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Snow Storms Hit Midwest; Air Travel Delayed in Parts of U.S.; Pictures of Snow Storm From Around the Country; Washington Urges Americans to Leave South Sudan

Aired January 3, 2014 - 07:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm supposed to leave today. Now I'm trying to find a way to get out of here.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And this is just the beginning. Behind the snow, an epic freeze. It's already started in the Midwest where the wind chills are well below zero. And it's heading east. We're tracking it all this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY, Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

PEREIRA: Good morning. This is the scene from outside Time Warner Center here in Columbus Circle in New York City. Welcome to NEW DAY. Kate and Chris have the day off. If you don't have to be outdoors today, our best advice is stay indoors. We may be in New York City where we're getting quite the brunt on this nor'easter, but it is spreading its power around. The nor'easter is causing some problems at JFK airport in New York. It's been completely shut down. All flights there have been put on hold. We're told it's expected to re- open around 8:30. We will of course keep you updated.

You can only hope this storm is not a sign of things to come in 2014. We're only three days in. We were told that there's about six inches on the ground behind us in central park. That really is nothing compared to what the folks in Massachusetts are seeing. Almost two feet has fallen on the ground already.

So let's take a look at the map. You can see the storm is starting to move over the Atlantic. That is good but here's the problem. What's coming next? Well, that's bad.

BERMAN: That's bad and that's cold. Take a look at these temperatures for today. This is what it will feel like with the wind chill this afternoon, negative territory in many spots. It could get warmer overnight but I have to say, not by much. It is very, very cold. The impact of the storm is wide ranging. Now up to about 1,600 flights canceled for today. Schools in Philadelphia, schools in New York, schools in Boston, all closed today. These cities pretty much grinding to a halt.

Some major roads still shut down, including the Long Island Expressway. Actually the wind is starting to pick up right now. The Long Island Expressway is shut down right now. It's usually packed this time of day, awfully quiet right now.

PEREIRA: We have our team spread out throughout the country covering this breaking news. We want to give you an idea of what's happening on the roads, in the air and just the general forecast. We start with the hardest hit area probably is Boston, one of the hardest hit areas. Indra Petersons is basically one of the only people outside right now. Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, I heard you talking about that bad, the cold temperatures that are coming. What about this? Take a look right now. I have to find the upside here. Here's my upside. An hour ago it was two degrees with a negative 21 wind chill. Right now it is three degrees with a negative 17 wind chill. That is my upside this morning. We haven't seen the snow coming down, a good six inches already here in Boston.

Just north of us, a good two feet of snow has already fallen. You talk about the cold air, add in these winds gusting and blowing this all around, that is what is making this storm so unique. It is all this very cold, dry snow blowing around. And I know I'm not the only one. Almost 100 million of you out there are dealing with exactly what I am at this moment.


PETERSONS: The massive nor'easter battered more than 20 states into the night, nearly two feet of snow already on the ground in Boston. The onslaught of snow is producing whiteout conditions in the area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are closing state government. I am urging private employers to do the same.

PETERSONS: This year's first major snowstorm, forcing New York and New Jersey to declare a state of emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please stay home tonight and stay off the roads.

PETERSONS: It's a disastrous mix for travelers, thousands of flights canceled, officials in New York closing several major highways overnight in hopes of saving lives. Several school districts from Philadelphia to Boston closed today as officials feared the commute to class would prove dangerous. Check out this elementary school bus in Missouri that skidded off an icy road into a ditch. The powerful arctic masses dropped temperatures in parts of the country to the coldest in years.


PETERSONS: At around five degrees below zero, this family in Maine took boiling water, and, check it out, it freezes immediately.



PETERSONS: The winds off of the lake caused wind chills of 25 degrees below zero in some parts of Chicago. Salt spreaders blanketing streets as countless spinouts litter roadways along the northeast and New England highways, millions, now waking up to a beautiful but dangerous winter wonderland.


PETERSONS: So let's talk about some of the concerns. I mentioned it feels like negative 20 degrees with the wind chill. With that kind of a cool temperature, cold temperature, you're talking about the threat of frostbite with exposure in just 10 minutes. That is all it takes. Think about all the people if they're trying to get on the road and they get stuck, those are very dangerous conditions.

You also talk about these winds out here, winds are gusting from the north, even 20, as much as 40 miles per hour. With that we have blizzard conditions. We have them in Massachusetts. We also have them in long island. A lot of people have been asking, what makes it a blizzard versus a winter storm? When you have a blizzard it's those steady winds continually picking up the snow and blowing it around where you have this visibility less than a quarter of a mile.

As far as the timing with this system willing pulling from the west to the east as it builds and makes its way offshore. So by late morning, the snowfall should start to taper off except for on the cape, where you have something called ocean effect snow. Think of lake-effect snow, the warmer ocean, the winds will continue to bring snow on to the cape in higher amounts for them into the afternoon. We still have a long ways to go, guys.

PEREIRA: We particularly want to remind folks, if you don't have to good out, the good thing is, this is sort of that holiday week that has been extended. If you don't have to get out, if you can stay indoors for the next couple of days while this passes, it's the best advice we could give you.

BERMAN: Turn on the TV, watch us, we'll tell you how bad it is outside. Don't go out and check for yourselves.

PEREIRA: Our teeth haven't frozen yet but we'll watch that. Thanks so much for that.

Let's move on to talk about the effects that you were talking about, this ocean effect snow, the blizzard conditions hammering parts of Massachusetts right now. The worst of it is pounding literally Cape Cod. Check out the visibility, or the lack thereof it really. Winds swirling the snow. You won't see a whole lot in front of you. In fact we had a bit of trouble ourselves this morning with some of our gear. That is a picture that Laurie Segall sent us of her live truck completely covered in snow. It's not actually white. She herself has been braving the elements all night long as her crew has been with her. She is in Chatham and joins us now with more on the conditions there. It looks blustery there, Laurie.

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. The good news is you no longer have to look at how covered in snow I am because the sun has come up here in Chatham, Massachusetts. You can look all around and see how much snow is here. This is a coastal town, right in the elbow of Cape Cod, so right next to the water. You can see, we got up to 15 inches here. You can see the wind blowing.

We actually documented our trip here. We documented overnight to see the worsening conditions. I want to show you that. Check that out.


SEGALL: The snow continuing to pile up here on Cape Cod, as fierce winds, frigid temps and coastal flooding threaten residents of the beach front homes. Eastern Massachusetts is expected to be among the hardest hit with blizzard warnings in effect in some areas through the morning. But it's not just the snow that's a concern. Limited visibility is making driving conditions treacherous.

We're on the road, about 6:00 p.m. We're about an hour and a half away from Cape Cod and we're seeing the first signs of the storm. You can see the ice forming on our wind shield right here, temperatures dropping rapidly. We just passed two accidents, another car pulled over trying to scrape that ice from their windshield.

Into the night, crews out in full force plowing roads, emergency services on call.

CAPTAIN MARK HIGGANS, CHATHAM FIRE DEPARTMENT: Stay inside and stay safe. Don't be on the roadways unless it's necessary.

SEGALL: Sparks flying off power lines and crews are on the ready to respond to outages when the storm passes. As much as two feet of snow could accumulate overnight with wind chills dropping well below zero and winds gusting up to 35 miles per hour.

Right now I'm holding up our wind meter. We're looking at gusts of winds up to 20 miles per hour. It's only expected to get worse. That's why you see the streets are empty. Everybody is at home weathering the storm.

As you can see, conditions have worsened. I have the wind meter right here. You can see the gusts of wind blowing. Right now we're looking at 20 miles per hour. It's been higher and conditions just continue to worsen.


SEGALL: And as a southerner, I always envisioned visiting Cape Cod. As the sun came up, this wasn't exactly what I thought. The silver lining here, I spoke to some folks with the department of transportation. They said they haven't had many reports of coastal flooding. That's a big deal when it comes to this kind of storm and this kind of city. We're still waiting until about 12:00 p.m. or 1:00 p.m. to see the high tide come in, see if that is going to do any damage. Right now, knock on wood, it hasn't done any damage.

BERMAN: Laurie Segall out of the Cape. That new high tide is the danger out there. As Laurie said, they'll be watching that to make sure they don't get the storm surge or coastal flooding they do fear. So far, so good.

You can see it with Laurie, you really can't hide from this wind and snow. It's blowing it everywhere. The crews have been behind us cleaning up all morning by hand, there have been small snowplows driving by constantly. The snow is just everywhere. It's really blowing around a lot.

We have a lot of breaking news associated with this story. Right now, this just in from JFK airport in New York. That's completely shut down now. This happened just minutes ago because of this nor'easter. That will certainly up the number of canceled and delayed flights, causing really a mess for people trying to get home after the holiday break. Our storm coverage continues now with Pamela Brown who's live -- there's a snowplow right there behind us. Here we go. It's going on all the time here. There goes the snowplow. I bet there are no snowplows inside LaGuardia airport where Pamela Brown is standing right now. Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No snowplows, just doughnuts and coffee here inside LaGuardia airport, John and Michaela. I have to say, passengers are taking it in stride despite all the cancellations. You can see the cancellations on the board behind me here at LaGuardia, already 254 cancellations here, just today, 285 at Newark airport. Altogether, 1,500 flight cancellations today. As you mentioned, JFK airport is closed this morning until at least 8:30 a.m. eastern time. And no flights are going in or out of Boston Logan airport until noon today.


BROWN: Heavy snow, strong winds and limited visibility have stalled air travel this morning. More than 1,000 flights already canceled and more than 2,000 flights canceled Thursday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It supposed to leave today. But it's been scheduled to leave on Sunday. And so now I'm trying to find a way to get out of here.

BROWN: Boston's Logan airport remaining open during the storm, but not many flights going or coming. Chicago's O'Hare International Airport the hardest hit with more than 650 halted flights accounting for most of the country's headaches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My first flight to Chicago was canceled and now my next flight is delayed. I don't know when I'll be back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're freaking out right now because we're running out of time.

BROWN: The storm causing a ripple effect for air travelers in nearly every state.

ROB VINGLING, AIRPORT SPOKESMAN: Even though folks may not be flying to places like Boston and New York, because those airports are such important components in the aviation network, that can have a domino effect on flights not even going to those locations. BROWN: One stranded traveler snapped this wintry photo at LaGuardia airport in New York where flights were grounded at 8:00 p.m. last night. Air travelers should be patient and expect lots of delays.


BROWN: Just a quick update here for you. JFK airport is open but the flight operations are halted until at least 8:30 a.m. eastern time. Of course we'll continue to keep you updated throughout the morning if that changes.

Here at LaGuardia, you can see it's pretty quiet behind me at the ticket counter. It seems like a lot of passengers have checked with their airlines ahead of time because of the cancellations. It's good to note here, the airlines are working with passengers, some airlines, United and American not charging them that ticket re-issuing fee so they done have the to pay anything to change their flight to another day or time. John?

PEREIRA: See, that's fantastic news, because before you even leave the house you can make alternate plans. You don't get stuck out there in that bad weather, your blood pressure goes up, et cetera. Thank you for that, Pamela. We really appreciate it.

One of the other concerning things is not just the wind, the snow, and the threat of high tides. It's the life-threatening temperatures that have a stranglehold on the Midwest. Check out the thermometer in International Falls, Minnesota. Can you see that?

BERMAN: Oh, man.

PEREIRA: More than 40 degrees below zero. Millions across the area are facing bone-chilling weather. Just being outdoors for some 15 minutes could cause frostbite on exposed skin. These arctic-like freeze conditions will keep its icy grip for days to come. That's the bad news. CNN's Ted Rowlands is live just outside of Chicago, and that's where it is bitterly cold. Ted?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I thought we were bad. We're at six or seven below zero, but 40 below zero up in Minnesota, that's horrible. Here's our wet T-shirt. It's obviously stiff as a board it is so cold here. Add you add the wind chills to it and, it's very dangerous. Any exposure for an extended period of time in these kinds of temperatures can cost frostbite. That is why people are being urged to stay indoors throughout the Midwest. These temperatures will continue throughout the day today. We'll have a little bit of a warm up on Saturday. But then the deep freeze actually sets in in the Midwest. It's going to go from bad to worse where we're going to see temperatures nearing 20 below zero, downright dangerous.

BERMAN: All right, thanks to Ted Rowlands out in Chicago. Ted, can I see that T-shirt one more time, because that was a stunning image?


BERMAN: That t-shirt completely frozen. That is crazy. ROWLANDS: Yes. It's a classic. Listen to it.

BERMAN: All right. Hang that up again, warm that thing up. It's not a small T-shirt either. We'll leave that there. Ted Rowlands, thank you so much outside Chicago for us.

With the snowplows going behind me again here, we continue with our breaking news coverage. The images of this nor'easter blasting millions with snow and fierce winds, the images are powerful. And some of you have been sharing with us what you are seeing outside. Christine Romans joins us now with that. Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, John. Oh, it's so cold, the response we're getting on social media.

I want to show you our first photo comes from @jennifer19. Take a look at this. This is not her car, thankfully, but this is a snapshot she gave us. Be careful driving on the roads out there. She was not injured, but this is a testament really to what's been going on around the country.

Let me take you to Michigan. This is East Kingsford, Michigan. This is an i-report from Jason Astland (ph), showing the thermometer there at -- if you can look at that -- that's minus 20, more than minus 20 degrees. That's 20 degrees below zero.

Let's take a look at this one. This one is from Henry Phillips (ph). This is Chicago O'Hare. We got a lot of pictures like this from O'Hare, but these are the cots set up this morning at O'Hare International Airport. As I told you, that is one of the worst places for cancellations and delays right now.

And this is an instagram from Kimberly Carolyn (ph). This is Boston Logan, John. Look at that. Snow plows right there on the runways. It's actually kind of artistic and beautiful, right? You don't see something like this all that often.

Some amazing stuff happening out there right now. So tag and share your extreme weather photos with us on Twitter at newday using #newday and #CNNweather. Some really, really pretty pictures from what is really a gruesome day out there.

BERMAN: Lovely images. Christine, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Let's go back inside to Ana Cabrera for some of the day's other top stories. Ana?

CABRERA: Thanks, John.

Making news right now, the U.S. is ordering more embassy staff to leave South Sudan, and Washington wants all Americans in that country to get out. Fighting between rebel forces and government troops has left more than 1,000 people dead and chased around 200,000 people from their homes. Peace talks between the two sides are under way right now in Ethiopia.

Happening now, two Americans are being held by the Libyan army at its headquarters in Benghazi. A source telling Reuters both were basketball players, and they were arrested on the campus of Benghazi University.

Now, the State Department is looking into this matter. This, as word comes that a Britain and a New Zealander were found dead with gunshot wounds in western Libya.

The Supreme Court could act as early as today on Utah's request to put same-sex marriages on hold. State officials appealing to the high court after a district court struck down the state's ban on gay marriage saying it violated federal guarantees of equal protection. Ever since that decision, Utah clerk's offices have been flooded with gay couples looking to get marriage licenses.

New this morning, the Washington Post is reporting that the NSA is trying to build a super computer that can break nearly all types of encryption. It would be able to crack codes that protect banking, medical, business and government records all around the world. The paper cites information from Edward Snowden. His documents also suggest the NSA still has a lot more work to do on this project.

And new this morning, a dramatic rescue on Lake Michigan after a man gets stuck in the ice. Coast guard and Chicago firefighters rescuing this man who was more than 60 feet out from the shore. The man, who has not been identified, was taken to an area hospital where he's being listed right now in critical condition.

Now more proof that Pope Francis really is a religious rock star. He reportedly drew 6.6 million people to his audiences, masses and other events at the Vatican. Now that figure more than doubles the first- year numbers of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The figures don't even include his trips within Italy or abroad.

Back to you now, John, as you bring us the latest from outside in the freezing cold.

BERMAN: Thank you so much, Ana. And it is cold out here, temperatures just above 10 degrees, could be dropping even more.

Next up on NEW DAY, new troubling information this morning for rescuers of that ship in Antarctica. The Australian ice breaker carrying the 52 rescued passengers is staying put, not going anywhere. We'll tell you why.

And police say they have the man who killed a priest inside his church. But what was his alleged motive? It has police stumped this morning. We'll explain why.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Now to a story that we have been following, now with a new update this morning. All 52 passengers stranded aboard a ship stuck in Antarctic ice were finally rescued after a 10-day ordeal. But now their long journey home has hit a snag. The rescuers themselves, they may need rescuing.

CNN's Matthew Chance has more from London. Matthew?


It's getting an increasingly complicated rescue operation. They waited for more than a week to try and air lift those passengers off that stranded research vessel, the Akademik Shokalskiy. It's Russian registered. They did that, 52 of the passengers being ferried by Chinese helicopter from a Chinese ice breaker close by to an Australian ship where they are now located and where they were supposed to be heading into open water and back home to dry land.

Only problem is, that the Chinese vessel has now itself become trapped in the very thick pack ice. It's the ice surrounded, apparently, around about 14 feet thick, and it's having trouble dislodging itself. It means the Australian ship with the scientists and tourists on board has been ordered to stand by and stay where it is in case the Chinese vessel needs assistance.

Members of the Australian crew have said that they believe this is not something that is going to detain them for very long, a couple days, perhaps, before the ice is sufficiently weakened and melted for all of them to sail out of there, Michaela.

PEREIRA: So, Matthew, that's the point exactly, talk about dislodging itself. We know that that ship itself, that vessel is an ice breaker. Is it a waiting game? They just wait it out? Or are they gonna try and plow through the best they can?

CHANCE: Yeah, they're gonna do both those things. I mean, on the one hand, they're trying to smash their way through the pack ice. But it's just a little too thick for the boat's capabilities; 14 feet, incredibly thick for a boat, even of that size, to get through. And so, they'll continue to do that, according to the Australian maritime authorities.

In the meantime, it's just a waiting game. They say they've got fresh food up until the 16th of January. After that, they've got dehydrated food. So they're not going to starve or anything like that. They're in no immediate danger, but they are going to be marooned there for considerably longer than they thought, Michaela.

PEREIRA: The rescuers themselves are now stuck.

All right, Matthew Chance, keep an eye on that for us and bring us the latest when you have it. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: Next up for us on NEW DAY -- you know, my fingers are still cold from being outside. But you don't have to be out in this weather to feel its effects. This is America's storm. The snowy shockwaves are even hitting people down in sunny warm Florida.

PEREIRA: Also, police in California say they have a suspect and the evidence in a priest's violent death. One answer is still missing, though, for the shocked community. The question, why? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: It is cold, swirling winds, ice, blistering cold. These are the words of the day.

Welcome back to NEW DAY. We're covering that massive nor'easter that's moving through the northeast and the Midwest. This morning it's already dumped almost two feet in parts of Massachusetts, up to a foot of snow in parts of New York and Vermont after doing the same in Illinois.

BERMAN: Once the snow is gone, the real news from the storm might be the frigid temperatures. They're really becoming a big concern. Single digits with the wind chill for much of the weekend across the northeast.

More than 1600 flights canceled for today already as the snow makes for dangerous flying conditions, notably here in New York where JFK Airport, no flights in and out. The terminals are open, but the airport otherwise shut down in terms of flying. That's along with Boston and Philadelphia.

We have this weather system covered from all angles today. We'll have more on travel in a couple of minutes. But we want to start with Indra Petersons who is in Boston, which really does feel like the hardest hit area right now. Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, METEOROLIGIST: I can tell you, yes, it does. We're definitely talking about some heavy snow, but that's not the thing I want to talk about. I want to talk about what makes this particular storm so unique. And I think you guys already kind of nailed it.

It is the cold temperatures. In fact, it is so cold out here right now with wind-chill, it feels like negative 20 degrees.