a beautiful Sunday. It is a beautiful Memorial Day. Making up for some bad weather Saturday.

You know, believe it or not, this marks a centennial of Seaside Heights and its board walk. This may be the most critical Memorial Day weekend ever for the New Jersey shore. Not in terms of sheer numbers but in terms of importance, because this is really going to be an indication of whether or not this critical tourism area is coming back post-Sandy.

I want you to take a look at some video of the destruction to the entire Jersey shore right after Sandy, and now, we're going to show you where we stand seven months later.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one!

HARLOW (voice-over): The games are back on in Seaside Heights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it's back. It's back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not back --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A hundred percent, but we're back.

HARLOW: And the people who came back liked what they saw.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's great. It's really good to see everything back to where it used to be. Almost close to where it used to be.

HARLOW: Almost, because the rebuilding continues. Nearly seven months after Sandy tore up much of the Jersey shore.

Vincent Storino's family owns Casino Pier. Before Sandy, it held 38 rides. Now, this.

(on camera): How much progress have you guys made?

VINCENT STORINO, MANAGING MEMBER, CASINO BEACH PIER: We made tremendous progress. In three months we've done what should take three years.

HARLOW (voice-over): It hasn't come cheap.

(on camera): Millions?

STORINO: It's millions.

HARLOW: Tens of millions?

STORINO: I would say tens of millions.

HARLOW (voice-over): The new boardwalk alone cost nearly $8 million.

MAYOR BILL AKERS, SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J.: We did what we had to do to get the doors open, to let people know that seaside heights is open. But there's so many more things we got to do.

HARLOW: Like more benches and lights. But Mayor Bill Akers is satisfied.

AKERS: You can walk the boardwalk north to north, and it seems like we got a few people up here today enjoying it.

HARLOW: A few people less than a typical Memorial Day weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say we're doing about half what we did last year.

HARLOW: But that hasn't dampened spirits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean look around. You couldn't ask for better weather. Couldn't ask for more people. This is great.

STEVE WHALEN, OWNER, LUCKY LEO'S ARCADE: This is the golden goose, Lucky Leo's. We knew it was going to be slow. But, just the idea that we're here, and that truly is the remarkable thing.

HARLOW (on camera): What a way to ring in 100 years. AKERS: Well, I guess we're doing the same thing that they did back 100 years ago. They needed to build a boardwalk. We're building it.


HARLOW: I got to give credit, Christine, to the spirit and the perseverance of the people here. Every day working to get this place back. That's because it is so important.

Nineteen billion dollars, that's how much money comes in to the Jersey shore every year. It's more than half the total state brings in in tourism dollars. About 7.5 million people came to the shore last year and we're told about 85 percent of the businesses on the boardwalk are open this Memorial Day weekend. That is progress.

ROMANS: Good for them. A lot of homes, though, are they still uninhabitable and how much is that expected to hurt the businesses this summer?

HARLOW: So that's a great question. Because that's the one thing that could really hurt. You look around this town, you look next door, at Mantoloking, you look at all the shore towns and a lot of the homes that people either come to live in for the summer or rent out to tourists in the summer, they are still severely damaged, a number of them still uninhabitable.

And the mayor told me that is the one thing that could really stand in their way of getting enough people and revenue here this summer Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Poppy Harlow in Seaside Heights, thanks, Poppy.

Thirty-six minutes after the hour right now. And it is Memorial Day.

President Obama wishing Americans a happy Monday holiday with their families. But also reminding everyone what this day is really all about.


OBAMA: And on Monday, we celebrate Memorial Day. Unofficially, it's the start of summer -- a chance for us to spend some extra time with family and friends, at barbecues or on the beach, getting a little fun and relaxation in before heading back to work. It's also a day on which we set aside some time on our own or with our families to honor and remember all the men and women who have given their lives in service to this country we love.

They are heroes, each and every one. They gave America the most precious thing they have, last full measure of devotion. And because they did, we are who we are today, a free and prosperous nation, the greatest in the world.


BERMAN: The president will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns later today. And, of course, "Taps" will be played at some point, 24 notes of emotion that really cannot be put into words.

Mike McClanahan from our Birmingham affiliate WIAT introduces us to a man who's made a proper and perfect rendition of "Taps" his mission.


MIKE MCLANAHAN, WIAT REPORTER (voice-over): Polished, precise, and professional Gene Ramsay practices and perfects his bugle playing with military discipline.

Though he never served in the military, this is his way of serving veterans and their families.

He's not with them long, just a moment, a very important moment -- just long enough for 24 notes.

GENE RAMSAY, ALABAMA STATE DIRECTOR FOR BUGLES ACROSS AMERICA: So to me the notes, the 24 notes of 'Taps", is a way for us to say goodbye to that portion of their life and send them on. It's a very meaningful process for the family. I get, I get more guys probably that tear up when they hear "Taps" than probably the women do. It's the final call to be heard at the graveside of somebody who has served our country and served so willingly.

MCCLANAHAN: Ramsey performs "Taps" upon request at military funerals. He's the Alabama state director for Bugles Across America.

RAMSAY: The notes alone, 24 of them, the most haunting notes you'll ever hear. They mean something different to everybody. What it means to me is it's -- it is the final -- it is the final good-bye to a hero.

MCCLANAHAN: The notes are etched in his memory, like the names inscribed in these bricks, or the faces of those he honors in the minds of those they leave behind.

RAMSAY: Unfortunately, I did not get to serve in the military. I tried but I had a health condition that kept me from doing that. And this is my way of serving. Finally. I get that opportunity.

It's our job to make sure that they have a final send-off. I try to play the words. It's more than just notes. I try to play the words.

And these are the words that go through my mind as I play: Day is done. Gone the sun. From the hills, from the lake, from the skies. All is well, safely rest. God is nigh.



ROMANS: Welcome back this morning.

A young paralegal found dead in the Philadelphia home of her boss, a high profile attorney she had been dating. He says he was out of town when she died. An autopsy was done. Possible evidence was collected. But so far, this case has far more questions than answers.


ROMANS (voice-over): The body of 26-year-old Julia Law was removed by police from the home of prominent Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer A. Charles Peruto Jr. A maintenance worker found her unresponsive just after 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. Police sources say she was found naked, face down in a bathtub. Investigators have combed through the home, removing brown bags of possible evidence.

Peruto told police he was on the Jersey shore when Law's body was discovered. Police sources say they have no suspects in the case.

The medical examiner's office has carried out an autopsy but the cause of Law's death has not been disclosed.

According to her Facebook and LinkedIn profiles law worked as a paralegal and she was dating the 58-year-old attorney. In a statement to CNN, Peruto said, "She was my girlfriend and I loved her more than anyone can imagine. The people at my firm know that. This is God's theft of a perfect human."

The news of Law's death shocked neighbors in this quiet neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly bizarre.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, that's shocking.

ROMANS: Peruto was visibly upset as he returned to his home.

When CNN affiliate WPVI asked him how he felt.

REPORTER: Who is this girl?

CHARLES PERUTO, CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: Are you serious? Did you ever lose somebody? Are you serious?

ROMANS: For now, just how Julia Law died remains a mystery.


ROMANS: Julia Law reportedly had been Peruto's paralegal for two years. Some of his past clients have included alleged mafia leaders.

BERMAN: Forty-five minutes after the hour right now. The stabbing of a soldier in France was an act of terror. That's according to officials in Paris. The stabbing happened this weekend, and they say it may have been inspired by the street murder of a British soldier in London.

The suspect in this case is still at large. Investigators say he fled into a crowded train station after attacking the soldier with a knife or some kind of box cutter.

Meantime, the British government looking to crack down on extremism after the murder of that soldier in broad daylight there. Prime Minister, David Cameron, will lead a terrorism task force targeting radical religious groups. Two men suspected in the soldier's killing have been linked to Islamic extremists.

ROMANS: A temporary solution is in the works in that bridge collapse that injured three in Washington State last week. Officials say new steel girders could restore traffic by mid-June along this crucial artery between the U.S. and Canada. On Thursday, a truck slammed into an overhead support on the bridge, knocking out a portion of Interstate 5. A permanent replacement bridge is expected sometime this September.

BERMAN: Forty-six minutes after the hour right now, and CNN's Jeanne Moos now shows us why it is never smart for a driver to block a fire hydrant.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At first glance, you can almost mistake it for a snake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a giant squid is trying to eat a guy in a car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like they're trying to make it into a water bed.

MOOS: Oh, there was water involved. Take it from the fireman in charge that day in Merced, California.

VOICE OF DON LONG, DEPUTY CHIEF, CITY OF MERCED FIRE DEPARTMENT: I heard this loud glass crash and I turned around and I saw my engineer throwing a hose through the center of the car.

MOOS: Ever since that day a little over two years ago, photos with captions like five reasons why you should never park in front of a fire hydrant have periodically surfaced on the web. In this case, the car was blocking a hydrant in front of a fire at a marijuana grow house with 3,000 pot plants inside. Yet, it's the car that blocked the hydrant that have everyone remembers.

LONG: Just took his hydrant wrench and took out the driver's side, walked over, picked up the passenger's side.

MOOS: Exactly like they did in the movie, "Backdraft."



MOOS: Firemen say it's rare that they have to do this, but it's crucial to keep the hose straight. A serious kink could cut the water supply in half or as one New York City fireman put it.

KEVIN KUSTKA, NEW YORK CITY FIREFIGHTER: This idiot, whoever it is, parked on a hydrant and left it, now just jeopardized somebody's life. MOOS (on-camera): It doesn't seem to be a nickname for this practice, so we'll just call it hosing, as in, hey chief, this car needs to be hosed.

(voice-over) It doesn't matter if it's a BMW, firemen have been hosing cars when necessary since the days of black and white. No one expressed sympathy for the shattered windows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not only does he deserve a ticket, he deserves exactly what he got today.

MOOS (on-camera): You know, for a minute, I looked and thought oh, that's nice. They put that towel there to protect the car, and then, I thought, no they didn't.

LONG: No, no. It's to protect the hose.


LONG: At that point, you know, the car is the least of our worries.

MOOS (voice-over): So, think twice about parking at a hydrant or when they say --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here comes the water!

MOOS: It may be coming not in buckets but across bucket seats.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

Did you guys chuckle a bit?

LONG: Yes.


MOOS: -- New York.


BERMAN: You know how many people care about the actual owners of the cars? I say exactly zero.

ROMANS: Right, right.

BERMAN: Precisely zero.

ROMANS: Or the ticket. No one cares they got a ticket either.

BERMAN: He deserved it.

ROMANS: You're right.

Coming up, ten NASCAR fans hurt when a cable goes tumbling onto the tracks causing chaos on the speedway. Details next in our "Bleacher Report." (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: So, the Boston marathon bombings robbed many runners of their chance to cross the finish line, but Sunday, the Indianapolis 500 gave those people a second chance.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes joins us now with more in the "Bleacher Report." Good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys. The best part of a marathon has to be crossing that finish line. And the officials at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wanted to give that feeling back to those Boston marathon runners who were robbed of it after the bombings. Non-finishers from Indiana and surrounding states were invited to come to the track and finish the marathon before yesterday's Indianapolis 500.

About 35 people took them up on the offer, and they ran the half mile stretch from turn four to the yard of bricks as a crowd of over 250,000 chanted "USA." Great moment there.

Once the race got going, it was a good one. There would be a record 68 lead changes and with three laps to go, Tony Kanaan would take the lead. Shortly after that, Dario Franchitti crashes into the wall and that would be it.

Kanaan takes the checkered flag under caution to finally get his first win at the Indy 500. Afterwards, he thanked his fans for sticking with him.


TONY KANAAN, WINNER OF 97TH INDY 500: And the way they spoil for me because every year they did the same, me winning or not. So, this just tastes a lot better, you now, for all the support they gave me all these years, I couldn't do it. You know, I couldn't do not a better race for them.


SCHOLES: It was a bizarre afternoon for everyone involved at the Coca-Cola 600 yesterday in Charlotte. A TV cable above the track snapped during the race. Ten fans were injured, but luckily, no one was seriously hurt. Now, Kyle Busch's car got the worst of the damage during the 27-minute delay. He went and got his phone to take some pictures. Once the race eventually resumed, Kevin Harvick would go on to get the win.

The eastern conference finals continuing last night in Indy with game three between the Heat and Pacers. This one would be all Miami. Lebron James led the Heat with 22 points as he played the majority of the game down low in the post. Miami would win 114-96 to take a two games to one lead in the series. The Heat have now won 23 out of their last 24 road games. Game four of the series is tomorrow night.

Last night in L.A., 26-year-old Robby Rogers made MLS history as he became the first openly gay athlete in the U.S. to compete in a professional game. Rogers had retired from pro soccer back in February when he made his sexual orientation public, but after a few months, Rogers decided to make a comeback and he says he hopes he can be a role model for gay teens.

Now, the funny thing, guys, is Rogers said he wanted to come into the game with not much pressure, maybe if the Galaxy was up 4-0, and sure enough, the Galaxy took a 4-0 lead last night, and he came in in the 77th minute.

BERMAN: And It was great to see the support he had from his teammates and the other team and the fans as well. A great, great thing. Andy Scholes, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

It is 54 minutes after the hour right now. And you can see it right there, the Bluths, they are back. All 15 new episodes of the cult comedy classic, Arrested Development, now streaming on Netflix. Episode one centers around Michael Bluth who's moved on and moved in with his son, George Michael, in his dorm room.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My point is, we have no secrets from each other. We know everything there is to know about each other. We're like twins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see us as twins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes? You name me one way in which we're different.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think you tend to be better at feeling like you belong places.



BERMAN: You just got to love that show.


BERMAN: It's just awesome. I cannot wait till after we're done this morning, and then, I'll go home and watch 15 of the episodes.

ROMANS: Fifteen of them, that's right.

BERMAN: Between barbecue.

That is all for EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. "STARTING POINT" starts right after this break