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Ice Storm Spreads Across U.S.; D.C. Closes for Storm; Family Vanishes in Nevada Snow; Remembering Nelson Mandela; President Obama Speaks at Mandela Memorial

Aired December 10, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. Welcome to New York City. It is December 10th and there is no greater place than the holiday is to be in New York City and Central Park. Nice little dusting of snow behind me.

Of course, that is if the weather is really bad and you can't get here because here's the deal today. When it comes to the weather, if you live somewhere between California and New York, there's a pretty good chance you're either going to have snow, some ice, some rain, or it's going to be pretty darn cold where you live, at least colder than you're used to.

And guess what else -- a lot of schools are closed and the government shut down. This time, it wasn't something they did. It was Mother Nature that did it.

I want to take you around the country right now so you can see some of the things that are happening -- some good, some not so good. Let's start right here in Milwaukee. Take a look at these cars just pile into one another. One after another.

Squint at your screen -- right there in the middle. Do you see those people? They are not moving and those cars are coming at them. I'm happy to report they did not get hit. It is by the grace of God that they didn't though because this just kept on happening.

Frigid, icy roads, terribly dangerous pileups elsewhere around the country, too. Let me take you now to Baltimore, because thousands of people have no power, and look at that. That's the reason.

Ice on those trees make them heavy, make them fall, take down power lines, make that guy's job a nightmare, trudging through the ice and snow to try to restore power for all of those people who are trying to get it back as quickly as possible.

It's a pretty sight, make no mistake, but Chad Myers will also tell you it is deathly dangerous when the ice builds up on all of those trees.

Now, to D.C. with a beautiful shot of our Capitol. Oh, not so beautiful today, I am sorry to say. That's because this weather is socking in right up and down the East Coast.

And it has shut down the government. Thousands of workers were told, don't come to work today, it's going to be too dangerous.

We're only just at the beginning of this thing. It could get a lot worse before the day wears on. And it's expected that the temperatures pretty much everywhere about 10 to 20 degrees lower than you are used to at this time of year.

So, government canceled, I'll get to that in a moment, but how about to the Arizona/Utah border, because if you think going south might be the way to get some warmth, don't drive on I-15 down to Arizona.

They're stuck. That highway stopped, closed. Everybody is just on the side of the road waiting it out, all those trucks over there, who knows what's in them, packages going to people for the holidays, who knows. But they're not moving anywhere.

Again, did I mention Arizona? It is true that in the northern regions that they're used to some weather, but not necessarily weather where you see your exhaust billowing out your car or truck and you're stuck and you can't drive that road at all.

So that's the roadways. Let's get you up into the air, or maybe not, because that's the sign a lot of people in the airports are seeing, canceled. The boards are riddled with cancellations, and I'm sorry, the baggage carousel has not been on it except a Christmas tree at this point at least in Philadelphia.

Dallas/Fort Worth had a miserable last few days. Sunday, all over the nation, about 3,000 flights canceled. Monday, it went down to about 2,000. Today, at last count, we're at 1,181 flights canceled.

You can dress for the holidays in your Christmas sweater. Hopefully, you'll get to where you're going at some point, though, but watch your boards and call your airlines if you're planning to travel today, because we're not out of the worst of it yet.

So, all of those people who were told to stay home and not go to work, that's affecting the actual government working today.

Congressional hearings have actually been shut down. There was a hearing on the Asiana crash that was supposed to be under way. That's now been called off.

We're waiting to see if any other congressional hearings will be called off.

We want to go to Arlington, Virginia, inside the Beltway where Athena Jones is standing by.

Maybe you can tell me how bad it is and if it was worth it to shut down the government for this, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ashleigh. As you can see, it is still snowing here. It's snowing a little bit harder, I think, than it was last hour and, yes, the federal government is closed.

That means we've seen a lot less traffic on the roadways. Of course, they're trying to avoid these huge traffic jams we've seen in the past when you had these freeways end up looking like parking lots as people try to get around in this snowstorm.

Some good news, though, for folks who don't work for the federal government, maybe folks who did have to go to work. Not too long ago, the National Weather Service issued a -- what they're calling a winter weather advisory.

So they've canceled the winter storm warning. They have a winter weather advisory in place till 2:00.

So, you can see that it's still snowing here, but that gives us some indication of when they expect things to begin to get a little better.

I can tell you that we're here outside of D.C., Reagan National Airport. Planes are still taking off here, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: All right, well, keep an eye on it for us if you will, Athena. Thank you for that.

There was some little nugget of information that crossed our wires today that I thought immediately Chad Myers is going to have to speak to this, because apparently the coldest temperature ever registered on earth has now actually been funneled into the record books, 138.8 degrees below zero, Chad, at the South Pole, and this very strange statistic that the scientists down there do naked dashes when the weather goes under 100 degrees. You're the only one who can explain this.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's called cold air damming and cold air drainage. We get some air on top of a mountain. It all wants to go down.

Just like when you open up the freezer at your house, you open up the top of the freezer. What do you see, all that steam or all that fog?

It all comes out, and where does it go? It goes straight down because it's heavier than the air around it.

As you said, it goes in the record books, Guinness Book of World Records says wait, wait, wait, not so fast. You didn't measure it with a thermometer. You measured it with a satellite. It doesn't count.


MYERS: Now we have to get somebody out there with a thermometer at 138 --

BANFIELD: I say you.

MYERS: I am not --

BANFIELD: I did my time. I grew up in Canada, and I do not have to do it over again.

MYERS: I grew up in Buffalo. I'm not that far from you. I get it. Here's Baltimore, D.C., still snowing, on up to New York, still snowing, all the way up the turnpike and now even on I-95, seeing that snow.

A lot of airports just everywhere slowed down from ground stops from Charlotte, Chicago, and even four-hour delays in parts of Newark and look at that, EWR, you might -- in Newark, you might be on the ground waiting for your plane for five hours and 25 minutes. That's a possibility for you for today.

We still have the winter weather advisories, winter storm warnings posted. Although, D.C., you're just about ready to get out of this mess. It's just about over for D.C., the snow just out towards Charlottesville to Front Royal and it's just about gone.

Boston, you're not out of it for the next few hours, and still, two to four inches is going to be the big number just about everywhere.

Here is the Antarctica story. There's the dome we're talking about. The middle of the South Pole right here, not that far from it, 135.8- negative Fahrenheit.

How does it all happen? Well if you have clouds, it acts like a blanket. and that cloud cover keeps the temperatures warmer.

Antarctica didn't have a cloud cover that day. It cleared and all of the heat went away. Just like taking the blanket off you at night when you're sleeping, you get cold.

So the heat is released to space. All the cold air that was on top of the mountain has to go somewhere. It drains because of gravity and it drained down into the hill and, as a satellite flew over it and took that measurement, it measured 135.

Vladivostok in Russia will still have the official record because it was measured with a thermometer, satellite not counting. We'll have to wait for that.

BANFIELD: Nicely done, Mr. Myers. I knew you'd -- you didn't explain the naked dashes, though, with the scientists at 100-below zero --

MYERS: I don't know how they do that.

BANFIELD: Come on. You're a scientist. Come on, admit it. Have you done it?

MYERS: No. I've jumped into the ocean January 1st up in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island for a "penguin plunge." That's as much as I'm going to do.

BANFIELD: All right, Chad, thank you for that.

I want to add one quick thing to that. New York is great if you're not at LaGuardia airport. There's a ground stop there right now. People can take off, but nobody can land. It's nice to look at the pictures of Central Park, isn't it? It's just not nice when you're flying around, wondering when you can land and seeing all that snowy stuff below.

When we come back after the break, the weather can be downright dangerous and deadly and you know what? At this point there is a family that is missing in the state of Nevada, and now there's an all- out manhunt to find them.

They only went out for some time in the snow. We're going to update their circumstance in a moment.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to our live coverage, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

It is snowing in New York City. It is snowing in a lot of places across the country, and if not snow, rain and cold.

Part of the problem is that's making for dangerous and deadly conditions. About 15 people already in the last few days have died as a result of this weather pattern that we're seeing across the country, in fact, eight of those in Oklahoma alone.

So, some very serious conditions out there, please be careful if you're planning to head outside.

Again, this is Central Park, Christmas time, holiday time in New York City. It is a lovely time to travel, but again, ground stop at LaGuardia. No one's getting in. Flights are taking off, but no one is getting down.

I want to talk now about a story that's developing in Nevada that we're following. It's a breaking news situation.

Our Pamela Brown is here to update us on this family in Nevada that went out to sort of have a day in the snow and now no one can find them. And there are young kids involved.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are. In fact, it's a couple, girlfriend and boyfriend, Ashleigh, and four children between the ages of 3 and 10.

A 3-year-old, two 4-year-olds, a 10-year-old, two of them are the couple's children. The other two are the niece and nephew.

And, like you said, they went out Sunday to play in the snow in the mountainous region about 100 miles from Reno, Nevada, and they haven't been seen since.

Their family reported them missing at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday night because they hadn't been able to reach them and there has been no communication from this family.

BANFIELD: Since Sunday? BROWN: Since Sunday. And search-and-rescue teams have been out. In fact, there was helicopters with thermal imaging out overnight looking for this family.

Still no trace of them, and we've learned that crews from surrounding counties have also been brought in, and this is really a huge effort under way to find this family because, of course, it's a dire situation. There are subzero temperatures. It's dipped to as low as 17-below-zero, Ashleigh.

In fact our Piers Morgan spoke to the mother of the 10-year-old little girl, Amanda Fitzpatrick, and here's what she had to say about how agonizing the situation has been.


AMANDA FITZPATRICK, MOTHER OF MISSING 10-YEAR-OLD, SHELBY: Everybody's been very positive. It's been extremely hard. Probably the hardest 24, 36 hours of my life.

It's my baby girl, but they've all been very positive. We've got the entire town of Lovelock, the entire county of Pershing County and even some help of outside counties with their search-and-rescue teams and everything like that.

And everybody has been very positive and very willing to support and helpful and everything like that.


BROWN: So Ashleigh, the family went out in a silver Jeep with a black top, so, of course, they're going to be looking for that.

The hope is that they were -- they stayed in that Jeep and they're able to stay warm somehow, rather than venturing out into those freezing temperatures.

BANFIELD: Do you know if they have a cell phone or anything?

BROWN: That's what -- I asked authorities that. Of course, we haven't heard anything from them, but they said the last time they were pinged was Sunday at 2:00 p.m..

But she also said the reception in that area is really bad.

BANFIELD: Yeah, yeah. It's really distressing, especially with the kids that young, 3-years-old, 4-years-old and 10.

BROWN: And we just don't know if they had any supplies with them, too, so it's very concerning.

BANFIELD: It's great point that you bring up. In fact I want to talk to Chad Myers about supplies and safety when you travel out, especially in cold temperatures.

Pamela Brown, thank you for that. Update us if you hear anything throughout the show (inaudible). Thank you.

Chad Myers, that's something that you could probably weigh in on really well, because people who go out in cold weather, maybe aren't used to it, should know that there are very small things you can do to actually save your life in the event that something like this can happen.

MYERS: The biggest thing you can possibly do if you go out on the trip is to make sure your gas tank is full. That's the most important thing. You will use that fuel to start the car, to warm the engine, to warm yourself.

Now, this is a large family in a vehicle. They can all keep warm inside that vehicle. Make sure your cell phone is charged as well. And something I just came up with this, not that long ago, I'm thinking how would they find a silver and black jeep that might be covered up with a little snow.

The best thing you could possibly do is go out and buy a $2.99 blue tarp. Blue tarp. Why blue? Because when you see the police coming, you see those blue lights, that's not a normal color in nature. You put a black top, you might not see it because trees look black or dark or silver or whatever, but if you see blue, if the planes are flying over and see a blue tarp they know it's you, they can see that blue a lot better than any other color out there.

Also a couple other things. We talked about this last year. A candle in a coffee can is a nice way to warm inside the car, but if you start the car and it's snowing, you absolutely have to clear, get out of the car, you have to clear the snow from the exhaust pipe because if you don't clear that snow from the exhaust pipe the carbon monoxide can come back into the car itself.

Always keep a couple blankets in the car. Not a bad idea to throw a 50 pound bag of sand in the trunk or kitty litter to get traction. I believe this family probably got stuck and we just need to find that car. They're with the car, somewhere inside that car and they're probably still safe. We just need to find out where they went off the road or get stuck.

Now, make sure your charge on your cell phone is full and another couple things you can do, just for yourself have a flashlight because if this family sees the plane flying over, flash the flashlight or a mirror you probably get an awful lot more visibility from yourself if you have those things out there.

We'll be back with Ashleigh Banfield in two minutes. She's running upstairs to the studio trying to get warm.


BANFIELD: It was chilly and pouring rain in Johannesburg today, where thousands poured out their hearts to the memory and legacy of the leader they knew as Madiba. Five days after the passing of Nelson Mandela and five days before his burial, he was honored in speeches and song at the 90,000 seat soccer stadium that hosted the World Cup final in 2010. President Obama joined more than 90 fellow world leaders in praising Mandela's lifetime of sacrifice in the service of freedom for all, and he chided those leaders who dishonor Mandela at home.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba's legacy of racial reconciliation but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.

There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us, too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.


BANFIELD: The president did not name names, of course, but he could have been speaking of the man whose hand he shook with this image. This was quite something to behold, live on CNN. This happened in the dais, the president of Cuba Raul Castro, whose communist government has been on the outs with every American administration since Eisenhower.

Want to bring in my colleague Wolf Blitzer who was watching this extraordinary moment from Washington, D.C.

So obviously and I don't think this is a surprise to many, Wolf, Havana is spinning this as potentially something I'm going to quote word for word, "potentially the beginning of the end of U.S. aggressions against Cuba." Should anyone be reading into the handshake that much?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I think a lot will depend on what happens. If there's a gesture from the Cubans shortly, not too long down the road to release that American Alan Gross who's been held prisoner in Cuba for four years, that would be a significant step. Removing one of the barriers. Maybe right now the key barrier before any even modest improvement in U.S./Cuban relations.

As you know, Ashleigh, and our viewers remember, President Obama took office five years ago, anxious to improve relations with Cuba and a bunch of other countries around the world. but he's been frustrated at improving U.S./Cuban relations. There have been some modest easing of travel restrictions, things like that, but until Alan Gross is removed, there's going to be no desire in the Obama administration, not much in Congress, to make any significant improvement.

so I think the ball is clearly in Havana's court right now if Raul Castro follows up with the release of Alan Gross, that would be a significant gesture on the part of the Cubans and presumably it would be followed up by the president with some further at least modest improvements in relations.

BANFIELD: Don't know (ph) is a help, though when you're already being called aggressive relations, aggressions against Cuba. Let me move on to the president's tribute. Last week he made the tribute to Nelson Mandela very personal and did so again today. Let's have a quick listen.


OBAMA: Over 30 years ago, while still a student, I learned of Nelson Mandela and the struggles taking place in this beautiful land, and it stirred something in me. It woke me up to my responsibilities, to others and to myself, and it set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today. And while I will always fall short of Madiba's example, he makes me want to be a better man.


BANFIELD: So Wolf, he talked about having met Nelson Mandela as a junior senator, but he did not meet him as a president. Is that something he's going to regret?

BLITZER: I am sure he desperately wanted to meet Nelson Mandela. There's the picture you see on the left of when he was a junior senator back in 2005. The senator from Illinois, meeting with Nelson Mandela when he was in Washington.

As you know, the president was in South Africa earlier this year with his entire family. He would have loved to have met with Nelson Mandela, but he was unfortunately very, very sick, couldn't do that, and the president missed that last chance to go ahead and meet with Nelson Mandela.

That picture by the way, Ashleigh, that you showed our viewers, the president cherishes that picture. The only one on one encounter he had with Nelson Mandela. It had a prominent place in the Senate office in Washington and certainly at the White House since he's been president because he so admires Nelson Mandela. He's made that clear not only in the official statements he's made over the past few days, including today, but over a political career, even going back to when he was a college student, whether at Columbia or whether at Harvard Law School. This is a man who inspired him.

BANFIELD: I just want to play one more small part of that speech this morning. It was early in case some people might have missed it, but he related Nelson Mandela's struggles to America's struggles. Have a listen.


OBAMA: We must ask, how well have I applied his lessons in my own life? It's the question I ask myself, as a man, and as a president. We know that, like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation. As was true here, it took sacrifice, the sacrifices of countless people, known and unknown, to see the dawn of the new day. Michele and I are beneficiaries of that struggle.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BANFIELD: This is a world stage. All of these, you know, top leaders and, of course, a massive world television audience. Wolf, do moments like these allow leaders to rise above their own struggles for a day?

BLTIZER: Yes. This was a moment that the president really wanted to speak, not only to the people of South Africa, but to the people of the United States. Indeed the people of the world. It gave him that opportunity to put all of this in a very personal perspective on how the struggle to defeat apartheid in South Africa and the enormously critical role that Nelson Mandela played in that struggle, impacted him, the civil rights movement in the United States and, indeed, the world. It was a powerful moment.

BANFIELD: All right. Wolf Blitzer live for us, thank you for that coverage. There is still a lot more to come as well. The glass ceiling is being shattered in the automotive world. One of the places you might not expect it. One manufacturer has announced its new CEO and there she is. We'll announce her to you after the break.