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World Remembering Mandela; Potentially "Catastrophic" Ice Storm

Aired December 6, 2013 - 05:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Remembering Nelson Mandela. This morning, the world remembering that man, mourning the loss of a legend. South Africa's former president hailed for his courage, his conviction, his decency, his enduring message of equality. We're live in South Africa and around the world with the latest.

Good morning. Welcome to "EARLY START". I'm John Berman.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Michaela Pereira. It is Friday, December 6th. And it is 5:00 in the East.

BERMAN: And this morning, the world is grieving, and also celebrating a legend. Nelson Mandela whose unbreakable will and unsurpassed courage brought an end to an era of white domination in South Africa. He is dead this morning at the age of 95. Mandela was such a global icon, a larger than life leader who went from a prison cell to the presidency and he did it with such unmatched grace.

I want to bring Robyn Curnow live from Johannesburg this morning. Robyn, set the scene for us there today.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the announcement was made just before midnight on Thursday. So many South Africans didn't really know that their icon had passed on. It was only when they woke up this morning that they perhaps looked at the newspapers or heard on the radio. Much of this country is quite rural countryside and they would have seen headlines like this.

Hamba kahle, Madiba. That means "Go well, Madiba." His clan name. Hamba kahle, good-bye.

And I think many people in this country would have said, thank God he is at rest. Thank God he is at peace because he has had such a year of in and out of hospital, of being under such stress in terms of his health and I think there was a real sense that people wanted him to be at peace, not to suffer.

But there still is that shock, that disbelief that this man who is the father of this democracy is gone and I think many South Africans are really still trying to digest that news.

BERMAN: In some ways, you're going to have now nine to 10 days of remembering, a remarkable week, week-plus-long celebration of his life and mourning his death. CURNOW: Absolutely. I mean, his funeral is only scheduled for day 10 after his death. So that is essentially next Saturday or Sunday. In between that time, we get to see him lying in state. We are going to see a memorial service at a local soccer stadium. I think many people would also, in their own private way, try to remember what he means to them.

What we also are going to see, of course, is probably one of the biggest funerals in living memory. Somebody said, you know, this is going to compare to Churchill's funeral.

Where is and when is Barack Obama going to come here? We have heard from the White House that he might go to the memorial service here in Johannesburg at the stadium. Not to the funeral service in the rural home state of Qunu.

So we're going to be seeing the next few days a huge swell of grief. At the same time, the logistics playing out of how world leaders, up to 50 of them, are going to converge on South Africa to pay their respects to a living icon that really defined not only the 20th century but the 21st century as well.

BERMAN: It will be a special, dignified good-bye to a leader who makes such a difference to everyone in the world.

Robyn Curnow, in Johannesburg for us this morning -- thank you so much.

PEREIRA: And returning to his humble roots in Qunu, which is a full circle beautiful finish to his story.

But his story never ends, really, because his spirit lives on. From the moment that the news broke of Nelson Mandela's death, the tributes began pouring in. He was revered. It's almost as though the world lost a father.

Let's get the international reaction from Erin McLaughlin. She is live London this morning.

Force for freedom and equality. You look here in the United States getting honorary doctorates on the world stage, he truly was revered.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He really was, Michaela. I'm here outside the South Africa house in London. This used to be a place of anti-apartheid protests during the time of Nelson Mandela's incarceration. Now, it's a place of tribute.

Just moments ago, the British prime minister was here to sign the book of condolences. People have been coming by all morning to leave flowers and candles and notes of remembrance, thanking Nelson Mandela for all that he's done, saying how much they will miss him, sentiment that is being echoed around the world.


DAVID CAMERON, UK PRIME MINISTER: Tonight, one of the brightest lights of our world has gone out.

MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): News of his death traveled swiftly around the world. In the U.K., Prince William and Kate heard the news while attending the U.K. premiere of the film "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

PRINCE WILLIAM OF WALES: Extremely sad and tragic news. We are reminded what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was.

MCLAUGHLIN: And just hours before, signing autographs on the red carpet, British actor Idris Elba who portrayed the South African icon in the film, shared this story from one of Mandela's daughters.

IDRIS ELBA, ACTOR: In his own words, (INAUDIBLE) Mandela told me this today, he said, "I'm not sick. I'm just old."

MCLAUGHLIN: But after hearing of Mandela's passing, the actor said in a statement to CNN, "What an honor it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela. My thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Across the globe, world leaders reflected on the legacy Nelson Mandela leaves behind. At the United Nations, silence -- remembrance of his enormous impact.

BAN KI MOON, UN SECRETARY GENERAL: No one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations. Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within one of us, if we believe.

MCLAUGHLIN: Today, he is remembered in every corner of the globe, the Australian prime minister.

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Nelson Mandela was one of the great figures of Africa, arguably one of the great figures of the last century, a truly great man.

MCLAUGHLIN: And in Canada where in 2001, Mandela became the first honorary citizen of Ottawa, the prime minister said the world has lost one of its great moral leaders.

STEPHEN HARPER, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: Despite his long years of captivity, Mr. Mandela left prison with his mind closed to any settling of scores and his heart open to those he had fought against.

MCLAUGHLIN: Mandela, in his fight for equality, influenced not just world leaders, but also the people of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been an inspiration for generations growing up. He stood for the civil rights, not just people in South Africa but around the world, and his legacy (ph) goes on.


MCLAUGHLIN: People here continuing to stop to pay their respects, some shedding tears. One note read, quote, "Thank you for creating a pathway to freedom for all of us," a message that is being heard around the world -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Erin, thank you so much. That's the key, is that so many around the world felt as though he were fighting for their freedom as well -- freedom from poverty, freedom from oppression, whatever.

BERMAN: I met some kids in South Africa who referred to him as Madiba. That's the clan name. But when they say it, it's like they're talking about someone they have --

PEREIRA: A loved one.

BERMAN: They have a personal connection. With the grandfather of friend, someone they know and is vital to them every day --

PEREIRA: He was known too when greeting visiting dignitaries, he would walk around and greet all the workers first, to make sure that he had time with them. And it shows the great character this man has.

BERMAN: We've been hearing the tributes pouring in from around the world, so true here from the United States as well, including our country's leaders past and present. We heard from President Obama last night.

Let's go to the White House now and hear from Brianna Keilar.

This was a very, I think, personal, emotional moment for Barack Obama who talked about the influence of Nelson Mandela on him when he was a young man.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. It was just huge. President Obama was 19 years old when he first got involved with the anti-apartheid movement.

And the first time he gave what being call a political speech was all the way back in 1981. He was a sophomore at Occidental College in California when he spoke out against apartheid.


KEILAR (voice-over): For President Obama, Nelson Mandela was a personal hero and personal idol whose legendary struggle fueled his earliest ambitions.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am one of the countless millions who grew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life. My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue of policy or politics was a protest against apartheid.

KEILAR: But they met in person only briefly in 2005 before Obama became president. The two leaders, each standing in history as the first black president of his nation, spoke occasionally by phone.

President Obama penned the forward for Mandela's 2010 memoir "Conversations with Myself." He wrote, "His example helped awaken me to the wider world and the obligation that we all have to stand up for what is right. Through his choices, Mandela made it clear that we did not have to accept the world as it is, that we could do our part to seek the world as it should be."

When President Obama visited South Africa this summer, Mandela was so ill, the two were unable to meet.

Still, Mandela's inspiration played large during the president's trip. President Obama returned to Robben Island, the prison where Mandela known as Madiba spent 18 years but this time he brought his entire family.

OBAMA: There was something different about bringing my children and Malia is now 15. Sasha is 12. And seeing them stand within the walls that once surrounded Nelson Mandela, I knew this was an experience that they would never forget. I knew that they now appreciated a little bit more the sacrifices that Madiba and others had made for freedom.

KEILAR: Soon after the leader's death was announced, Obama said he could not imagine his life without Mandela's example.

OBAMA: We have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will ever share time with on this Earth.

He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages.


KEILAR: Now, we are told that President Obama will be heading to South Africa to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela. We also expect just because of the stature of Mandela as such an iconic leader, that a number of former presidents will be heading there as well, John. That would just be the expectation, but we don't know obviously the details at this point. The White House is still working out logistics.

BERMAN: So many of our presidents had a personal connection to them, I would be surprised not to see them all heading over there for some kind of remembrance.

Brianna Keilar, at the White House for us this morning -- thank you so much.

PEREIRA: Our coverage of Mandela's life will continue, but ahead, we're going to tell you about this weather ahead. A deadly storm is wreaking havoc across the nation. Hundreds of flights canceled. We've got roads choked with ice.

And we've got Indra Petersons live on the ground. She is feeling the pain of that storm acutely herself. We'll talk to her about what we can expect.


BERMAN: Welcome back to our special coverage, "Remembering the life of Nelson Mandela." We will have much more on the late South African president's life, his death, everything that's going on in South Africa today in just a moment.

But, first, let's talk about the deep freeze that's blanketing virtually all of the United States right now.

PEREIRA: For real!

BERMAN: Causing travel nightmares on roads and in the air. More than 500 flights have already been pre-canceled across the country because of this bitter weather.

PEREIRA: Getting around by car not any easier. It's a major risk. In fact, look at this. It's a seven-vehicle wreck along Interstate 540 in Northern Arkansas. Four people were sent to the hospital in that incident. Their injuries are nonlife-threatening.

BERMAN: Emergency vehicles in Oklahoma are saying most roads in the entire state are slick and hazardous. Be careful. State of emergency has been declared in all 77 counties. The state has now activated emergency operation center to help people affected by the bad weather. At least three dozen people have been injured so far.

PEREIRA: Denver meanwhile, they keep hitting record lows there. Minus 15 yesterday! You see drivers there having to grip their steering wheels a little tighter. The city is dealing with packed snow and ice on the roadways and highways and we're told there's more snow in the forecast for tomorrow night.

BERMAN: It just looks cold there.

Meanwhile, gas cans and flashlights flying off the shelves in Tennessee this morning. A state of emergency already declared after storm expected to wallop that state today. Utility officials bracing for massive power outages.

We want to talk about this. Let's bring in meteorologist Indra Petersons. She drew the short straw. She's live in Memphis, Tennessee, this morning.

How do things look there, Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, right now, John, things are pretty mild. It's that calm before the storm. But just a few hours away, everything could change here in Memphis.

Now, the National Weather Service with its new experimental -- this is the first year we have an ice impact index -- is calling the potential here in Memphis to be a category 3. What does that mean? We're talking about potential of over half an inch of freezing rain. You get that ice there, half an inch of ice on these power lines we talked about power outages that could last as long as five days.

Let's take a look at the satellite. The radar right now show you where this system is. I mean, it's already done a ton of damage overnight. Look at this. Where you see those dots, those are the storm reports. We have already seen freezing rain in these overnight hours so anywhere from Indiana stretching all the way back in through Texas we have seen the system or this line move on through. Farther to the north around southern Illinois, we have only seen about a third of an inch or so of that ice accumulation.

But farther down to the south, especially just north of us and also west of us, northwest portions of Arkansas, we've already seen amounts around Ft. Smith an inch of ice accumulation already. Greenwood, already seeing a little bit over an inch. So that's the catastrophic devastation we're concerned with, just north of Jonesboro, Arkansas, has a category five warning. That means they have the potential to lose power for weeks.

So this is a concern. The system will continue to push on through. The next several hours in Memphis, that freezing rain will start. It does take time to transition but eventually it looks like the potential here for half an inch of ice is possible on these lines. Power outages could be widespread.

Then that system will start to exit out of the area as we about it through tonight. But keep in mind by tomorrow morning, another system on the heels right behind it will start to move on through. So, we have two punch here of chances of getting this freezing rain and we know the devastating it means when you talk about this cold arctic temperatures we are dealing with.

We're talking about temperatures feel like below freezing and 20, 30 degrees below normal and the potential of without power for a week never a good combination. A very scary thought.

PEREIRA: Well, that's when you hope people have generators or have a backup plan. They've got plenty of supplies in-house and they can make a plan with their plan, because this could last a bit.

BERMAN: As Indra said, widespread power outages could last weeks. Indra, thank you so much, in Memphis for us this morning. We'll check back in with you in a little bit.

So with Black Friday behind them, Texans are now bracing for ice Friday this morning. Schools canceling classes, shoppers jamming the stores in search of milk, pet food and anything that might prove useful for a very long weekend barricaded indoors. Look at this. Freezing winds and rain have arrived in parts of the Lone Star State.

Alina Machado is continuing our coverage this morning from Dallas.

Good morning, Alina.


You can see it here. We are getting some freezing rain right now in downtown Dallas, and this is what officials here have talking about for days. Look at the roads behind, you can see, they are slushy, they are icy and they are treacherous. Traffic, little traffic that's on it right now seem to be slow moving and it's easy to see why.

When you take a look at the ice accumulations that we are already seeing here where we are. Look at this bush right here. I don't know if you can see that. This is all covered in ice.

Now, this is precisely what authorities here have been concerned about. We know the airport, for example, DFW airport yesterday had several hundred cancellations. Just from American airlines because of this storm.

We were there talking to passengers and we talked to one person who had to rearrange his travel plans. Take a listen.


MACHADO: You took an earlier flight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of Las Vegas, yes.

MACHADO: Because of the weather?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of the weather. They are comparing it to what happened to us about three years ago.


MACHADO: Now, again, that is referring to what happened here in 2011 during super bowl week. There was a severe winter storm that shut down Dallas. Right now here, there are tens of thousands of people without power.

And, John, things could get worse if this continues.

BERMAN: The ice covering on that little bush next to you, remarkable.

All right. Alina Machado in Dallas for us this morning -- thank you so much.

PEREIRA: Coming up on "EARLY START", we'll continue to remember Nelson Mandela this morning. Much more on the enormous impact he had, not only on South Africa, but the entire world.

BERMAN: We are talking about the sports world as well. How athletic greats like Tiger Woods and soccer legend Pele say they were influenced by Mandela. We're going to have Joe Carter straight ahead with "The Bleacher Report."


BERMAN: It is no exaggeration to say that every corner of the world touched by the life of Nelson Mandela, including the sports world. And this morning, legends from Tiger Woods to Pele expressing their appreciation for his life.

Joe Carter is here this morning now with "The Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Joe.

JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Hi. Good morning, John.

You know, Nelson Mandela used sports, specifically the Rugby World Cup Finals back in 1995 to really unite his country to time with South Africa that was the most divided and given the affect, obviously, that he had on the world and sports world, people like Tiger Woods say one of his most memorable moments is not winning golf titles but meeting Nelson Mandela.


TIGER WOODS, PRO-GOLFER: I got a chance to meet him with my father back in '98. He invited us to his home. And it was, you know, one of the aspiring, you know, times I've ever had in my life.


CARTER: Now, the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, held Mandela as one of the greatest human beings ever. Bolt called Mandela the world's greatest fighter.

And Pele, the best soccer player to ever live, called Mandela one of the most influential people in his life. He called him, "My hero."

Now, one of Mandela's most defining achievements in the sports world, was the role that he played in getting the 2010 FIFA World Cup to South Africa. You know, when an African nation hosting a huge event like the World Cup was something a lot of people never thought was a possibility. But the 2010 World Cup with went off without a hitch, and today, the world, along with the U.S. national team, will be awaiting the draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup which is in brazil. The selection process will begin today at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

And Lakers star Kobe Bryant, he was hoping to return tonight against the Sacramento Kings but he's going to have to wait a little longer as he continues to come back from that Achilles injury that continues to resurface back from surgery. And CNN's Rachel Nichols caught up with Kobe and you can watch that interview on "UNGUARDED WITH RACHEL NICHOLS." That's tonight at 10:30 Eastern.

That's your "Bleacher Report" update, guys. Back to you.

PEREIRA: Back to Mandela. It's only fitting that his public memorial will be held at a soccer stadium, the FNB Stadium there in Soweto.

BERMAN: Which was soccer city, where they played the World Cup.

PEREIRA: Exactly.

BERMAN: I was there for that and that country was so proud it was able to pull off something of that magnitude, to show the world really what it has become, the county that it has become.

PEREIRA: He was a man of the people.

We're going to take a short break here on "EARLY START". We'll be right back.


BERMAN: Remembering a hero and a legend. We are mourning the death, and celebrating the life this morning of Nelson Mandela.