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New Year's Freeze; Evacuations After Fiery Train Crash; Olympic Security Concerns

Aired December 31, 2013 - 08:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Men at Work song.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: You had Gandalf setting off the fireworks in Auckland. Who is setting off the fireworks there in Australia?

BERMAN: Mel Gibson, I don't know. I guess he's partly American. All the members of Men at Work. Who can it be now?

PEREIRA: Who can it be?

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Keith Urban. He's from Australia. Got your back, Berman.

PEREIRA: It's a fantastic show. And, of course, Australia has a couple of different time zones. So, different parts of the country will be celebrating New Year's, but this is Sydney. And I've got to tell you, so far I think this is one of the better fireworks show.

CABRERA: Did you hear about Dubai trying to set a new Guinness World Record?

PEREIRA: Really?

CABRERA: With the most fireworks, planning to send off 400,000 fireworks. Now, that is the countdown --

PEREIRA: That is the countdown. And the thing is you always worry that you're going to have that epic fail, but you know they practice and bring the pyrotechnics in for something like that. But in Dubai, you get one shot. You don't want to do that over and over again.

BERMAN: It's beautiful. What a beautiful fireworks display at the harbor there.

PEREIRA: And music synchronized with it as well.

CABRERA: A good day to start your day.

BERMAN: Happy New Year to everyone in Australia. Thank you for giving us an excuse to get our champagne out early.

PEREIRA: Yes, well, it's out.

CABRERA: And the glasses, too.

BERMAN: And the glasses.

PEREIRA: It's warm, but it's here. It's ours.

BERMAN: Back here in the United States, we are bidding farewell to 2013 with another major deep freeze. People right here in the eastern half of the United States getting hit with the coldest jolt we've endured so far this season -- the worst of it hitting the Midwest and Upper Midwest. People there have to deal with a round-the-clock subzero conditions.

Look at this folks. Minneapolis, 18 degrees below zero tonight. That's what it will feel like, 7 degrees in Chicago, 11 in Boston, 21 right here in New York City.

That is where we find Jennifer Gray, in for Indra Petersons, watching the forecast from a chilly Times Square.

PEREIRA: That's some kind of cold.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I think that's an official meteorology term I now discovered.

Yes, it is very cold. Temperatures feeling like the teens here in Times Square. People are starting to get here believe it or not. We've had, we've seen people with signs and they're just kind of hanging close. I think they're staking out their spots.

But, yes, a cold Times Square for tonight and a cold rest of the country as well, of course. If you are coming to Times Square, the key word will be layers.


GRAY (voice-over): A brutal freeze is gripping the eastern half of the country in the final hours of 2013.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a cold day, but it's a fun day.

GRAY: Revelers are bundled up and ready to watch the ball drop in New York's Times Square where temperatures will feel like they're in the teens tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's freezing. I've learned layers. I'm all layered up.

GRAY: But bitter cold temps won't keep people away from the excitement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got lots of layers and we'll keep together and we're going to have a good time.

GRAY: New York is not alone. The Midwest is contending with even colder temps for their festivities. Parts of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan are under wind chill warnings and advisories. The extreme bitter temps are hard to fathom in some parts. This landmark waterfall in Minneapolis, frozen solid with wind chills in Northern Minnesota Monday plummeting to 50 below zero.

The windy city will mark the New Year with temps in the teens and wind chills that feel like 10 below. Winds gusting up to 50 miles per hour created dangerous conditions for drivers in Minnesota and North Dakota Saturday. The arctic blast is also triggering heavy lake-effect snow for parts of the Great Lakes and the New Year is expected to get off to a snowy start.

Two weather systems will converge on the Northeast on the first day of 2014. One model suggests that New England and parts of the I-95 corridor could get hit by a powerful nor'easter, packing heavy snow and bone-chilling temps that could be the coldest in years. Some estimates have the storm dumping as much as 6 inches in New York and 10 inches in the Boston area.


GRAY: Yes. So, guys, this is just the beginning. If you think it's cold now, you haven't seen anything yet. Temperatures will continue to fall as we go through the next couple of days. That very chilly arctic air still in the Northern Plains, feeling like 40 degrees below zero in some parts.

And that cold air is going to stick around over the next couple of days. We'll see temperatures in the single digits across much of the Northern Plains. And then that cold air, yep, pushing to the Northeast. We're going to see temperatures in the teens Friday, in New York City. 17 degrees and then D.C., high temperature on Friday only at 22.

As you ring in the New Year, here are your midnight temperatures. How about 34 degrees in Dallas? We're going to see temperatures well below zero across the North, guys. So, layers, layers, it is going to be cold, ringing in 2014.

PEREIRA: And some of your friends are starting to drop by, Jennifer.

BERMAN: They're early. Long --

GRAY: Oh, they are?

PEREIRA: They are. There are a few of your friends in the background. Keep an eye on them.

GRAY: Welcome to New York.

PEREIRA: There are going to be some of other friends joining tonight. They might have some of this as well. Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin are back, welcoming in the New Year together from right there in Times Square. They will be wearing many layers. It's going to be cold. Tonight, you can watch from the warmth of your own sofa, 9:00 p.m. here on CNN.

BERMAN: Let the mayhem ensue.

PEREIRA: It will ensue. And, boy, howdy.

All right. Let's move to a story that is causing quite some concern in North Dakota.

Thousands of residents have been evacuated after a dramatic train collision and a series of fiery explosions. Train carrying crude oil collided with one that derailed in Casselton, just west of Fargo. Those explosions you're seeing right on the screen were felt and heard for miles.

Then, came this thick, black smoke. Earlier this morning, we spoke with Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney about the evacuations and the air quality in the area.


SHERIFF PAUL LANEY, CASS COUNTY, NORTH DAKOTA: Initially, the wind was out of the north and the northwest. We really didn't really get a break there. It came straight out of the west and the wreck and the wreckage is just straight west of the town about half a mile.

So, it was going to push that plume right back toward the city. That was our biggest concern at the time. We knew we had a few hours because of the timing. The winds weren't going to change until later last night. So, we made the call, myself in consultation with the mayor, chairman of our county commission, to recommend the evacuation.

And people listened. It was very orderly. It went very well. We were able to get the majority out before the winds changed. It looks like they're going to change on us again this morning, pushing it away.

We have experts here. There's a number of crews here are monitoring the air, looking at particles of the air. And I would say, by mid- morning, we ought to have a pretty good idea of the quality of the air, to help us make decisions on how long people need to be out and when we could start opening the community back up.

It's going to be a while, while they work on the wreckage. Still a lot of cars are burning.

PEREIRA: And you feel you'll have that contained fairly quickly?

LANEY: The crews they have here -- they brought in crews from all over the country, experts dealing with this. So, the railroad firefighting crews are dealing with this. They have an action plan. Daylight, we're going to kick into the next phase of that. At that point we'll see how long it takes them to knock it down.

But keep in mind, there's ten to 12 cars up there burning.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PEREIRA: Again, that was Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney from North Dakota. He also told us that it is really incredible. And when you watch the images of that fireball, it was incredible that no one on those trains were injured.

BERMAN: It is incredible, and a good thing.

All right. This question: will athletes and fans be safe at the Olympics coming up in Russia? A big question after two terrorist attacks this week, just over five weeks now before the games. The death toll is rising from the bombings and authorities have found a link between Monday's explosion on a bus and Sunday's blast at a train station.

There's also dramatic new video of the moment this attack first took place.

CNN's Diana Magnay is in Moscow to bring us up-to-date.

Good morning, Diana.


Well, there's a huge security sweep going on right now in Volgograd. Security checking buildings, checking people's documents, this as investigators continue to sift through the debris, trying to piece together what happened.


MAGNAY (voice-over): Russian authorities have discovered a link between the two deadly suicide bombings in Volgograd. Monday morning's attack on a crowded trolley killed 16 and on Sunday, a massive explosion rocked the city's railway station.

This chilling surveillance video captures the horrific incident at the security checkpoint where a suicide bomber detonated 22 pounds of TNT, killing 18.

Authorities now say both bombs contained similar shrapnel, a sign they originated from the same region. The attacks highlight the terrorist threat that Russia faces as it hosts the Winter Olympic Games next month in Sochi, just 400 miles south of the devastation.

WILLIAM RATHBURN, 1996 ATLANTA OLYMPICS SECURITY DIRECTOR: All of the Olympic sites will have physical security, electronic security. Everybody will be screened. So, I think it will be difficult for a terrorist to set off a bomb inside a village or venue.

MAGNAY: Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, is personally involved in security plans and promising maximum security in Sochi. But Russian authorities say they will not change security measures they already have in place, confident they're well-prepared.

U.S. authorities have offered full support to the Russian government in ramping up security measures. In a statement, the United States Olympic Committee says in part, "We're always concerned with the safety of our delegation and the Sochi games are no different in that regard," an effort by the committee to avoid a repeat occurrence of the bombing that killed two at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

RATHBURN: What concerns me is when you harden targets. You often force the terrorists to select softer targets. So that makes everything else in Sochi and the surrounding area vulnerable.

MAGNAY: Targets like transportation hubs, where tourists and athletes will travel to and from the games.


MAGNAY: President Putin's claim that he can protect the Olympics also depends on whether or not he can control the situation in the north caucuses. He says he can, but it would seem that the terrorists are intent on proving that he cannot -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: Really concerning, 38 days before the Sochi Games.

Diana, thank you very much. And if we don't get a chance to talk to you. Have a safe and happy New Year.

All right. You know, it's 12 minutes in, 13 minutes in now. I think Australia is still going. Look at that.

BERMAN: You go, Sydney.

PEREIRA: Go on with your bad self. This is impressive, to think that they can sustain a fireworks show for 12, 13 minutes like this is fantastic.

BERMAN: Well, it gives me a chance to put the glasses back on. It is 2014 in Australia right now.

PEREIRA: If you're a child or dog that doesn't like loud noises, this would be your worst nightmare. If you're a semi-imbibed celebrant in Sydney harbor, you're very happy.


BERMAN: What hair product that guy was using.

PEREIRA: I think that would add to your look.

BERMAN: I got the glasses already.

PEREIRA: The hair and the glasses.

BERMAN: Happy New Year, Sydney.

PEREIRA: All right. Let's let him have a moment. We'll got to Ana to take a look at some of the other headlines of the hour.

CABRERA: We have some serious news to talk about this morning.


CABRERA: Making news right now:

A top official behind the Obamacare rollout is retiring, just as coverage takes effect for the first enrollees. Michelle Snyder oversaw the creation of the Obamacare Web site and was in charge of the day to day operations at Medicare. Well, now, she is the second high-ranking official to leave since the botched Web site rollout earlier this year.

Congress is letting 55 popular tax breaks expire at midnight tonight, creating some uncertainty for millions of individuals and businesses. But this happens almost every year and typically Congress renews them retroactively, so taxpayers can claim them on their tax returns. So, a lot of people complaining that this just isn't right because any uncertainty makes it impossible to plan for the future.

The State Department reassuring the family of al Qaeda hostage Warren Weinstein, that people are working behind the scenes to secure his release. The 72-year-old was working as a consult ant in Pakistan on a community project when more than two years ago, gunmen stormed into his apartment and took him captive. It is believed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is holding him.

At first, the Rose Parade, a gay wedding, the first same sex wedding in the parade's 126-year history. It's going to go on tomorrow despite planned protests over this.

Aubrey Loots and Danny Leclair planning to wed on the 8th Healthcare Foundation float when it stops at the parade's reviewing stand in Pasadena. They have been together 12 years.

And it's the case of David versus Goliath from Missouri, where a brew hub is facing off against Starbucks. It all started after the popular coffee chain sent a cease and desist letter to the pub. It's called Exit 6, while the pub their brews a beer there called frappicino not frappuccino.

But Starbucks the pub needs to change that name, that it just too similar to what Starbucks sells. Now, the owner fired back with a letter of his own, along with a check for six bucks, the profit he says he made off selling the beer. Apparently, it wasn't popular.

BERMAN: Confusion between the coffee and the beer?

CABRERA: I actually had to look it up because I didn't -- I was like, how can you spell frappicino versus --

PEREIRA: If you get the two confused, you have had too many beer.

BERMAN: Too many of the frappicino.

CABRERA: You walked into the wrong place.

BERMAN: Yes, you did. You need to read your sign a little bit better. I'm pushing that over your side of the desk now.

It is New Year's -- thank you so much, Ana. It is New York's tradition, over 100 years in the making. A million people are expected to crowd into times square to watch the largest crystal ball in the world drop. Why? Well, it's an old maritime condition to help sailors keep time.

Not everyone will drop a Time ball tonight. The list of weird object that will descend from the heavens seems to grow every year.

CNN's Margaret Conley is Times Square.

I took a look at some of these. They're fascinating choices.

MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michaela, the list is really something. They drop cheese in Wisconsin and bologna in Pennsylvania. We found video of some other examples to show you as we wait for the countdown.


CONLEY (voice-over): From a pineapple in Hawaii, to a moon pie in Alabama, a peach in Atlanta, and a music note in Tennessee, states across the country are preparing oddball objects to drop at the countdown to the New Year.

CROWD: Three, two, one --

CONLEY: In Florida, they've been doing a drag queen shoe drop for years with female impersonator Gary Sushi Marion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was inspired by Priscilla Queen of the Desert when it first came out, with the high heel on top of the bus. I wanted to take that idea and do something fun on New Year's Eve.

CONLEY: Here in New York, the confetti has been tested by the official superhero of New Year's Eve, Spiderman. And the star of the show is ready, with more than 2,500 Waterford crystals triangles installed on it, and weighing nearly 12,000 pounds, the Times Square ball is a 106-year tradition. It's even with its own Twitter handle.

And this year, New Yorkers and visiting tourists are helping to generate the power for the ball by pedaling these city bikes. About a million people are expected to ring in 2014 in Times Square. If you do plan to be in the middle of the action at the stroke of midnight, get to Times Square early. Police will start closing down roads as crowds grow.

Security will be tight. There will be searches at entry points and backpacks in large bags won't be permitted. And remember that drinking in public in New York is illegal. But the energy of this crowd at midnight is arguably better than bubbly.


CONLEY: Now that crystal ball, they're going to raise it and light it at 6:00. Then, a Chinese cultural performance is going to start off the festivities. There'll be live performances by Blondie, Melissa Etheridge, and Miley Cyrus and Sonia Sotomayor, she is going to be the first Supreme Court justice to push the button to have the ball drop -- Michaela, John.

PEREIRA: That sounds like a party. Thank you for letting us know some of the other fascinating, intriguing and bizarre traditions around the nation, Margaret. We appreciate that.

BERMAN: Bologna.

PEREIRA: You're excited about Blondie.

BERMAN: I'm very excited about Blondie. Call me.


BERMAN: And you have Miley Cyrus and Sonia Sotomayor in the same place. Who knew?

CABRERA: Couple of extremes.

PEREIRA: Exactly.

Coming up on NEW DAY: How much longer can they hold out? Three failed rescue attempts. Another is now on hold. We'll have the very latest for those trapped on a ship in Antarctica.

BERMAN: And New Year brings with it new laws, thousands of them, in fact. We will run down some of them to keep you on the right side of the law.


PEREIRA: We might want to revise that. A new year, of course, means new laws, from Florida to Washington state, an estimated 40,000 are going to take effect next year, which is tomorrow. Many beginning at midnight tonight, it is time for you to bone up.

Rosa Flores is here to tell you what you need to stay on right side of the law.

The new laws --

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The new -- first of all, happy new year. Best wishes in 2014.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

FLORES: And, folks, the New Year could mean new habits for a lot of us. From what you could do in your car to what bathroom your children can use at school, you're going to want to listen to this.


FLORES (voice-over): From flash mob crackdowns -- to pet lemon laws, 2014 will ring in nearly 40,000 new state rules.

Here are the highs and the lows:

Smoking a reefer in Colorado is legal.

Oh, but don't toss the butt of a cigarette in a public street in Illinois. It's considered littering. You could pay in cash or jail time.

Don't even think about lighting one in a car with a child in Oregon. The Beaver State won't allow it.

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: First we said, can you smoke in this part of the restaurant? Then, we said, well, can you smoke outside? Then, we said, can you smoke down the street? Then, we said can you move to another state?

I mean, we do not like regular smokers. Meanwhile, when it comes to marijuana, marijuana is fast becoming a legal substance in the United States.

FLORES: But new moms in Oregon can get away with this, taking their placentas home from the hospital. If you're wondering why do that in the first place? Some experts think eating it has positive health benefits.

JOY GETMAN, OREGON MOTHER: As long as they're not giving it to other people to eat, I suppose it's OK.

FLORES: And talking about health, no more tanning beds for some teens in Illinois and Oregon. You'll have to be 18 to tan in a salon in those places.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a happy girl.

FLORES: But you don't have to keep your new pet if it's sick. Illinois's new pet lemon law allows people to return a pet if an illness was not disclosed by the seller.

In California, gender will no longer determine what's school bathroom children can use. It's gender identity that matters.

CEVALLOS: The student who identifies as a different gender may feel comfortable in that bathroom. What about all the other students? I think that's going to be a problem and I think you're going to see parents really revolting against this law.

FLORES: Serious moves can have serious consequences in Illinois. The maximum penalty doubled to six years prison time for organizing a violent flash mob using social media.


FLORES: And here is one more for you. If you're an Illinois driver, don't pass school buses when they're stopped because hear this, school districts are allowed to install cameras on buses. If you're caught, you're going to get busted be. You're going to get fined and that money will go to the schools.

BERMAN: Oh, good.


PEREIRA: Thank you so much. Good to see you and happy New Year.

FLORES: Happy New Year.

BERMAN: All right. Next up on NEW DAY: trapped in Antarctica. Dozens of people are making the most of it, posting this new video of how they're celebrating the New Year. Looks like fun. However, probably not fun being stuck in Antarctica for a week. We'll continue to monitor the rescue efforts there. We will have the latest on that coming up.

PEREIRA: It's like 22 below there.

Talk about keeping your composure, look at this, local news reporter faints, falls to the ground live on the air. She wakes up and keeps going like the consonant professional she is. Not only is she OK, she's going to join us on NEW DAY to talk about what happened.


PEREIRA: Oh, yes. I'm just getting ready. The ball is going to drop in Times Square. It's too cold outside -- for Indra Petersons, if you watch our show, you know, she is a warm weather girl.

So, we sent Jennifer Gray who has made of tough stuff being from Miami down to Times Square where it's very, very cold.

GRAY: Yes, I'm feeling like enjoying. I'm thinking palm trees and sand right now. It is very, very cold.

Temperatures in the 20s, starting to warm up a little bit. We're trying to. But temperatures will feel like the teens, if you are celebrating New Year's Eve in Times Square. It is going to be cold. Bundle up.

If you happen to be in Chicago, well, it's going to be cold for you, too. 14 degrees is what it will be at the stroke of midnight, with that wind-chill even more. And you're going to have a chance of snow showers. So, just be aware of that. You'll want to bundle up for sure.

We have very, very cold air in place across much of the country. And as we continue to watch this next storm system move in, because that cold air is already in place, it's going to set the stage for a very, very cold second half of the week.

We've been watching two computer models the past couple of days. It's going to be crucial. If it takes the path that's closer to shore, this would be the worst case scenario, we could see quite a bit of snow in places like New York City and Boston with six to eight inches of snow possible in New York City and possible eight to 10 inches of snow in Boston.

Something, guys, we'll be watching closely over the next couple of days. We'll looking at a Thursday evening into Friday timeframe. So, it could make the second half of the week a little bit of trouble. So, we'll be watching that closely.

But, yes, here in Times Square, people are starting to pile in. It's getting a little busier. Not getting warmer, but a little busier. It's going to stay chilly all the way through the day and the night, guys.

PEREIRA: And remember to use the facilities before you head down there. Not a lot of public facilities down in Times Square.

BERMAN: Always good advice.

GRAY: Very true. It's going to be a long day for people.

BERMAN: We're looking for ways to stay warm here and Michaela Pereira has been planning for her New Year's party here. The list of things that she wants to buy here, in addition to the salad making, French bread and ice cream, she has limes and lemons at the very tippy top of the list there.