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Nor'easter 2014; South Sudan Peace Talks Under Way; Obamacare Legal Challenge; Police: Don't Puff And Drive

Aired January 3, 2014 - 08:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: We have our team spread out throughout the country covering the breaking news, because the fact is a third of the nation is being affected by this storm.

We start with Indra Petersons in hard-hit Boston -- Indra.


INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): The massive nor'easter battered more than 20 states into the night, nearly two feet of snow already on the ground near 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.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: 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 in Philadelphia to Boston closed today as officials fear the commute to class would prove dangerous. Just check out this elementary school bus in Missouri that skidded off an icy road straight into a ditch. The powerful arctic mess has dropped temperatures to parts of the country to the coldest in years.


PETERSONS: At around five degrees below zero, this family in Maine took boiling water and 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 are now waking up to a dangerous but beautiful winter wonderland.


PETERSONS: It seems like a snow that is never going to end. But again, what makes it so unique. I mean, take a look, I can literally kick through the snow like it is nothing, good news if you're trying to take your car out of the snow and get to out of the snow.

But unfortunately with the strong winds, that continue to blow, we're talking about 30 to 40-mile-per-hour winds out of the north, we still have the concern for poor visibility, the snow expected to continue to fall throughout the late morning. It should taper off by the afternoon today, except for on the cape, we're going to get ocean- effect snow.

So, you're still going to see some snow in that region. The big story behind this is the frigid air. I mean, we are talking about temperatures already negative 20 below and a second storm behind this one that's going to bring even cooler air by the beginning of next week, very hard to believe when it feels this cold, guys.

PEREIRA: Yes, you think you made it through this one, you better prepare yourself, more cold weather is coming.

Again, we keep saying it, if you don't have to leave, if you don't have to go out, take the advice of some of the governors and elected officials to just stay indoors. As Indra mentioned, Cape Cod, this is new this morning, it's one of the hardest hit areas, dealing with heavy snow and ice and really strong wind.

Look at this -- you might not recognize what that is. Our Laurie Segall was covering the storm in Cape Cod when her live truck literally, to the point we almost couldn't see her this entire morning. She's been in the middle of the swirling winds and snow. She's been giving us really a great look at what has happened and she documented it overnight.

Laurie, how is it right now that the sun is up?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It might be better that you could completely see me. If you can see what's happening here, the wind everywhere, blowing everywhere and now that the sun is up you see how much snow there is. For so long, it was just snow kind of coming down on me on this live shots.

But, now, you can see and if you take a look at this store behind me, it's a shoe shop and we dug a picture of what it looks like in the summer compared to what it looks like now, and you can actually get the sense of how much snow there is here. Take a look over here, it's up to 15 inches of snow here. And you also mentioned our satellite truck it stopped working because we're thinking of this chilly air because of the frigid weather here, we're actually going live through a process, DNG, there's a laptop in our car right next door and we're actually eventually going live through the Internet and we're going to have to move our car soon because the snow is just piling up, behind me the snowplows.

And, you know, as you mentioned before, this is Cape Cod. We are on the coast. We are near the water and a lot of folks, as the sun comes up and we near around noon, 1:00, people are going to be worried about the tide coming in, because knock on wood, the good news is there hasn't exactly been too much coastal flooding which is a huge concern but we'll be waiting until 12:00 or 1:00 to see if when the high tide comes in if there's coastal flooding, guys.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Still a few more hours until they clear that danger zone in the Cape, still snowing, the winds still blowing, it will be the last place that it ends.

Laurie Segall, thank you so much for braving the storm out on the gate. I really do appreciate it.

There is a little good news now in this whole mess. The Long Island expressway is now back open. It was shut down overnight so the crews could plow through the snow. You see them there at work.

Schools are closed today in several big cities, including Boston, Philadelphia, New York, a lot of kids at home, this is the first major decision here in New York for the new mayor, Bill de Blasio.

Alexandra Field joins us with more from Long Island -- Alexandra.


I can tell you right now, for at least a moment the wind let up. That felt like a little bit of relief, but the temperature has been dropping this morning -- from 12 degrees down to 10 degrees and with it, the wind-chill went from 6 below to 8 below.

So you can feel every degree. I've added an extra layer, you can see I had to throw on the ear muffs here, and you can also see some of the cleanup work is actually starting, while many of us have not been on the roads this morning, the plows have. You can see the snow bank that they build right around our CNN SUV, that's been parked out here all morning.

If you're heading out to your car this morning, along with digging yourself out, you'll probably find something like this -- icicles -- just another sign of how cold it is all over the Northeast.

FIELD (voice-over): Throughout the night, blizzard-like conditions on Long Island, eastern parts of the island hardest hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far, it's a mess. It's a mess. They're doing not too bad with the roads on the main roads, but the side roads are just horrible. FIELD: Roadways are covered in snow, making driving downright dangerous. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo closed the Long Island expressway and the state's thruway south of Albany after midnight as a precaution.

(on camera): We're waking up to an almost ear eerie sense of quiet here. That's the Long Island Expressway. It's been shut down since midnight. Not a car on it. Of course, you can see the plows are out. They've been out all night.

Long Island officials say that while they were preparing to take on this storm, they kept an eye on what's happened in the past.

STEVE BELLONE, SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE: There's one thing we have learned from Superstorm Sandy is that we can never be too prepared.

FIELD (voice-over): Less than a year ago, the LIE was littered with abandoned vehicles, hundreds of motorists stranded. Some spent the night in their cars. Others were rescued by firefighters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was cascading effect. One car went up, got stuck, the rest stayed behind it and kept trying to get around each other and they all got stuck.

FIELD: In New York City, hundreds of plows and salt spreaders were on the streets as the snow started falling.



DE BLASIO: Do solemnly swear --

FIELD: The city's new mayor spent his first working day preparing for his first emergency.

DE BLASIO: It would have been nice to have a nice calm first day but we have snow on our mind. And we are focused like a laser, on protecting the people of the city and getting everyone ready.

FIELD: City schools are closed Friday but mass transit continues to operate while it's safe. The new mayor is hoping to avoid the debacle three years ago when it took weeks to clear some of the city's streets.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NYC MAYOR: The response to the storm was inadequate and unacceptable and clearly the response to this storm has not met our standards or the standards that New Yorkers have come to expect from us.


FIELD: Hopefully, a lot of you are waking up to a sight that looks like that, that's the only vehicle you really want to be driving this morning and hopefully you are seeing plows in front and loaders in your neighborhood. The snow has been falling quickly, the bulk of it overnight and early this morning. We threw our cables out here on 4:00 in the morning, and you can see, it's just become buried in the snow. About half a foot here and you can see all around me still coming down.

And, John and Michaela, you can see all around me, still coming down.

PEREIRA: Still coming down, that's going to keep crews. It's keeping crews busy here in Columbus Circle in New York City, the plow is trying to get the sidewalk concerned.

Let's talk about the air, though. Our breaking coverage continues now with the words that flight operations at JFK airport suspended because of zero visibility at the airport. We're told the terminals will remain open. The nor'easter that's heating us is forcing the cancellation of up to 1,700 flights across the nation today, adding to the thousands that were grounded over the last two days. And then there's the delays over 2,000 so far. Today, that number is expected to climb.

Pamela Brown picks up our story live from New York's LaGuardia airport.

What's the latest Pamela, from LaGuardia?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're just finding out now, Michaela, that there are limited flights going in and out of Boston's Logan Airport, as you mentioned JFK Airport has halted operations there.

And here at LaGuardia we just saw some people sleeping on cots. According to an airport official, there are around 180 cots set up here for stranded passengers and let me tell you they're taking advantage of them. Many of them have been here since last night and probably be here for a while, considering how many flight cancellations there are -- 1,571 flight cancellations in the U.S., a bulk of those at major hubs in the Northeast and Midwest.


BROWN (voice-over): 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: Supposed to leave today but 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'm going to get back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just kind of 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though folks may not be flying to 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 of 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: And back here live at LaGuardia Airport, so far, 254 flight cancellations here and we're expecting that number to tick up as the morning goes on, the conditions pick up. You see that reflected on the board behind me in the yellow is the cancellations. Interesting to note, the other flights that are leaving and coming in to LaGuardia are on time there.

I also want to mention for those passengers who were supposed to be flying out today, many of the airlines are working with passengers and not charging them the fee to change their ticket to another day or another time, so a bit of good news that are expected to be traveling this weekend.

BERMAN: That is a bit of good news, call ahead, always good advice. Today will be a long day but people will get to where they need to go.

Just be patient, be kind, please, to everyone around you.

PEREIRA: Best thing you can do.

BERMAN: Breaking news coverage of this storm, social media is blowing up with pictures from this nor'easter. And some of you have been sharing what you're seeing with us.

Christine Romans joins us with a small sampling.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, John. Some of these pictures are just beautiful.

The first from Patrice Clark (ph) in Saratoga Springs, New York. You're just not going to go anywhere, anytime soon.

And when you look at this picture, I want to remind folks, this could be so dangerous, clear the tail pipe first, don't start the car and have someone sit in the car while you're digging it out. Carbon monoxide deaths happen in big storms when people turn on the car, sit in there and then they got the tail pipe cover. So, be very, very careful there, especially when you're digging out these cars. And be careful, the traffic coming down the street as well, and the snowplows.

More now from upstate New York, (INADUIBLE) this is from Twitter, the bridge made impassable by snow. Look at the guardrails, you can see how high that snow is piled up.

Let's head east now to Detroit, this is DTW, all the snow on the ground they're not going anywhere, either. That's thanks (INAUDIBLE) for sharing that one with us. Make sure you're all packing extra patience if you're heading to the airport today. You're going to need it. You're seeing a lot of planes just like this.

And this is finally from (INAUDIBLE), sending this in from southeastern Pennsylvania, via Twitter, look at that car again not going anywhere any time soon. There's no place to go anyway. School is closed, no one is going to work, stay inside.

PEREIRA: You know what somebody else told me, Christine Romans, you can follow your airline on twitter or some of your local municipalities, sometimes they get really good up to the minute updates, transportation woes or cancellations with your airlines, a good way to stay on top of it all.

ROMANS: Yes. And go to your login and make sure your frequent flyer profile, you've got your phone number so they can text you, and let you know if you're going anywhere.

PEREIRA: That has saved me more than once. Let me tell you.

All right. Christine Romans thanks for doing that. I like getting to see what everybody's experience is like.

All right. Certainly, a lot of headlines going on today.

Let's head inside for some of the day's top stories. Ana Cabrera has that for us.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Michaela, my friend, I'm sending you warm thoughts, as we take a look at some of the other stories making news right now.

Breaking overnight, the State Department saying the U.S. embassy in South Sudan can no longer provide services to Americans, now that more staff members have been ordered to leave. Washington is urging all Americans to get out of South Sudan because of the fighting between rebel forces and the government troops there.

Peace talks between the two sides are under way right now in Ethiopia, but the fighting rages on. Army officials say government forces are about to retake a city from rebels.

Also new this morning, the Australian ice breaker carrying those 52 rescued passengers is having to stay put because now there are worries that the Chinese vessel which deployed that helicopter involved in the rescue, now that could get stuck itself in sea ice. The Chinese ship plans to try to get out of the thick ice Saturday at a point when the tidal conditions are more favorable, much more on this later in the hour.

Happening today, the family of Jahi McMath and the children's hospital in Oakland will meet in federal court. Federal magistrate ordered a settlement conference between the hospital and the family. Now, this order comes as Jahi's family continues to search for a doctor that will perform some medical procedures that will require to move her to another facility for long time care.

An update now on former first lady, Barbara Bush. She is said to be doing great and responding well according to a family spokesman. Mrs. Bush has been hospitalized since Monday after showing signs of pneumonia. Right now, there's no timetable for her release, but the family is hopeful it will take place sooner rather than later.

And check out this video, an amazing rescue in California search teams in Los Angeles air lifting an injured hiker to safety. Police say the 18-year-old woman was with friends at a popular waterfall when she slipped and she fell, breaking both ankles. The woman was taken to nearby hospital for treatment.


Cabrera (on-camera): And certainly, some scary moments, but the good news, Michaela, looks like she's going to be OK and back on solid ground.

PEREIRA: Boy, she has a story to tell. Thank goodness she wasn't injured more severely. Ana Cabrera, thank you so much, doing a great job for us today.

We will take a short break here on NEW DAY.

Next up, Obamacare facing one of its first big legal tests today. The Supreme Court could rule on a provision that has upset some religious groups.

And a different kind of test in Colorado. The green rush has created some gray areas for law enforcement as they try to police legal marijuana. We'll be back.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. Now to the latest in the legal battles over Obamacare. The Supreme Court could act as soon as today on a challenge to the law's birth control mandate. A religious non-profit group was granted an emergency stay earlier this week. Now, the Obama administration is responding. CNN's Jill Dougherty has the latest from the White House.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Well, Obamacare is in its third day, but that key provision concerning women is on hold at least temporarily.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): It's the last days of President Obama's two- week Hawaiian vacation and he spent Thursday playing golf with the New Zealand prime minister and his son. But in Washington, as life returns to normal after the New Year, it's back to Obamacare. Today, the Supreme Court could order the Obama administration to allow certain religious affiliated non-profits to remain exempt from the law's requirement to provide birth control and other reproductive health services to their employees.

This comes after a group of Colorado nuns asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor for a temporary injunction from complying with the law. A White House official responded saying "we defer to the Department of Justice on litigation matters but remain confident that our final rules strike the balance between contraceptive care and religious objections."

Coverage began January 1st for the 2.1 million Americans who've enrolled in Obamacare since October.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been waiting a long time for January 1st, 2014.

DOUGHERTY: And President Obama's allies at Organizing for Action continue to promote the new law. Mr. Obama, himself, sent out a New Year's tweet saying "I signed the ACA for kids like Marceles Owens (ph). He lost his mom because she couldn't afford coverage. Today, millions of Americans finally can."

But the White House has not said who those millions of Americans are, a fact some Republicans say indicates an overall lack of trust.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: If they keep putting a flowery spin on everything, how are we really going to ever -- you know, how are we ever really going to trust that we're getting the best, accurate information about the prospects for the law?


DOUGHERTY (on-camera): And that information about who is signing up, for example, are they young, are they old, is important because ultimately the concern is how this long-term is going to be paid for, and the White House says they're going to be having updated numbers in mid-January -- John, Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Jill, thank you so much, there from the nation's capital.

Let's turn now to Colorado where new numbers out this morning for legalized marijuana sales in Colorado are out. $1 million of recreational marijuana reportedly sold there on Wednesday alone. But while sales are booming, many enforcement issues remain up in the air. You might think police seeing DUIs would be as simple as alcohol, it's not. Like so much surrounding this issue, but the science and the law behind it are bit on the foggy side. CNN's Miguel Marquez reports.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Out of the cannabis closet and into a new era of legal recreational marijuana. The great Colorado smoke out is on. Weed, a powerful drug, coming from across the country to partake.

You are able to walk into a store and buy marijuana today. What did that feel like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is overjoying, like, to not have to hide it, and you know, be able to use what makes me feel better.

MARQUEZ: So I take it you guys are excited about this.


MARQUEZ: At Medicine Man Denver, one of the state's largest dispensaries, driving snow wind or cold didn't deter the faithful, the line in the hundreds all day long.

What does today feel like?


MARQUEZ: With new freedom comes new responsibility. Signs are everywhere. The dos and don'ts of pot, illegal for under 21s to light up, public health officials fear abuse. At greatest risk, kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over half of the admissions for addiction in this state in kids under 15 and teenagers, they are from marijuana.

MARQUEZ: And drivers can get busted, the legal limit five nanograms of THC in your blood.

I don't smoke but if I had one puff of a marijuana cigarette, will that put me over the five nanogram limit?


MARQUEZ: One puff?


MARQUEZ: For how long?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After by two hours, it will probably be gone.

MARQUEZ: THC dissipates to lower levels relatively fast, even in habitual users.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they fail a roadside test, we take them in to our DUI room and we do a series of other tests that take up to about two hours to complete.

MARQUEZ: It is possible to be pulled over high, and hours later, get a pass on the blood test.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

MARQUEZ: For now, pot aficionados, law enforcement, and policy makers settling in for the long ride.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Denver.


PEREIRA: All right. Miguel Marquez reporting there. It's going to be interesting to see. We've already seen a lot of debate emerge on social media. So, we want you to join in on the conversation. You can tweet us with the #NEWDAY.

BERMAN: Next up for us on NEW DAY, the debate raging over a California Supreme Court decision that allows an undocumented immigrant to practice law. The question is, will this open the door for other immigrants? We're going to speak live to the man who won this court's ruling.

PEREIRA: And following the massive storm that's causing all sorts of problems, closing highways, shutting down airports and the critical response from states, the governor of Connecticut will join us live.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Welcome back to NEW DAY. We're so glad you can join us, and hopefully, you're bundled indoors because it is cold out there. So what faces us? A big cleanup ahead in the northeast after a massive nor'easter moved through the region. Flight cancellations keep piling it up. Read it and weep, 1,800 flights canceled today alone, many of them in and out of Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, where weather forced Kennedy Airport to ground flights.

They are expected to resume any moment now, though. So here we are looking at the map. You can see the snow is mostly over the east coast right now, not before dumping almost two feet of snow in parts of Massachusetts.

BERMAN: And even when the snow leaves, we got more problems. Take a look at this. The temperatures for tomorrow morning very low, minus 12 in Boston with the wind chill, ouch, and it's not looking to warm up any time soon. Let's go one more time to Indra Petersons who is in the cold, in the blowing snow in Boston. Good morning, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, and in the snow. I'm actually in a parking lot here in Boston. I wanted to show you what we're seeing all over the city right now. Remember, we've been seeing strong winds out there.