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Cold Snaps Hit Parts of U.S.; Crew Rescued from Stranded Ship in Antarctica; Meeting Colorado's New Demand For Pot; 15 Inches of Snow Predicted in Boston

Aired January 2, 2014 - 07:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman and Ana Cabrera are here with us today. We are going to talk about whether Mother Nature is back from her holiday. This new year is already off to a bitterly cold start. Look at these expected lows yourself for tonight. But the cold is half the equation. It's the major snowstorm that is the rest.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Massachusetts, one of 18 states with some sort of winter weather advisory in effect. Boston has already declared a snow emergency, canceled school for tomorrow already. People trying to get home from their holiday getaways could be stranded now. More than 2,300 flights canceled since yesterday. Most of the snow is expected late tonight into tomorrow. We have full coverage this morning beginning with Ted Rowlands in a snowy, snowy Chicago. Good morning, Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. We have been getting hammered. It started snowing New Year's Eve day and it has not stopped.


ROWLANDS: Throughout the night, snow continuing to pile up in Chicago. Millions from the Midwest to New England will be impacted by the New Year's first major snowstorm, bringing with it blizzard-like conditions and dangerously cold temperatures. Some parts could see more than a foot of snow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seemed like it's been snowing since we -- winter got here.

ROWLANDS: Boston already declaring a snow emergency and planning to close public schools on Friday, the massive winter storm already wreaking havoc.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay off the road.

ROWLANDS: More than 200 spinouts reported in Minneapolis alone as ice blankets the roads. Frigid temps complicating rescue efforts in the twin cities as firefighters had to be rotated in and out of the front lines of this raging apartment fire.

CHIEF JOHN FRUETEL, INDIANAPOLIS FIRE DEPARTMENT: Our nozzles have a tendency to freeze up if we don't keep them flowing water. ROWLANDS: In upstate New York, lake-effect snow is the story, more than two feet of the white stuff on the ground already.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was hard on the businesses last night because people had reservations to go out to New Year's Eve and they couldn't get out.

ROWLANDS: The deep freeze will have parts of the country feeling temps well below zero.


ROWLANDS: If you think that's cold, take a trip up north to Winnipeg, Canada, where the temps hovered around 40 below zero, colder than the surface of Mars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This storm is something else.


ROWLANDS: And Michaela, the biggest problem with the snow, the roads. Crews have been out 24/7 trying to clear them but it just keeps coming. Michaela?

PEREIRA: Yes, it does. That's the thing about snow, right? Thanks so much, Ted.

So how much of that snow will you be shoveling over the next day or two? Let's get to Jennifer Gray in Boston where the snow is expected to fall, maybe more than a foot. Braving the snow and cold to bring us this report. Hi, Jennifer.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Michaela. Yes, more than a foot of snow possible in Boston. We've been getting a very fine mist of -- a little snow mist if you will. A little earlier this morning, the flakes are starting to get a little bit bigger. It is so dry and the snow is so fine, I want to show you, folks in Boston waking up to snow. But look at this. It is so powdery you can't even make a snowball out of it. It is very, very fine. And this is what we'll be dealing with, some type of snow as we go through later this evening into tomorrow morning, expected to worsen dramatically as we get into the evening hours.

We're already seeing snow across much of the Midwest. As you saw in that report, it has been a mess and that is all moving in this direction. We have basically an area of low pressure out in the Midwest and then one to the south. They're going to converge, rain in the southeast for today, snow in the north, and we are talking about a lot of it. And it is really going to pick up as we get into the late evening hours, into tomorrow morning.

So what we'll be talking about, possible foot of snow here in Boston as you travel down to the south around New York city. We could get six to 10 inches of snow, D.C., one to three inches of snow. We're talking about snow in Pittsburgh, in Philly, all of the major cities in the northeast. We also have blizzard warnings in effect for long island as well as the cape. And we are going to be talking about very, very cold temperatures as well.

The winds also a factor. We'll see winds about 35 to 45 miles per hour. Guys, that's what we'll be talking about with the snow, it's so fine, the worry is going to be that blowing snow, it's going to cause whiteout conditions when you have winds of 45 miles per hour or more. So as we get into the evening hours tonight, folks should really just stay inside, not to mention it is freezing out here.

PEREIRA: Yes. Absolutely. Jennifer, thank you so much for that. Cautionary tales for sure.

BERMAN: And a problem well into tomorrow.

All right, we have some breaking news now. The safe rescue of scientists and tourists trapped on that ship in Antarctica, the successful air lift began this morning. Helicopter ferrying a dozen passengers at a time from the ice bound ship. They've been stranded there since Christmas Eve. And all earlier rescue attempts failed. They tried by sea, they tried earlier by air. Nothing worked. But now they seem to be OK. Poppy Harlow joins us now with this really carefully orchestrated operation.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really a very complex mission and a big success. Rescue is complete, all 52 passengers stuck on that stranded ship in Antarctica for more than a week transported safely to an Australian ice breaker. But their trip is far from over. It could take until mid-January for the passengers to finally get back to land.


HARLOW: Rescue efforts by complete.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, everyone.

HARLOW: By air and sea, teams have now successfully ended a complex operation to air lift the 52 researchers and journalists who were stranded aboard a research ship off the coast of Antarctica. The academic ship stuck since Christmas Eve in 10 feet of ice.

CHRIS TURNEY, PROFESSOR AND EXPEDITION LEADER: If all goes well we'll be off in about an hour's time.

HARLOW: Stranded passengers seen here stomping on the snow and ice, arm in arm, preparing a landing zone for the Chinese rescue chopper. The helicopter transported 12 passengers at a time, flying them to the Australian ice breaker Aurora Australis. The Australian maritime safety authority planned for the mission to take at least five hours and up to seven flights to get the passengers with their luggage and equipment. The stranded research ship's 22 crew members will stay aboard. In the last week, three ice breaking ships failed to reach the stranded research ship, those missions unsuccessful because of bad weather and ice.

TURNEY: The wind is quite intense, not ideal for helicopter operations, unfortunately.

HARLOW: But being trapped at sea for more than a week didn't put a damper on ringing in the New Year.

CROWD: Five, four, three, two, one!

HARLOW: Breaking out in song.


HARLOW: They shared their cheer all the way across the globe with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin in Times Square.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a little bit of champagne, I think, actually. Just a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want to tell tales but there has been alcohol on the ship.


HARLOW: Good for them. We were all waiting with anticipation for this to happen. We're told the rescue operation started around 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. eastern time today, took about five helicopter flights in total to bring all the passengers and their luggage to safety. As for the remaining crew, the master of the ship decided they're going to stay on board until they can get the ship out of there. They have plenty of food and supplies. Good for them. I don't know if I'd stay.

PEREIRA: That's a lot of movies. Especially if you knew there was an option to go. That's the big question.

We want to bring in Alvin Stone. He's on the phone. He's the press coordinator for the expedition to Antarctica. Mr. Stone, thank you so much for joining us.

ALVIN STONE, PRESS COORDINATOR: Thank you for having me.

PEREIRA: The spirits of the people on board that ship were so very high, especially through the New Year, but I bet they are glad to be heading home.

STONE: Oh, yes. There was pure joy when they saw the helicopter actually coming in to land. But I have to say the morale has been surprisingly high the whole way through. I've been pretty impressed, actually.

PEREIRA: Talk about the rescue effort. Did it go smoothly and without incident?

STONE: It changed quite a bit. The initial plan was actually to fly them to the Chinese ice breaker there and take them by barge to the Aurora Australis. But they had to come up with a plan b. They managed to set up a helipad on the ice floe beside the Australis and basically did it ice to ice and then walked back to the ship.

PEREIRA: The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is saying that their best guess is that these folks won't be on solid ground until mid-January, not getting home until then. Can you explain why it will take that long?

STONE: Originally the Australis was down there to unload scientific supplies at Casey station. They only got halfway through when they got the alert to come out and help. One they loaded the passengers, they actually had to go back to Casey station to unload the goods. We're probably looking mid-January at best, I would think.

PEREIRA: We know the 22 crew members will stay aboard the ship, they chose not to abandon ship. They're going to hope that the ice will clear or they can get through. Were they given any more supplies? Are you concerned about them at all?

STONE: Not particularly. They have enough for the entire season. They have fresh food supplies and then dry supplies after that. And it depends on what happens next. If they happen to get a very strong westerly, it could actually break the ice up. This has all caught from a southeasterly wind that brought the ice across. And even if that doesn't occur, I understand there's a very large Russian ice breaker on its way that should be able to carve through that three- meter thick ice with too much trouble.

PEREIRA: The hope always is that we learn from our lessons and experiences, yes? What do you think has been learned on this expedition? What do you think these scientists have learned? What do you think others who are in to doing this kind of research and exploration have learned?

STONE: It's an interesting question. I think we'll probably know better after the expedition has got back to land and looked over everything. I've been thinking about that myself. Surprisingly, I think it's a case where preparation really counts. The fact that these guys prepared so well is why there was never any danger to the passengers. They were extremely unlucky to catch the blizzard that brought the ice across. And it could have happened to any ship.

So I think in terms of what we've learned, we'll have to see. But in terms of preparation is definitely the thing. And I think that's guided them through this for the past week exceptionally well. As far as what I've learned, don't do this over Christmas or your wife won't talk to you.


PEREIRA: Alvin Stone, perhaps the best lesson anyone has learned. I think there's a lot of people breathing a collective sigh of relief knowing these people are safe and sound. We hope for a similar outcome for the 22 crew members aboard the ship that is still stranded there in Antarctica. Thanks so much for joining us, Alvin Stone, the press coordinator for the expedition there. Thanks for your time.

BERMAN: Glad they're off even if it's another two weeks before they get home.

PEREIRA: That's right.

BERMAN: Vladimir Putin is vowing to tighten security across Russia ahead of the winter Olympics. This as Russian police detained dozens of people in anti-terror raids on Wednesday. Putin met with victims of the twin bombings that left more than 30 people dead this week, raising new fears of terrorism at the games which are now just five weeks away. CNN's Diana Magnay is in Moscow with the latest. Good morning, Diana.

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. That's right, it's called operation, anti-terror operation Whirlwind going on right now in Volgograd. A lot of tensions, buildings being examined. As you said, Vladimir Putin came down there yesterday on New Year's Day to meet with the victims in hospital and also meet with the governor to talk about how to ramp up security. He said that he wants security heightened across Russia, but there is no need to improve security at the games itself.

Also making a very bold claim in his new year's address that he would annihilate the terrorists. That's a very big call. That means taking out large chunks of the north caucuses in Dagestan, you have mountains riddled with extremist militant training camps. So there is perhaps reason to say it would be difficult for the terrorists to target the Olympics themselves. But they can, as Volgograd shows us, target elsewhere in Russia and overshadow the Games, which is of course President Putin's pet project. Back to you.

PEREIRA: Thank you so much for that. There are many other stories making headlines at this hour. Ana Cabrera is here with that.

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Edward Snowden is back in the news today as we take a look at some of your other headlines. "The New York Times" and "The Guardian" both publishing editorials saying NSA leaker Edward Snowden should get some leniency. "The New York Times" editorial board says Snowden was justified in his actions and did the country a great service. It's calling on the Obama administration to offer Snowden a plea bargain or clemency so he won't have to live in fear or exile. No response yet from the White House.

Former first lady Barbara Bush remains hospitalized this morning with a respiratory illness. The 88-year-old was admitted to a hospital in Houston on Monday after showing what appeared to be early signs of pneumonia. President Obama, who is vacationing in Hawaii, released a statement wishing Mrs. Bush a speedy recovery.

The health of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is said to be worsening. An Israeli hospital says Sharon's vital organs are failing. Sharon's tenure as prime minister was halted by a serious stroke in January of 2006 and he's been in a coma since then. Sharon is now 85. His family remains at his side.

A helicopter will be sent out today to try to recover the body of a snowmobiler who died in an avalanche in Montana. The unidentified man in his 40s was in a group of three different snowmobilers who triggered the avalanche on Wednesday afternoon. The others suffered minor injuries. This area was under an avalanche warning after eight inches of snow followed rain on Tuesday night.

Four more years of Ford? Later this morning, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford will officially file the paperwork to run for reelection. Ford lost much of his mayoral power last month after admitting he had smoked crack, and then some of his other antics have been keeping the late night comedians busy, to say the least. Rob Ford has been keeping a lower profile these last few weeks, but he did provide some updates on that ice storm that slammed the city over the holiday.

So I don't know if you call it arrogance or stick to it-iveness. But he's certainly motivated to keep on going.

BERMAN: Just when you thought it was safe to go outside.

PEREIRA: Dear Toronto, we will be watching.

Ana, thank you so much.

A short break here on NEW DAY.

Up next, dead man busted. The FBI had a hunch that a banker wanted on fraud charge was not dead. Now it looks like they were right.

BERMAN: And there's green in them there hills. How are marijuana merchants dealing with Colorado's green rush? That's coming up next.



PEREIRA: I never thought I'd hear this song on CNN. High time in Colorado have officially arrived. There, long lines snaking out of dispensary doors Wednesday, as several recreational marijuana shops opened for business. Look at the crowds. Some spots, however, are struggling to meet demand. It is a potential watershed moment for U.S. drug policy, sparking a lot of fierce debate on both sides of the divide.

CNN's Casey Wian is in Denver. Casey?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Michaela. Well, these marijuana plants I'm surrounded by are destined for a place called Evergreen Apothecary. And that's where we were yesterday on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales. People started lining up outside the doors at two o'clock in the morning.

Let me give you some numbers. It'll show you just how strong the demand was.

When this place was a medical marijuana facility, the average customers, a about 70 people a day. Yesterday they had more than 800 people come to this door to take numbers to try to buy pot. They were only able to service a little over 400. So people are gonna be lining up there again today.

For the business owners, it couldn't have been a better first day.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has been absolutely amazing. There are more people here than we ever expected. And there's so many excited people taking part in this that -- I mean, we knew it was going to be a big deal, but we had no idea that there were going to be so many people out here.


WIAN: Now, that demand, despite relatively high prices, an eighth of an ounce of marijuana going for $50. That is triggering concerns that there might be a supply crunch down the road. These plants that you see here are gonna be ready for the store's shelves in about 60 days.

Evergreen Apothecary say they have enough supply. They're not worried about running out, but other recreational marijuana businesses here in Colorado are not so sure, John.

BERMAN: All right, Casey Wian talking about the booming demand for pot there. But we should say not everyone in Colorado is happy about the legalized recreational marijuana. There are even serious concerns in one of Colorado's biggest businesses, ski resorts. People wondering will people light up on the slopes? CNN's Miguel Marquez has that story.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When you think of Colorado, you think skiing, charming Western towns and now, of course, legal recreational pot. No surprise, not everyone's thrilled.

(on-camera): So marijuana's coming to Colorado. What does Greeley think of that?

TOM NORTON, MAYOR OF GREELEY, COLORADO: Well, the voters of Greeley turned it down when they had an opportunity to vote on it.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Greeley survives on farming, ranching and oil. Just north of Denver, it's the biggest town in Weld County.

(on-camera): What's the concern?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're a guinea pig. Colorado and the state of Washington are guinea pigs.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Recreational sales in Washington start later in 2014. Weld County may have said no, but there's one hold out here, a tiny place called Garden City. Sitting just on the border of Greeley, Garden City only a few blocks big (ph) expects recreational pot to be huge.

(on-camera): What is it like to be the only place in Weld County where this is allowed?

JOHN ROTHERHAM, STORE OWNER: It's -- I guess I'm lucky.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Lucky to be one of four pot shops here. Rotherham, who expects to triple his business next year won't sell recreational pot for a few months yet, but the customers are already there.

ROTHERHAM: We're averaging about 50 to 75 phone calls a day.

MARQUEZ: And this is a family business. That's dad and mom, both in their 70s, trimming pot. They first told their son he was crazy, then they changed.

MARY ROTHERHAM, JOHN ROTHERHAM'S MOTHER: He's my son and I'll do anything for him.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): But it's not just Weld County wrestling with the potification of Colorado. Ski areas, often a tradition after lighting up on the lifts aren't turning a blind eye anymore.

MARQUEZ (on-camera): If I'm caught smoking pot on a chair lift, will my pass be yanked?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there's a high likelihood of that. You can expect to have your ski vacation here and not be smelling marijuana smoke.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): As the centennial state takes a leap into recreational pot, there's uncertainty for some, a warning for others. What was ignored or looked past before, now zero tolerance.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Greeley, Colorado.


BERMAN: And our thanks to Miguel for that story.

Next up on NEW DAY, a big, shocking, high-profile call for clemency for Edward Snowden. Could the NSA leaker be welcomed back to the United States? Did he do the country a great service?

And it was once an endangered species, the bald eagle, a proud symbol of the United States, something in Utah has been killing some of these majestic birds, but now that mystery may be solved. We'll have the details, coming up.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is a new year and what a way to start a new year, these blizzard warnings, snow emergencies and we're talking wind chill levels well below zero. That's what millions of you can expect. Look forward, if you will, as a winter storm bears down on the northeast.

Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is in Boston right now. And I understand that folks there are looking at about 15 inches of snow.

GRAY: Yeah, we could see a foot, 15 inches in some locations. Yeah, this one is going to be a blockbuster. And you know the month of January, Boston, it normally gets about a foot of snow. And they can see more than that with this one system.

You can see the flakes coming down. We've had some steady snowfall as we've gone through the morning. And I want to show you the very fine snow that's blanketing all of Boston. It is very, very fine.

And the risk is going to be when this snow starts to blow around because we're going to get winds of 35, 45 miles per hour as we go through the late evening hours into tonight, it's going to create whiteout conditions, and that is going to make driving almost impossible. And it's definitely going to ground flights.

You can actually hear snowplows just off beside me. Folks are really trying to get ready and get prepared for this storm.

We have already seen incredible snow totals across the Midwest. Those snow totals are going to be incredible as we head to the northeast as well.

Already seeing snow, snow advisory, winter storm warnings and watches all across the northeast and even blizzard warnings for Long Island and even the Cape.

And so, what we're talking about, a foot of snow like we mentioned in Boston. We could see six to 10 inches of snow in New York City. We could see one to three inches in D.C. And those accumulations will be about the same in Philly, Pittsburgh, it is going to be a mess.

Look at those wind chills this morning, some areas feeling like 40 degrees below zero. Unbelievable, waking up. And then if you wake up on Friday morning here in the northeast, places like Boston could feel like 15 below zero.

There are your three-day temperatures, and it does not get much better. Temperatures are going to stay in the single digits, the teens all across the northern planes, Midwest, around the Great Lakes, as well.

And so, do plan on just a long 36 hours, guys. Stay indoors. Just snuggle up with some hot chocolate. It is going to be very snowy. Definitely stay off the roads, not safe here in the northeast.

PEREIRA: Yeah, we have time to prepare. That's the key. We know it's coming, so prepare. Make a game plan.