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Penn Station Travelers Rant; Nightmare Weather on Thanksgiving; High Wind Threatens Macy's Balloons; Traveler's Rights You Need to Know; CNN Reporters' Great Race to D.C.

Aired November 27, 2013 - 11:30   ET


ALEXANDER FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Take a look at this right now. You'll see that just two trains are delayed. The rest the trains are running on time. That's something a lot of travelers are thankful. There are some delays between New Haven and Boston, but otherwise the service in the north east is operating pretty well. People who are traveling for whatever reason said they were prepared for the possibility of bumps in the road. We spoke to those at Penn Station. They said they are doing their best to take it all in stride.

Here is what they said.


FIELD: When you decided you were heading out on the day before Thanksgiving, what were you thinking?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't want to head out then, but I had classes. So I had to leave today.

FIELD: Did you have any reservations about heading out on one of the busiest travel delays of the year?



FIELD: Did you have any concerns about weather, delays, crowds?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a holiday, you just expect it.


FIELD: Good attitude so far. We'll hope that that holds. It will be a busy day.

It'll be a busy day if you take the train. Amtrak is expecting about 140,000 people to take the trains today. If you're still looking for a way to get wherever you're going for the holiday, Amtrak says there are still seats available -- Ashleigh?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Alexandra, thank you for that. I'm glad to see that it's not as bad as it was last night.

So if you've been watching any news at all, you've been hearing how bad the weather is outside, no matter where in the United States you live. It's true. Almost no one is escaping the bad weather. And this is Thanksgiving. So it really matters. But some places are getting hit a lot worse than others. And even places like Buffalo that are used to the worst, are getting socked in the gut with this one.

It's where we find and sent George Howell.

New guy on the block, that's why you got this assignment. George, how bad is it even where they expect pretty bad?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, you framed it well. Because they are used to this sort of thing. It takes about a foot of snow before they get concerned. They've got about three to four inches here. So Buffalo residents, they get it.

The big concern is you have so many millions of people on the road this Wednesday, people traveling to many different places, the worry is about the situation on the roads. I want to show you right now here in Buffalo, 30 degrees. So it's below freezing. And that's where the concern is with drivers out there. Let's go to the other camera that we have set up looking down the road. You can see the situation right now, the roads are clear here in buffalo for the most part. Plows have done their job. Plows working all through the night to make sure the roads are clear. The worry is about black ice. Consider as things melt, if it gets above freezing and goes back below tonight, that's the worry as people get on the roads. And, Ashleigh, there's also a possibility of lake-effect showers, snow showers. More of those as the day goes on.

BANFIELD: I'm interested, George, where you are in Hamburg and the greater area there, the news. I mean if you're in Texas and snow is coming, the whole world shuts down. But if you're in --


BANFIELD: Right. Right. But when you're in Buffalo, you kind of expect a snowstorm at least once a week or so, how are the power people dealing with it? Were they just ho-hum, another day, watch how you drive, or do they taking it more seriously?

HOWELL: Well, you know, where I'm from in Austin, it gets hot in the summer. We deal with it. Here in Buffalo, they're used to the snow. In fact, one person said, hey, we love our snow, so make sure you get that across. They're used to it and know how to deal with it. They're attitude is different from someone traveling from the south or west. A lot of people traveling and that's why we're giving you these reports. Obviously, this is a big storm and can cause problems for people on the roads.

BANFIELD: You know I grew up in Winnipeg and we didn't even talk about cold weather until it was minus 40. Minus 20 was kind of an average winter day.

HOWELL: Minus 40?

BANFIELD: Minus 40 was when we said --


BANFIELD: That's Celsius. But Celsius and Fahrenheit meet at minus 40. That's when we said, oh, it's a bad one out there today. You better wrap up.

George, you're lucky to get this assignment.

HOWELL: I don't know about minus 40.


BANFIELD: George Howell, thank you for that. Stay warm and get a hat, my friend.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, 50 million of us watch this on the TV. And it's not the same without the big balloons that we all wait for high in the sky. The high winds could actually bring the balloons down. They will not go up if sustained winds exceed 23 miles per hour tomorrow. It is effectively a game day decision. We're going to keep you posted as Macy's keeps us posted. We're watching the models as they change by the minute. Looking for you and keeping an eye on the nasty storms.

That is the job of meteorologist, Jennifer Gray.

The 23 mile an hour mark, I saw a forecast yesterday that suggested the winds will be 23, like right on the actual number. Is that still the case?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, it's pretty much right on the money. The balloons won't fly if the winds gusts are about 34 miles per hour. And the forecast right now has it right now at about 32 miles per hour. We're really close. It will be a game-day decision.

The good news about Thanksgiving, though, all the rain will be out. We will finally see sunshine. But it is going to be cold in the city with forecasts at high temperature at 32 degrees. So we are going to continue with the breezy conditions on through this afternoon. New York, 31 mile per hour wind gusts at about 2:00. 39 in D.C. But then they start to taper off just a little bit as we get into the wee hours of Thursday morning. They'll be about 32 miles per hour and then tapering off throughout the day. 26 miles an hour about midday. And improving from here. So when the parade starts, it will be close. Hopefully the balloons will fly.

The other piece of good news, this is starting to move out. Rain across the east coast and north east will be exiting the area tonight through tomorrow morning. Like we mentioned before, sunshine should be back in time for Thanksgiving.

BANFIELD: Terrific. Thanks so much. Keep us posted, Jennifer. Appreciate that.

CNN, by the way, made the world's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International our destination to take a fascinating look inside. It's wonderful. It's the sausage making of the airport that you never see when you fly. Three dozen journalists back in August descended upon this airport. You can check it out at

And in about 20 minutes, three of our CNN correspondent, who were just in the newsroom moments making last-minute preparations, they'll hit the start button and all three correspondents are going to take a race to Washington, D.C. It's the CNN great race home. Nic Robertson is going to take a plane. Brian Todd is going to drive. And Lisa Desjardins is going to take the train. We're going to see, with the weather, the way it is right now, which was the most successful. We all tend to wonder if we chose the right mode of transportation when the weather outside is fright full. Stay right here as the great race gets underway in just a few moments.

If you or someone you know are flying the frozen skies today, there are long, long lines and short, short tempers. But you know something? If you pop off, do you have the right to do that? Could you be in a lot more trouble than you thought? And by the way, if you're driving, what if you get in a chain reaction accidents, you get hit and you hit someone else, is that your fault? You're about to find out some rights you need to know about, especially if you're just heading out the door for any Thanksgiving travel. That's coming up next.


BANFIELD: So by now, you do not need me to tell you that the weather stinks and travel is a drag. Long lines, especially at the pair ports. I know you're watching us at the gate right now, so I'm real sorry. But that makes for short tempers. If you feel like you're ready to blow your stack at that TSA agent or gate agent, hit the pause button. You could be in a lot more trouble than you bargain for if you lose your cool.

Danny Cevallos, Joey Jackson, and Heather Hansen join me live to talk trains, planes and automobiles and what you need to do and not do when faced with those hot situations.

Danny, I want to start with you.

A lot of people get mad at TSA when they go through the security lines. We know you can't talk about bombs in that line. But you can't get into it with a TSA officer, can you?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. They don't have really true arrest power, but be warned, there's always someone with an arrest power, like an officer, nearby, who is able to make that arrest. So as a general rule of thumb, as angry as you may get at them, they might not have side arms or handcuffs, but believe me a stone's throw away from somebody who has that power. You will do yourself no favors if you get into it with the TSA.

BANFIELD: Zip it is the advice.

Heather, what about when you get to the gate? Then it gets ugly when you can't get your seat, your family got separated, the line is long, they're on the phone. I've seen TV shows dedicated to gate fights. But is it just like having any other fight or more serious with a gate agent?

HEATHER HANSEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It can certainly be more serious. As Danny said, there's always people nearby who can enforce any problem. And more importantly, Ashleigh, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. You can be kicked off a flight for being disorderly, being abuse and for being violent. So not only are you more likely to get favors and get seated where you want to be seated, but you may run the risk to being kicked off a flight.

BANFIELD: But don't at the gate also have the right to sort of step it up in terms of just how far you can go? If they just don't like your tone, you can be done for?

HANSEN: absolutely. They can kick you off because they find you're belligerent, offensive --


BANFIELD: That's on the plane. I'm talking about before you get there.

I'm getting to the airplane with Joey.



HANSEN: But if they see that coming in, they can tell you that you that you can't get on the plane. You need to watch yourself and understand that everybody's tempers are high and to treat people nicely.


BANFIELD: Here is the next step once you get on the plane. We've all seen it. We've seen flight attendants that we can't stand because of the way they behave, and we've seen passengers that we can't stand because of the way they behave. But you don't want to be one of them.

JACKSON: No you don't. And for the record, I love all of you flight attendants. You do a great job.



JACKSON: You take great care of us.

But look, you have to be good to the flight attendants. Certainly they have the authority to say, see you later.

The rule of thumb, you want to become even if the event that you get into a minor dispute with someone -- travel ask a stressful thing, Ashleigh. We travel, we're stressed out. You don't want to take it out on them because there's something called a federal crime.

BANFIELD: Oh, that.


JACKSON: And as a result -- exactly. And as a result of you interfering, impeding or in any way harassing a flight attendant, you may find yourself in a federal pen. Not a nice place to be for the holidays.

BANFIELD: Federal pen stinks. Here is the deal. Some people think the worst that can happen to them, you could actually be in a lot of trouble. And the bar is low for what constitutes a threat or impeding what they do, right?

JACKSON: Absolutely. What happens is the first order of business is passenger safety. And you want to ensure that you have a safe flight. What happens is, is that when it comes to erring on the side of your rights to be boastful or to be --


BANFIELD: Tough guy?

JACKSON: Exactly. What happens is, that has to take a back seat. In the event that you're too boisterous or disruptive, you get off the flight, you're presented as a problem, and you get the handcuffs placed on you. And they hurt your wrist quite a bit.

BANFIELD: Those ties are no fun or anybody.



BANFIELD: It's not just airlines. If you guys could stand by for a second.

When we come back, there are other modes of travel that cause undue stress, like driving. How about also the train when you're stopped on the tracks for three, four, five, six hour? What are your rights? Can you just get off? What is someone hits you and causes you to hit someone else? What if you avoid a terrible driver and you crash? You need to know those rights, too. And walking to grandma's house, I've got one for that, too.


BANFIELD: When the weather's bad at the holiday week, that's a nightmare. But what if you end up in the slammer because of it or wonder if you get sued because of your behavior or how you actually go about your travels? Take a look at this video. Bad roads lead to bad crashes. We actually saw an overturned vehicle the other day, and the vehicle was by itself. Nobody hit the vehicle. The vehicle didn't hit anybody. But if you're trying to avoid an accident and you go off the road, is it your fault? How about this? If you are cold and you have kids and you're warming up your vehicle by turning it on and then leaving some time, is it your fault that you left an unattended vehicle started? In New York, yes, you can be ticketed because of that. Do you know something else? There's serious rules if you're taking the train, even if you are walking.

Back with me Danny, Joey and Heather to talk about that.

Let's talk about the first issue, Danny. You can start with this one. In that chain-reaction crash on icy roads, you get hit from behind and it forces you into the guy in front of you, you're not off the hook.

CEVALLOS: General rule of thumb, if you're rear ended, the person who hit you has the liability. But in multi-car crashes, more one person could be at fault. It is fact specific. Even the person rear ended, it's possible they may have done something wrong.

BANFIELD: Heather, what about the single vehicle crash if you're trying to avoid a bad driver, and end up doing the crash yourself, do you get in trouble?

HANSEN: It's difficult to prove the other person -- they've probably gotten away. It all depends on the circumstances. If you get the cops to come and they can stop the person who caused the accident, sure. And comes down to what's reasonable. Are you driving reasonably, driving safely, texting while driving? All of those things are weighed.

BANFIELD: What's this business about the unattended vehicle? We turn the car on, run back inside because our babies are precious and we don't want them in a cold car, you can be ticketed for that?

JACKSON: It's a problem. The police are concerned about public safety and theft. As a result of that, you get a violation that is a ticket if you leave the car unattended, it continues to run and not on your property. That could be a problem.

Then quickly, Ashleigh, as to the issue of multiple-car liability, a lot of it varies by state. Different states have different laws. You have no fault laws in some jurisdictions. Comparative negligence in other jurisdictions. You have contributory negligence.


JACKSON: Yeah. Check out the scope of the laws in your specific state

BANFIELD: Danny, you take the train every day. If there's as electrical wire down on the tracks and you're stuck on there for four hours, can you get off plane? I can't get off the plane on the tarmac.

CEVALLOS: I consider myself Mr. Amtrak. I'm on the train every day. It has been delayed so many times. But believe me, even if they're at a platform, they will lock the doors. So the question of, can I get off is really a -- it's a physical one. Can I physically get off? They don't want people roaming around on the tracks. (CROSSTALK)

CEVALLOS: People not in the area don't know how fast that ACELA moves. It is instant death.

BANFIELD: Last one, Heather, walking to grandma's house and I slip on her front walk and crack my noggin. Can I sue the grandmother?

HANSEN: You can probably sue the person who owns the house if they haven't removed the ice. It's more difficult to sue the town. If you want to sue the town, the only way is if they affirmatively acted and plowed the snow in a way it's in your way and made something slippery, then you can sue the town.

BANFIELD: We've covered everything, planes, trains and automobiles, and foot, for everybody who might get into trouble. The most important is don't scream at the TSA officers or flight attendants or gate agents. They're working hard and this is as much as a nightmare for them as it is for us.

JACKSON: Stay calm and composed.



JACKSON: On most days.


BANFIELD: Danny, Heather and Joey, happy Thanksgiving to you and your families.


BANFIELD: I hope you have some nice down time. Then come right back to work with us, if you would.

Thanks all three of you.

We are trying to get home this holiday. Three CNN journalists are about to embark on the great race home. We'll start them at the starting line, hit the go button. They're headed to D.C. Which one will win, the plane or train or automobile? Back after this.


BANFIELD: So we are now counting down the seconds to CNN's great race because, at noon eastern, three of our finest correspondents will set off by planes, trains and automobiles right here from New York City. They're going to try to be the first to make it "the situation room" set in Washington, D.C. And no, this isn't "Cannonball Run." They're not going to speed to do it. We want to know which mode of transportation will be the most successful especially in the weather.

Brian Todd, Nic Robertson and Lisa Desjardins will be tweeting, and Skyping and reporting your progress all day. I'm very excited that you're doing this because I've always wondered in weather which one is the best choice.

Brian, you got the short straw because you're driving. What's your strategy?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: To lead police on a three-state high- speed chase --


-- just to give myself any chance of beating these two. No, it's got to be patience, situational awareness, you know, and that will get you through, hopefully.

BANFIELD: Good luck.

Nic, you've kind of got the easy one. I don't know. Airplanes are hard. You've got a tight schedule. When does your flight leave?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I've got to get out of the gate so fast. I've got 59 minutes once the clock starts running to make the flight. If I don't make that, then I guess I'll just take a horse or start calling in the police on you and get -- something might happen to the train maybe.

LISA DESJARDINS: Who knows? Who knows?

BANFIELD: Lisa, what's the schedule? Last night, it was an absolute zoo at Penn Station. What do you have on tap to get to where you're going?

LISA DESJARDINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a zoo yesterday. I'm counting on hopefully a delay for Nic, maybe trouble making the flight.

ROBERTSON: It will be fine for me.

DESJARDINS: My train leaves at the exact second his flight is supposed to leave, 1:00 eastern time. My advantage is I don't have to go through the same security lines he does. I feel sure I'm going to make the train as long as there's no flooding. I do have two gifts for my rivals.

I brought you each an apple because you won't have the food car that I will have.

TODD: Adorable.

ROBERTSON: Meal of the day. Is there metal inside? Is TSA going to find something in this?


BANFIELD: I'm looking at the clock and going to get you counted down in 15, 14 seconds. Brian and Nic and Lisa, good luck. Stay safe. That's the key order of the day here.

I want you all to get your hands out. You're all going to hit the start button at once and boogie from the studio in three, two, one. Away you go!

I can't wait to see! See you later, guys.

Again into the loving arms of what would be Wolf Blitzer, if he were in "The Situation Room." He's not today. But this is going to be great. All day long, CNN will be watching their progress to see how they do. They've got all sorts of social communications to keep us updated on how they're doing. It will be fun for Nic to try to update us in the sky because those rules haven't kicked in yet, but he can call us on his cell. The great race home here on CNN. Stay tuned and watch, especially on a day like today when all three modes of transportation stink.

Thank you for watching, everyone. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, as well. I hope to get to see your families tonight.

Stay tuned because AROUND THE WORLD starts right now.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: It's its too tempting not to say it, trains, planes and automobiles.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Say it again. The Thanksgiving travel full effect now. But the trip to the family's house might be a rough ride for people along the east coast.

Good afternoon, I'm Suzanne Malveaux.

HOLMES: Welcome back.

MALVEAUX: Good to be back. I was on one of those planes. I did OK.

HOLMES: You were. You live on planes.

I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for your company on this, the busiest travel day of the year, if you didn't know that already. And also if you didn't know it already, that major storm threatening to make it one of the messiest all along the eastern section of the country.

MALVEAUX: Heavy rain, sleet, strong winds, snow, all the above. So you've got to have patience if you're going to get through all of this, as you see, as you set out for the Thanksgiving holiday.

What we're watching here, our cameras are looking at live pictures from some of the country's major airports and interstates. As you can imagine, the roads are pretty slick. Dealing with ice as well as freezing rain.

HOLMES: I hate that ice. That's the worst stuff.

AAA says about 40 million of you are going to be driving to your Thanksgiving destinations, if you haven't left already.