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Tornadoes Ravage Midwest; Internal Obamacare Benchmark; NSA Leaks Prompt Spike in Info Requests; Military Pay Cuts; Netanyahu: "Don't Lift Iran Sanctions"

Aired November 18, 2013 - 05:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The garage was sitting there with a truck. It's gone. It's laying there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people have a pile of rubble still. I don't have anything. My whole -- it's gone.



Dozens and dozens of tornadoes ripping through the Midwest. Look at that. Homes destroyed. Neighborhoods leveled, and six people dead so far. We are live in the hardest hit areas.

Those pictures really tell the whole story.


BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Monday, November 18th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: And the cleanup is just beginning and the death toll is rising this morning after a series of powerful tornadoes slammed through the Midwest yesterday.

SAMBOLIN: The hardest state hit by far is Illinois. Take a look at this funnel cloud. It was captured in Chicago suburb of Washington where an EF-4 tornado touched down, packing winds 165 miles an hour. So, you can hear the sheer terror as one tornado passes by this home.

Do you hear that? They are praying as a massive stormed passed by their home.

Rescuers have been out since yesterday looking for anyone alive in all of the wreckage.

BERMAN: It is one of the most terrifying things you could ever see. And you can hear the terror in his voice. The damage in Illinois is staggering. Six people, so far, confirmed dead, many more injured, cars and houses smashed. The ground littered with furniture and debris. You can see people in the streets there crying for all they lost.

One resident of Washington told us what he was thinking as the storm approached.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was watching the news and they said a tornado down mere Pekin. So, I go outside and I heard -- it's like a train, like a loud train. I said, this isn't right. I said it's not thunder. It just kept coming. Kept coming and getting louder.

So, then, I went into the basement and about 10 seconds later, I heard -- I felt the house shaking and we waited probably a minute and came back up and saw what you're seeing here.


SAMBOLIN: Pekin, Peoria, Washington, all those alarms going off.

The damage was not confined to Illinois, however. In Missouri, high winds damaged homes. It uprooted trees in the St. Louis area. More than 37,000 people were without power at one with point.

BERMAN: Look at that.

SAMBOLIN: Look at how strong those winds are. It's moving also the car forward a little bit. Crazy.

BERMAN: That's in St. Louis.

Damage was also widespread in Indiana. Two schools took a direct hit and walls and roofs ripped away from the gym on one of them. A state of emergency has been declared there.

SAMBOLIN: And then in Wisconsin, thousands are without power. That is in the Milwaukee area. Strong winds damaged buildings. It sent trees tumbling to the ground. Power outages are for the thousands. Also being reported in Ohio and in Michigan.

BERMAN: You know, millions and millions of people were in the path of these storms and dozens and dozens touched down.

SAMBOLIN: You know what the good news was? Was that there was a warning. There was a warning on early saying, look if you wear in these areas that is bright pink, make sure that you take cover because it could be serious.

BERMAN: Officials there have said they have known for days that the storms were coming.


BERMAN: Our Indra Petersons is getting a firsthand look at the destruction.

SAMBOLIN: And she joins us now from the tornado-ravaged community of Washington, Illinois, this morning.

It looks terrible behind you, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, it really is unbelievable. Those warnings are so key you what were just mentioning. The systems were moving so fast, 55 miles per hour, those very little reaction time.

Behind me, this is Gillman Avenue. Very hard to even tell. This is a residential community. Very hard to see what is even left here.

Really all of the trees are really stripped of their bark here. Power lines are down. And you can only see really interior walls left here of the homes that used to be here.

So, what's going on?

Today, they're going to go out -- the National Weather Service is going to come out and survey the damage. It is preliminary reports are thinking an EF-4 but they have to survey the damage and see what the structural integrity was of those homes. Once they look at that, they will be able to determine what wind damage could take down that structural integrity and they're going to find out whether or not this is an EF-3 or EF-4.

One of the things that was a little controversial, you have to talk about the fact there are strong winds that were out there, in addition to the tornado. So, we were talking yesterday about winds as strong as 70, even 80 miles per hour before we even saw those tornadoes pop up.

So, that was really the big problem there. Temperatures were above normal. So, November, you don't typically this kind of a system making its way across the country. But with temperatures above normal, even though they weren't as warm as you them at springtime, you had these extra strong winds that made up the difference there.

Of course, you have the (INAUDIBLE), that accounted for the rotation that allowed these devastating tornadoes to rip through the area yesterday. So, yes, they are going to go out and they're going to survey the damage today. But from what we can tell here -- I mean, you're looking at a trailer overturned. Again, if you're able to see the trees behind me the bark is literally ripped off of these trees here.

And then as you notice, way back in the distance it's hard to even say what this was prior, just some interior walls. I know you can't see to my left but we are in an auto parts building that included some brick foundations within it and that was ripped to shreds. You're just seeing that interior bathroom wall, which is why we always say you want to go in the lowest level to those interior walls that have that strongest structural integrity. And that's what you're seeing left there. It's just the bathroom over there over the left. I also want to talk what's left of the system. A lot of people are concerned, rightly so. I mean, this system yesterday had 500 strong wind reports. So, yes, as the system is making its way now east' exiting from the D.C. area, but it's still producing some rain into the mid-Atlantic and kind of lingering into New England today, and not looking for a lot of rain and most likely an inch. But we are going to be talking about those strong winds again. Nothing like what we saw there. There is not a risk.

So, we are not looking for that risk of severe weather today but strong enough winds, 30 to 40 miles per hour and continue to see flight delays. That will be for the most part, into the mid-Atlantic, over the Great Lakes, we could see some stronger winds. Maybe even 50, 60-mile-per-hour winds out there so we could be talking about lake-effect snow.

In the region today, you have to remember this is a cold front that moved through the area. It was a clash. That really cold air from this cold front making its way across the country that's now producing rain in your area, that combined with the warm temperatures. So, today, we are behind that warm air. So, today is a lot cooler where the temperatures should be.

So, as we go in through today, we are talking about temperatures really highs in the 40s and kind of making their way back to the 50s and that where we should be this time of the year. Of course, keep in mind we are starting the morning off here with temperatures in the 20s and 30s. So, definitely, a little bit difficult to recover the morning hours as people don't have the shelter they are typically used to.

The good news: it will stay try today and tomorrow. By Wednesday, a storm system producing some heavy snow around Washington and Idaho and Montana. What will make its way here by Wednesday, and really hinder this clean up efforts, dumping some heavy rain in this region about Wednesday or Thursday.

Really impressive and devastating, guys, what we are seeing, especially this late in the season taking a lot of people by surprise.

SAMBOLIN: It is, but thank goodness that they sought shelter. So, it could have been far worse.

I just wanted to update this. We are getting from Peoria, Illinois, from the hospital over 50 storm injuries taken to that particular hospital and they are saying the injuries were rib, femur, pelvic breaks, eye injury, cuts and abrasions.

So, that's the kind of the bulk of it of what they're seeing at the hospital in that area.

BERMAN: We could find out more today.

Our thanks to Indra.

You can hear the winds still ripping where she is in Washington, Illinois.

I want to move on now to Obamacare. The administration reportedly would consider the federal insurance marketplace a success if 80 percent of users are able to buy healthcare online. That is the target the government and industry officials provided to "The Washington Post." For those of you good at math, you know that this means that one in five people who try to sign up on that site will fail.

Still, the goal does put pressure on government workers to fix and the Web site there and fix technical issues at the call centers, or with insurance themselves.

SAMBOLIN: Edward Snowden's NSA leaks have prompted a spike in the number of Americans wanting to know if the government is spying on them. The NSA's report: we're not telling you.

The NSA reporting a 988 percent increase in open records request within the last year. That's close to 10 times what is normal there. Anyone asking is getting a standard pre-written letter saying the NSA can neither confirm nor deny that any information about them has been gathered. The NSA also says it has declassified some information and is working on releasing even more.

BERMAN: Our fighting men and women could be facing some painful cuts. Top U.S. military commanders agreeing on a plan to reduce payroll and benefits for housing, education and health. This in the face of a shrinking Pentagon budget. These could be cuts or at least a curb in the growth of these benefits.

Officials are not releasing the details of these plans. We may not see the numbers until February. The plan would have to be approved still by the defense secretary, Congress, and the president before being implemented.

A potential showdown on Capitol Hill this week over a military sexual assault bill. Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing a proposal that would give victims of rape and sexual assault an independent route, outside of that chain of command to prosecute attackers. Opponents say commanders should be the ones to deliver justice, not a military lawyer.

BERMAN: Two sailors recovering from minor burns this morning after a malfunctioning drone crashed into their ship off the coast of southern California. The Navy spokesman says two ships were tracking the unmanned drone as part of a training exercise on Saturday when it slammed into their guided missile cruiser the USS Chancellor.

About 300 people were on board at the time. An investigation is under way.

SAMBOLIN: Nine minutes past the hour.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning the U.S. not to ease sanctions against Iran and in fact, he wants them ratcheted up. Netanyahu says the only way to force the Iranians to abandon their nuclear weapons program is to keep up the economic pressure. Secretary of State John Kerry is tentatively scheduled to travel to Israel for talks with Netanyahu at the end of the week.

BERMAN: Turning in that region now to Syria, where there is a plan in place for removing huge stockpiles of chemical weapons in the coming weeks. This is, though, raising concerns in Washington because those weapons will have to be transported through active battle zones with security being provided entirely by the Syrian army. Pentagon officials believe whoever transports these weapons is vulnerable to attacks. And right now, Western nations are hesitant to commit troops to the mission.

Pakistan's government announcing plans to try former President Musharraf for treason. He could face the death penalty if he is found guilty. Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan in 2007 and suspended the constitution. He is being tried for detaining senior judges and even the chief justice of the Supreme Court appearing they would challenge his re-election as president.

BERMAN: There's still no word why a Boeing 737 crashed while attempting to land in central Russia on Sunday. The flight from Moscow had 50 people on board, including the son of the president of the Republic of Tatarstan. No one on that plane survived.

Phil Black is live from Moscow this morning.

Phil, any word on anything involving this investigation?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, authorities here are kind of saying the obvious. They say that they are looking at mechanical failure or pilot error. The weather was not extreme or treacherous at the time.

But it is pretty clear that the pilot was in some trouble in the moments before the crash, that he was having difficulty getting this aircraft safely on the ground because authorities here have confirmed that he aborted his first attempt to land the aircraft. He was in the process of performing a go around, making his second attempt. That's when things really went wrong. That's when the nose of the aircraft struck the runway. There was an explosion and a fire, which then killed everyone on board.

Forty-four passengers and six crew members as well, John. As you mentioned this is a semiautonomous republic. It has its own president and son of the president was among those killed. So, too, the chief of the republic's security services, John.

BERMAN: The site of where the one of the World Cup matches will be held in just a few years. And, of course, you have the Olympics in Sochi are coming up.

A lot of people are very concerned about transportation within Russia. The air traffic system there does not have the best reputation, Phil.

BLACK: Yes, indeed. Russia has long been known as a very dangerous place to fly. The air space here has a very, very poor record statistically. But most of the accidents involve old Soviet era aircraft flying in small domestic airlines.

The authorities here have also long acknowledged problems with aircraft maintenance, pilot training and even pilot health. They've even talked about alcoholism among pilots being an issue here. They really tried to raise those standards in recent years, force out airlines that don't comply with them.

This is the first crash of this scale for about two years, also now. But the really distinctive thing about this crash is that it wasn't an old Soviet aircraft. It was a U.S.-made Boeing 737, 23 years old, one that had flown in numerous airline fleets around the world before being leased by Tatarstan Airline, and Boeing is sending a team of people to the city, to Kazan, to work with Russian investigators to find out what went wrong here, John.

BERMAN: You need a little bit of different case than what we normally see in Russia.

Phil Black for us in Moscow, thank you so much.

SAMBOLIN: It is 13 minutes past the hour.

This week, the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. On Wednesday, President Obama and former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend a wreath laying ceremony at JFK's grave in Arlington National Cemetery. First lady Michelle Obama will also be there.

And later in the day, President Obama will hand out the Medal of Freedom to Mr. Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and others, an award created by President Kennedy.

BERMAN: If you had a chance to see the CNN special on President Kennedy, it is really worth seeing. I'm pretty sure it will be aired over the next few days. So, take a look at that.

Thirteen minutes after the hour.

Next, we get back to the continuing coverage of the deadly storms that tore through the Midwest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen the rain and I just took off running. Next thing I know, stuff flying next to me. I ran to the bathroom and stuff flying everywhere.


BERMAN: Just ahead, we will hear more amazing stories from these communities leveled by the tornadoes.

Plus --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just don't know what to do right now. All I think about is my daughters in there and I have to save them first.


SAMBOLIN: Another horror story. Devastation mounting in the Philippines. Typhoon survivors struggling to get food and get out of the hardest hit areas.

BERMAN: Amidst all these tough news, we do want to put a smile on your face and it is time for that morning rhyme. Tweet us with your own original verse. It can really be about anything. The hashtags are #earlystart and #morningrhyme.

Keep it clean. Trust me.

We will read the best ones on our air in the next half hour.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

I want to get right back now to the deadly weather that caused so much damage across the Midwest. The pictures here really say it all. Look at that.

This funnel cloud in central Illinois just south of Peoria. Stung.

SAMBOLIN: A large section of Brookport, Illinois, was also ripped apart. Take a look at the pictures there.

Officials say two mobile home parks got a direct hit from a tornado. You know that's bad. One person was killed there. Search and rescue crews are still combing through all of the rubble.

BERMAN: And in Indiana, part of a large auto parts factor torn apart by 80-mile-an-hour winds. Those buildings metal frame, just look at that -- twisting with ribbon there out of the force.

SAMBOLIN: Looks like tires on the roof.

BERMAN: Isn't that crazy? The good news, no employees were injured. We're going to be updating you on this all morning.

Meteorologist Indra Petersons will join us from hard-hit Washington, Illinois, that got pounded there. She will be here at the top of the half-hour, I guess you can say.


Eighteen minutes after the hour.

It has been 10 days since Typhoon Haiyan tore apart the Philippines and only now is aid reaching the hardest hit areas. Survivors -- they are trying to come to grips with the worse national disaster to ever hit their country. Many of them are desperately looking for a way to get out of there. We are going to get more from CNN's Anna Coren.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the dark gloomy skies, another C-130 comes into land at the epicenter of the worst natural disaster to hit the Philippines. The Royal Australian Air Force dropping off another load of supplies and humanitarian workers in Tacloban, one of the dozens of countries that have come to help.

On the tarmac, piles of aid stack up as more aircraft fly in.

BEN HEMINGWAY, USAID: It's chaotic and every day we are improving, and the logistical systems are more refined. And we're really seeing a lot of in and out at the warehouse. So, things aren't sitting here, they are going out to affected communities.

COREN: While in the terminal, thousands converge desperate to jump on any flight to escape this living hell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just don't know what to do right now. All I can think about is my daughters in there and I have to save them first.

COREN: But not everyone is leaving.

As we travel along the road from the airport, life continues amongst the debris and devastation. Lining up for their rations of water, rice and sardines, their resilience shines through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy, I'm happy. Other countries help us. We are very much thankful to the other countries helping us. Thank you very, very much.

COREN (on camera): As you can see, there is virtually nothing left here in the Tacloban city. The people who have decided to stay here are relying on the aid and donations of international organizations. Just look at this line. These people have been cueing for rice and sardines that have to last their families for several days.

As to how long these people will have to do this, nobody really knows.

(voice-over): We come across 36-year-old Gary Carnal who shows us where he used to live.

GARY CARNAL, SURVIVOR: There in my house and my mom, and my neighbor and my sister and here my sister, house is done.

COREN (on camera): Nothing left?

CARNAL: No, nothing left.

COREN (voice-over): But his uncle who never expected his family to survive is far more optimistic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love Tacloban. I love Tacloban. I was born here in Tacloban and I want to die in this place. COREN: Back at the airport, another day draws to an end. But nothing stops on the tarmac. This is an operation of endurance and a commitment to the long road ahead.

Anna Coren, CNN, Tacloban, the Philippines.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Anna for all that great reporting.

BERMAN: So much spirit.

SAMBOLIN: Right? It's fantastic.

Coming up, the Kansas City Chiefs losing their first game of the season, leaving no NFL team unbeaten. How did the Broncos pull off the big win?

BERMAN: Andy Scholes gives us all of the secrets, coming up next in "The Bleacher Report."


BERMAN: We have more tragic news coming out of the Philippines.

Pro golfer Jason Day confirmed he lost eight family members in that deadly typhoon.

SAMBOLIN: Andy Scholes joins us now with more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

What a tragedy for him.


This is just a tragic story. The deadly typhoon, Jason Day says he lost his grandmother and six of his cousins. Now, Day is a native of Australia, but his mother is from the Philippines and her family lived in one of the hardest hit areas. They said, right now, one of the toughest parts for his family they haven't been able to communicate with anyone over there.

In a statement, Day thanked everyone for their thoughts and prayers and asked for everyone to continue to pray for all of those affected by the tragedy.

Now, we no longer have any undefeated teams in the NFL. The 9-0 Chiefs taking on the 8-1 Broncos last night. Lindsey Vonn and Tiger on hand for the game.

Peyton Manning only threw one touchdown in this one but the Broncos never trailed. They won the game 27-17. That means 72 dolphins can rest easy for another year.

The thunderstorms that wreaked havoc on the Midwest yesterday afternoon caused nearly a two hour delay in the Bears/Ravens game. During the first quarter, fans were evacuated from the seats. After the bad part of the storm passed through, they resumed play and this game went into overtime. The Bears would win on a field goal.

Yes, definitely a long, wet day for the fans there in Chicago, Zoraida, but all of the fans did get to go home happy.

SAMBOLIN: Well, I was happy to hear that they, you know, suggested that the fans take cover just in case because you never know. But also happy to hear that they won.

BERMAN: They did. There's a lot of strange clock management in game for both teams.


BERMAN: I'm just saying, I'm just saying. The bears were lucky to come out of there with a victory.

Andy Scholes, always great to see you. Thank you so much.

Next, we're going to get to our continuing coverage of these devastating tornadoes that tore through the Midwest. Look at that. We will show you more from the terrifying scene as the tornadoes hit the ground.

Plus, residents there are waking up this morning with nothing. Indra Petersons is live there. That's coming up after the break.