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Extreme Cold Hits Eastern Parts of U.S.; President Pushes to Extend Unemployment Insurance; High Rise Apartment Building Catches Fire in New York; Protect Yourself From a Widespread Flu

Aired January 6, 2014 - 07:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Is this racism or good science?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Your NEW DAY starts right now.

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

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It is Monday, January 6. It's 7:00 in the east. New this morning, the deep freeze across a big chunk of the country so brutal it is history making and dangerous. It will feel like minus 56 in Duluth, Minnesota, 38 below in Chicago, conditions so bad in the coldest areas it will take just five minutes for exposed skin to develop frostbite.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The conditions are forcing local governments to take some pretty drastic steps. Schools in St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukie, and every school in Minnesota all closed. The cold is pushing east and even reaching into the deep south at this point. In fact it will be colder today in Atlanta, Georgia, than in Anchorage, Alaska.

Our team is covering it all as only CNN can. Meteorologist Indra Petersons is going to show us where it is and where it's headed. But let's start on the ground with George Howell, who is braving the arctic chill in Green Bay, Wisconsin. George?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. And just the other day they played a football game there against the Packers and the 49ers. The 49ers won. Some 77,500 people were in the stadium dealing with wind chills down to negative 11. And out here, you know, people came to tailgate. You bring the frozen burgers and brats, but what about frozen bottles of beer and water? I think you can see, these are frozen solid. Different tailgating for me, unlike anything I've ever seen coming from Texas. I tell you, the temperature continues to drop.


HOWELL: Brutally cold arctic air is spreading a dangerous deep freeze over half the country. The frigid blast forcing schools and government offices to close from the deep south to the northeast.

MAYOR GREG BALLARD, INDIANAPOLIS: The temperatures that we're talking about are deadly. This is a combination that is unlike anything we've seen in a long, long time.

HOWELL: Nearly 140 million people will experience wind chill temperatures of zero degrees or below by Wednesday, temperatures the country hasn't seen in decades. In fact, Chicago, St. Louis and Atlanta are all colder than Anchorage, Alaska.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conditions are very bad, roads are really slippery.

HOWELL: At Sunday's Green Bay Packers game against the 49ers --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if you can be ready for this kind of cold.

HOWELL: Temperatures felt like a frigid 11 degrees below zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under-armor, two hoodies, a coat, ski goggles, I have it all.

HOWELL: And it's not just the plummeting temperatures. A massive snowstorm battling the Midwest dumped up to 16 inches of snow in St. Louis, the iconic St. Louis arch barely visible under the onslaught of snow.

MAYOR FRANCIS SLAY, ST. LOUIS: This is a dangerous storm. Driving conditions range from difficult to impassable.

HOWELL: In Illinois the entire basketball team from southern Illinois university got stranded in the snow. Returning home from a game, the bus caught in a powerful winter storm. The team was stuck on the interstate for six hours before a tow truck was able to dig them out.

But there's relief in sight. The subzero temperatures and snow will virtually be gone by Wednesday.


HOWELL: I just want to make sure you see this up close and personal. This is a solid block of ice, and that gives you some indication of the temperature out here. So that's the temperature. But now we're talking about the wind chill. The wind chill is a big concern because it makes it feel a lot colder than it is. And as the winds pick up, it will get worse. Right now this area is under a wind chill warning at least until noon today. And we know it could get down into the negative 30s, negative 40s, negative 50 possibly. We'll have to wait and see. But, guys, it is cold out there.

BOLDUAN: It is cold just looking at you out there, George. Thank you very much. Go get warm. We'll check back in with you.

So of course the big question this morning is, how long will this brutal cold stick around and when will it end? Meteorologist Indra Petersons is tracking who is getting the worst of it and where it is all headed next. Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, one of the concerns we talk about is the particularly dangerous situation. This is a rare event that is normally issued when you talk about tornadic activity with severe weather. This time the particularly dangerous situation is being put out there thanks to cold temperatures, very rare thing you'll see today. Minneapolis and Sioux Falls looking at potentially as high as negative 65 degrees. That's a concern. And look how close we are to those temperatures even at this hour. Duluth right now negative 54 degrees with the wind chill. Also Minneapolis negative 45, Indianapolis down to negative 36 with a foot on the snow already on the ground. That's what is bringing deadly arctic temperatures along with the wind chills.

It's also one reason they don't want you on the roads, think about visibility issues when you have those high winds blowing that snow around. You do not want to get caught outside in these kinds of temperatures. These are the highs, even when you go through the afternoon, this is as warm as it's going to get. Minneapolis only goes to negative 14 as a high. That's 37 degrees below normal. Even for Minnesota, this arctic air is spreading all the way down to the south. Nashville, negative 37, or below 30 degrees below normal. Atlanta, even through Florida, you are feeling this km chill today. You may have woken up in the northeast and said this is warm, but that is going to be changing quickly. By tonight we'll be looking at temperatures at negative 10 if not negative three degrees. So quick change considering it's 53 right now in New York City. Enjoy it.

BOLDUAN: Indra, thanks.


CUOMO: This morning we're trying to figure out how the numbers are going to affect our lifestyles. Another impact of bitter cold is that grounding of travelers nationwide is going to happen. So far thousands of flights have been canceled this morning. Some 2,700 across the country right now, many in the bitterly cold Midwest. But that number is only going to go up. At New York's JFK airport, conditions were so icy a plane that landed safely then skidded off the runway while taxiing. That is where we find Alexandra Field this morning with more on the nightmares there and abroad.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, there is no shortage of frustrated passengers this morning. Already today more than 400 flights have been cancelled in just the New York City area. That's just the start of the problem. A lot of air travelers have already been stuck at airports since Friday and the airlines expect they won't be fully back on schedule for days.


FIELD: Hundreds of stranded passengers camped out in airports over the weekend hoping to get moving again by this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I missed a whole week's work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to go home.

FIELD: But the blizzard conditions and icy temps slamming the Midwest and northeast are keeping airlines from getting back up to speed.

DANIEL BAKER, CEO AND FLIGHTAWARE.COM: Now we have this storm hitting Chicago that is causing up over 50 percent of flights to be cancelled to or from Chicago O'Hare. So travelers all across the country are being impacted by this.

FIELD: A scary moment at O'Hare on Saturday when a plane slipped after its wheel slid off of the tarmac. None of the 145 passengers were hurt. An icy runway at JFK Airport in New York caused this Delta plane to skid into a snow bank. Crews had to tow the plane with passengers on board back to the gate. No one was hurt. Experts say the storm will continue to affect air travelers, warning that it could take several days for airlines to get operations back into the full swing of things.

BAKER: Not only do they need to get the airplanes in the right place, but almost more importantly, they need to get the crew in the right place.

FIELD: According to JetBlue, it's not just weather. The blog points to new pilot rest rules designed to avoid pilot fatigue resulting in they say fewer JetBlue flights. The airline advises it will take days, not hours, to finally get people where they're going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to miss two days of a cruise and I've been standing there for four hours.

FIELD: Once all those cancelled flights do return to the skies, experts say Airlines will be faced with a lot of displaced passengers and a limited number of seats.


FIELD: Already 2,700 flight cancellations this morning. Yesterday that number got up to 3,800. So even if you have already checked your flight data and it looks like you're on schedule or that your flight is a go, you certainly want to keep checking because these cancellations are happening all day long.

BOLDUAN: And that ripple effect all across the country continues. Alexandra, thank you so much.

New this morning, president Obama is challenging lawmakers to act fast on long term unemployment insurance. Today the Senate could take up the issue as 1.3 million Americans saw those benefits expire in December, and the president calls that just plain cruel. CNN's Jim Acosta is at the White House with much more. So how is this fight shaping up, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is shaping up to be a fight, Kate. The White House is putting its full weight behind this push to extend long-term unemployment benefits for people who have been jobless for a long period of time. But at this point Republicans are saying they go could go along with this plan as long as the cost of that extension is offset by other cuts. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a saying no deal, calling that idea foolishness. But the White House is gearing up for an all-out campaign to pass this extension as part of the president's pledge to tackle income inequality in the coming year.

Meanwhile, there is a test vote to pass these unemployment benefits later on this afternoon. It comes after another key economic vote after the president's pick to lead the Federal Reserve. But as for that vote that is scheduled for later on this afternoon, it is not clear whether or not Democrats have the 60 votes that they need to clear that hurdle. They do need additional Republican votes, and that's what they'll be doing for the remainder of this day, trying to find the Republicans votes to get the unemployment benefits passed. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Jim, it's a big issue. There are going to be politics on it, but that's a policy that really will have to be paid attention to, and we will.

Also new this morning, stunning images of the deadly fired that ripped through a New York City high rise, killing one person, injuring several others. It took more than 100 firefighters to contain the inferno, and now investigators are trying to figure out how it started. "EARLY START" anchor John Berman back with us now following this. What do we know?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It was such a terrifying scene, not just for the people in the building but for so many others who were watching the flames engulf the high rise just before lunch yesterday. This morning there are questions about whether those inside knew enough about what was going on to make the right decisions.


BERMAN: Flames poured out of the windows of this New York City high rise Sunday as a deadly three-alarm fire tore through the 42 story apartment building, leaving residents scrambling through hallways to safety.

BOBBY, LIVES IN BUILDING: I saw the firefighters coming up the stairs and wondered what the hell is going on now.

BERMAN: Residents were forced onto the freezing city streets as firefighters rushed to put the fire out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were banging on my door to tell me you got to get out, it's a fire. I had to run down 18 flights of stairs barefoot.

BERMAN: Attempting to escape the blaze, these two newlyweds were found unconscious in the building's stairwell and rushed to the hospital. And 27-year-old Daniel succumbed to his injuries Sunday night. His husband, Michael Todd Cohen, remains in stable condition after being treated for smoke inhalation.

ASSISTANT CHIEF JOHN SOUND: Unfortunately it appears that the victims may have originally been in their apartments safe and exited the apartment and became a victim in the stairwells themselves. BERMAN: Officials say the fire started on the 20th floor and then spread with smoke blackening several floors above the flames. Pictures of the terrifying scene soon appeared on social media from both building residents and neighbors watching the fire. Resident Mickey Atwell tweeted this photo from below his 26 floor apartment where he was stuck on his balcony with his wife and two-year-old son. Atwell tweeted, "building on fire, too much smoke on hallways, elevators not working." The family was later rescued by firefighters.

ALLONDRA SOROA, STUCK IN BUILDING: He had to wait until the smoke was out, then he walked you us down to the 18th floor and took the elevator and now we're here, thank God.


BERMAN: At least six people were treated at the scene for minor injuries. It is not yet clear what caused this blaze, but you can bet investigators are working around the clock to find out.

CUOMO: Few things more scary to be in, few things more difficult to fight than fire.

BERMAN: So high.

CUOMO: You heard some of the people there going through it, as John, thank you, took us through the story of it. In the next hour we're going to talk with a family who was in there and figured out how to escape, and they did so by walking down 40 flights of stairs through smoke-filled air.

PEREIRA: Right now let's take a look at your headlines. Happening right now, the U.S. embassy in Beirut warning Americans in Lebanon to exercise extreme caution in high-profile places, including hotels, shopping centers, and social events where U.S. citizens typically gather. The warning comes on the heel of several deadly explosions. The embassy has issued warnings in the past but not with this degree of concern.

Breaking news overnight, Children's Hospital in Oakland, California says Jahi McMath's body has been released to her mother. That 13 year old has been on a ventilator since complications from tonsil surgery left her brain dead. It's not clear where the family will take her. One rehabilitation facility in New York as offered to provide long term care.

Happening today, Janet Yellen's nomination to lead the Federal Reserve goes before the Senate this afternoon. She is expected to have enough support to be confirmed. She would become the first woman to head the central bank. Ben Bernanke's second term expires at the end of the month.

Today is sentencing day for Colleen LaRose, better known as "Jihad Jane." The Pennsylvania woman is facing a possible life sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to murder a foreign target, supporting terrorists, and lying to the FBI. She has been in prison since 2009 for her role in a global terror plot. And if you would like to get your blood pumping before breakfast, this should do it. Remember Jeb Corliss. He likes to skydive through narrow corridors for fun. He's at it again. Two days ago he did this, calls it the "flying dagger." Yes, he goes through a very narrow in a mountain in China before coming down for a nice, soft landing.

BOLDUAN: And somehow (ph) do it all -- he's got, obviously, a gothrow (ph) or some kind of camera that he can keep on him.

FEMALE: And also, Kate, he's got, like, (inaudible).


PEREIRA: It's just extraordinary.

BOLDUAN: Landed safely.


BOLDUAN: We're gonna take a break. Coming up next on NEW DAY, half the states in the country are reporting flu outbreaks, and it is spreading quickly. Why is this year, in particular, younger adults are at risk? We're gonna talk to an expert and tell you what you need to know to keep yourself and your family healthy.

CUOMO: And some races and cultures are simply superior and the rest of you are contributing to the downfall of America. Controversial? Of course it is. And that's what the author of "Tiger Mom" says, and she says she can prove it. Racism or hard to swallow, in quotes, "science"? We'll lay it out and debate it coming up.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

One word you never want to hear describe the flu: widespread. We're gonna show you a map. Half of the country is now affected. If you live in the red, yellow or orange states, you've better hope you've had a flu shot. Those are the states with the highest level of flu- like activity, and the number of those states have doubled just since last week, upping the number of widespread flu cases to 25.

Another number, a sobering 160 (ph). At the end of September, six children have died from the flu.

We're going to bring you Dr. Roshini -- is here from NYU Langone Medical Center.

Good morning. Happy new year. What a way to start the year with these numbers.

What is most concerning to you? We know that little ones die from the flu. It's a terrible fact. Is it that it's so widespread?

DR. ROSHINI RAJ, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: Yeah, I mean, I think we should put it in perspective. This is not yet worse than other seasons. Last year was actually a particularly bad flu season.

But what we're seeing is a very rapid up-take in the cases. And so, you know, it started a little bit later than usual. I think we were lulled into a bit of a false sense of security where we weren't seeing a lot of the flu. In the last few weeks, things have changed dramatically. As you said, it's widespread in 25 states now.

And what's unique about this season is we're talking about the H1-N1 virus, which particularly affects young adults. So these are the people who think that they're, you know, not vulnerable and they really don't think maybe that they need the flu shot. The point is this season everyone needs the flu shot.

All seasons, but this season particularly, young people shouldn't feel like they're immune because they're being affected being particularly. And pregnant women as well have to be very careful this year.

BOLDUAN: Because normally we're talking about young and the elderly who are most at risk and who need to take particular care. And now you're saying that kind of everyone in between is -- as well.

RAJ: Right.

BOLDUAN: What are kind of the -- of course washing your hands and staying away from someone who has the flu -- those are clearly some of the top lines (ph) of what people need to keep an eye out for. But what's your advice for this flu season in particular? Because it's from coast to coast.

RAJ: It's from coast to coast. But the biggest thing you can do is get that flu shot. It's definitely not too late. We usually see a peak late January, February. So there's still time to get the benefit.

CUOMO: So why don't people get it? Let's go through what actually happens.

RAJ: The barriers, yeah.

CUOMO: I think that there's a barrier that you can help us with here. Part of it's hype. People at home, you hear this, and you're like, here's the media again, over-hyping the flu. Everybody's gonna die. I'm not even gonna listen.

So how do we get them past that? How important is it and why is it so important? How big a difference does it make if I don't get the vaccine?

RAJ: Well, it makes a very big difference. Particularly this year, we know that this year's vaccine contains the H1-N1 virus, which is circulating right now.

CUOMO: Which is not always the case.

RAJ: Not always the case, right. But this year, it looks like it is a pretty good match. And many people don't realize that people do die from the flu. And it's not just the elderly, the children. But we get thousands of people dying, and that's not a small number when you think about it.

PEREIRA: And the thing that's important to remind folks at home is just because you may feel like, "Well, I can handle the flu, and even though I get sick, I'll bounce back," you may carry it and pass it on to somebody that doesn't have a good chance of fighting it.

RAJ: Right, that's why I work in a hospital. I have to get the flu shot. It's mandated by my hospital. If you're caring for a young child or your elderly parent, again, you really should get it to protect them. But even if you ride a bus and you're next to that little old lady, you could be protecting her if you get the flu shot.

PEREIRA: Let's point out when you say "young people", you mean just anybody under 65.

RAJ: Right.

PEREIRA: It's sort of --

CUOMO: So even I still make it.


PEREIRA: You're a young man.



BOLDUAN: Even though we might be heading into what is traditionally the peak of the season, it's still not too late to get the vaccine.

RAJ: Definitely not. I mean, we can see people up until May of some years. So there's definitely a few months to go that you can get a real benefit.

And, you know, one of the barriers -- as you mentioned, there are barriers. Some people think I get the flu from the flu shot. That simply has not been proven to be the case. They've done studies where they give people a real vaccine or a fake vaccine, same amount of side effects.


CUOMO: A lot of people believe that. And I even think that you can say it even more smartly (ph) than you did. It's not that it hasn't been proven that it doesn't -- that it can give you the flu. There's no proof that it would give you the flu.

RAJ: Right. Exactly.

CUOMO: That only exists in our head.

RAJ: It's a dead virus that you're getting. There's no way it can give you the flu.

PEREIRA: Thank you for breaking this down. I think we're staring down the barrel of this one. And we don't want to make it any more miserable than it has to be.

RAJ: Exactly.

PEREIRA: Dr. Roshini Raj, good to see you and happy new year.

RAJ: You too, happy new year to you all.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, it's been a rocky campaign for Liz Cheney. Now find out why her bid to become Wyoming's next senator is about to come to a very abrupt end.

CUOMO: And Madonna's 13-year-old, alcohol, and Instagram. It sounds like a Jeopardy question. It's not -- it's a bad combination for a lot of people, but the Material Girl is fighting back, telling her critics to calm down. I wonder if she actually used those words. We'll tell you about it.