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Cold Weather, Ice and Snow, Blast the South Again; Snowmobiler Survives Avalanche; Discussing Underground Powerlines; Disappointment for U.S. Olympians; New Study Suggests Self-Exams Are as Effective as Mammograms

Aired February 12, 2014 - 11:00   ET


RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN ANCHOR, "UNGUARDED": It is nighttime, as you can behind me, in Sochi, so the temperature has dropped to a dreadfully chilling 54 degrees now.

We're going to go find our parkas.

COSTELLO: Good luck with that.

Rachel Nichols, many thanks.

And thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

"@ THIS HOUR" with John Berman and Michaela Pereira starts now.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CO-ANCHOR: A catastrophic ice storm with power outages that could last for a week.

But as you sit there in the dark, think about this. Why on Earth aren't power lines buried underground to begin with?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: That's a great question.

And the second black justice ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, he's talking about race and raising some eyebrows. Clarence Thomas on the Jim Crow era and why he thinks today might be worse.

PEREIRA: Also, the French president going stag to the White House state dinner, so what's the big deal America? Why do we freak out when nobody else does?

We are going to get Robin Leach's take on this, ahead.

BERMAN: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman

PEREIRA: And I'm Michaela Pereira. Those stories and much more, right now, @ THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: All right, our top story is this rare ice storm in the South, knocking out power to tens of thousands, 143,000 as of this minute, and it's only just beginning. Thousands of flights have been canceled. Schools are closed. Millions of southerners have been told just stay home. We will show you the damage just ahead.

PEREIRA: Also, at this hour, Senator Rand Paul is set to talk about a lawsuit he is going to file against the Obama administration. It is over NSA surveillance programs.

The Kentucky Republican is a long-time critic of the spy agency's mass collection of our personal data. He calls it unconstitutional, because it infringes on civil liberties.

BERMAN: And @ THIS HOUR, closing arguments are under way in the "Loud Music" murder trial. Michael Dunn could face life in prison.

He is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jordan Davis outside a Jacksonville gas station. Now, Dunn testified yesterday in his own defense. The jury is expected to get the case this afternoon.

PEREIRA: If you love Corvettes, you are going to cringe at this picture. This is quite awful.

A huge sinkhole opened up right underneath the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Eight corvettes, eight beautiful corvettes were swallowed whole.

BERMAN: They're down there somewhere.

PEREIRA: They're in that hole.

This happened overnight. Fortunately, no one was inside, and, thankfully, no one was hurt.

Local media reports one of the cars was a 1962 model on display. To make matters worse, in September they were supposed to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the museum. That's going to obviously slow down their plans.

BERMAN: That's too bad.

PEREIRA: Back to our top story, that weather, if there was ever a day you should stay home from work, this is the day for the South.

A rare storm is dumping ice, sleet, and snow from eastern Texas through the Carolinas.

BERMAN: Yes, a weather trifecta down there.

The power outage is growing by the minute as ice brings down trees, it brings down power lines, 143,000 people without power at this minute.

You are looking at live pictures from the roads right there. You can see not many people out. And that's a good thing.

Not like the historic traffic jams that we had two weeks ago, no, most people listened up. They stayed home. Thank goodness.

PEREIRA: They had advanced warning this time.

BERMAN: They listened to the advanced warning this time. Last time, they had the warming. This time, at least, they listened to it.

Joining us from outside the CNN Center in Atlanta is Chad Myers. Nick Valencia joins us from Decatur in Georgia.

Chad, this ice, it sounds really, really bad. How unusual is this down south?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGISTS: We typically get ice storms. My son wants it to snow so he can get on his sled. And it doesn't really ever get to the snow. We always just get either sleet or freezing rain. So this is what we get probably two or three times, I would say, a year. but nothing like this. This is bad.

What we have is a large snow cone, and this is the good news. This is what we wanted to happen for Atlanta. This stuff bounces off the trees, at least a little

You can stop from the city about five miles and it is not this. It didn't freeze on the way down. It is freezing on the trees, because it's liquid coming down, and I can even see some freezing on the lens, too, right here.

So it's mixing here, and that mix is the problem. As it sticks to the trees, a lot of these trees are going to come down.

I know we are a hundred thousand and some without power, but I'm sure that number's going to go to a million, easy.

PEREIRA: Yeah, it's not making for snowman-making weather, and that is the concern, about how heavy it is.

Let's go to Nick now. Thanks for wiping down the lens, guys.

Nick, one of the concerns, you're just outside of Atlanta in one of these areas where they have those beautiful, beautiful old trees. That and a combination of ice is a really bad combo.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a very bad combination, Michaela and John. And that's what we have been seeing out here is freezing rain. Right now, it's more snow flurries than freezing rain.

But the biggest concern here in Decatur, which is a suburb just outside of Atlanta, are these power lines. Let me step aside and show you.

This is an older part of town as you mentioned, lots of old trees. And I was talking to a resident a little while ago and asking them if they still had power. He said, yes, for now.

This is an area that's notorious for power outages. And that's a big concern, although we did see some kids behind us a little while ago having a snowball fight out on a sled like Chad was talking about his son likes to do.

But for the majority of people that are dealing with this inside, a lot of them don't have power.

You mentioned across the southeast about 140,000 people without power. Here in the state of Georgia, that's over 100,000. And the majority of that is concentrated in metro Atlanta.

So it is a bad, bad thing out here, guys. It is very cold. Temperatures are freezing, below freezing. And that's going to be an issue going forward.

John? Michaela?

BERMAN: And, Nick, you bring up the breaking news. It's right there on your screen. One-hundred-forty-three-thousand people are without power right now.

That number is going to grow, because this storm is really just getting started in a lot of ways.

Chad Myers, what's in the future here?

MYERS: This is the first quarter of the Super Bowl. We are going to get more of this all day. I see 13 more hours of this exact weather all day long. It's not going to stop until well after midnight tonight.

And it stops at snow, so what you may see as ice on the ground is going to be covered up with snow, and you won't be able to see that glare ice. We are going to get black ice tonight. It is going to be another mess.

But, now, I know we talk about Atlanta. But this is Augusta, this is Columbia, South Carolina, this is parts of North Carolina and then, as it turns up to the northeast, it's going to be a snow event for Charlottesville, for Richmond, for Washington, D.C.

New York City and Philadelphia, not going to see the ice, it's going to be cold enough to the north that it's going to be a snowstorm for you tonight and tomorrow.

PEREIRA: Both Chad and Nick, we appreciate both of you, braving the elements out there, letting us know.

At least we know that folks this time heeding the warnings, planning in advance. We're going to keep an eye on it for you, so stick with CNN. We've got a great team covering it for us.

Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: Yeah, and the warning, by the way, up here is 10 inches of snow or more coming this way to the Northeast, so people up here better pay attention, too.

PEREIRA: I was looking outside, still blue skies, so get your shopping done this hour.

All right, ahead @ THIS HOUR, do mammograms cause more harm than good? Does this sound vaguely familiar, ladies?

A major new study raises disturbing questions about these screening that so many of us dread, but depend on for early detection of breast cancer.

We're going to talk about our Dr. Sanjay Gupta about the findings. We'll try to straighten it out, straight ahead.


PEREIRA: So, obviously, we've been watching this weather in the South, the extreme cold weather, the ice storm there.

But we want to alert you of something that's going on in the West, as well. We know it's a bad avalanche here already, two snowmobilers in two separate states now buried by avalanches.

The one you're about to see happened off the trails in the back country of the Utah Mountains north of Salt Lake City.

BERMAN: Right. These pictures we have now are of his friends digging him out from at least three feet of snow.

He was able to stick his hand out of the pile, but he was under that snow for five minutes. His friends say avalanche vests and rescue beacons are what saved him.

PEREIRA: And then the other avalanche happened in Gunderson, Colorado. Cody Strong was snowmobiling. He was off trail.

Out of nowhere, we're told a surge of snow threw him off mobile. Look at that. These are shots from his helmet-cam. How terrifying.

Alyssa Chin of affiliate KKTV has more.


CODY STRONG, AVALANCHE SURVIVOR: It honestly felt like I was just literally flying through the air, like, and I mean, like, I felt impact on me and everything.

ALYSSA CHIN, REPORTER, KKTV: Cody was swept away in an avalanche. He says the snow ripped him off his snowmobile and was taken roughly a hundred feet.

STRONG: It ended up being like a literally freight train that just took me away.

And as fast as I said that, like, it was done and over with. Like, I mean, it was just -- see it, you can't see anything. You feel your body going through motions and then it's done and over with and you're stopped.

CHIN: Once the panic stopped and he saw that all his friends were OK, he took a minute to let everything that happened sink in.

STRONG: We literally survived an avalanche. Like, that could have been way worse than it was.


BERMAN: Wow, those are just incredible pictures.

That was Alyssa Chin reporting.

Strong says he will be more cautious from now on and will even take an avalanche-safety course.

PEREIRA: Yeah, a lot of the guys that go on the back country and to off-trail, they are taking avalanche training. They're taking gear with them. There is great new technology -

BERMAN: It's amazing technology.

PEREIRA: -- GPS, beacons, they have these little shovels that you can take along.

BERMAN: Like, practically like life vests, now.

PEREIRA: The fact that you can even survive it, I think I would be so scared that that would probably stop my heart.

BERMAN: All right, ahead for us at this hour, the French president going stag to a state dinner just weeks after a pretty messy break-up and rumors of an affair.

Hey, the French don't seem to mind, but in the U.S., mon dieu, it's a scandal.


BERMAN: All right, welcome back, everyone. The breaking news from the South right now: 143,000 people are without power at this minute. That number is going to grow. It could grow by a lot as this storm continues to move north. It will shut out the lights, the modems, stoves, everything.

PEREIRA: You can bet that that is going to happen. And as it moves north, we are going to see it up here in the northern part of the country. It is about to happen.

Here's the question. It is 2014. Haven't power companies figured out how to protect their lines from mother nature? We wanted to discuss this and the idea of preparation ahead of time with retired General Russel Honore. He joins us. Of course, he led the military response to Hurricane Katrina. What a pleasure to have you with us, sir.

How are you, sir?

RUSSEL HONORE, REITRED GENERAL: Doing great. It looks like everybody is weathering the storm a little bit better this time. We've survived the first phase of this thing.

PEREIRA: Let's hope so. Let's hope so. So let's talk about this. General, why is it that we can't have the power lines burying the lines? We look at other countries around the world, taking Germany, for example. They have buried power lines. They have inclement weather. They don't have the outages that we have face.

HONORE: No, I have lived in both Germany and in the Netherlands in Holland. And they average maybe two hours a year of power outage because they put the utilities underground.

Eighty percent of our power lines in America are above ground. And I speak a lot with the power companies, talk to preparedness and resiliency. And they discuss these things. It come down to cost. For one mile of power lines in a new subdivision, about $200,000, above grown.

If you put it underground, it is double that, nearly $400,000 to put a mile of power underground. So it comes down to cost and dollars and whether they warrant to reinvest in existing neighborhoods. Because they go back into older neighborhood where most of us live, Michaela, it would cost three times the cost of just putting it above ground.

BERMAN: Still, it seems like an investment in our future for our cities and towns across America, especially when we see these trees coming down, we see these power outages. Hurricane Sandy Last year, when it came out here, power was out for a week, 10 days, two weeks with all these trees. And people are just wondering why, why? Won't the power companies pass on the cost to us anyway?


HONORE: They do and they normally do and get credit for it. But, again, the issue is, how do we build resiliency? If the state laws don't require them to do it, they're not going to do it. You know, it's all about profit and loss statements and balance sheets.

But what we have pushed along with the Red Cross and Alliance for Safe Homes and many others is to build resiliency in the community by having critical buildings like schools, drug stores and gas stations with generators. And only Florida has a generator law that requires critical infrastructure to have a generator. So we know you can lose power.

You know, we put a man on the moon, but we haven't created a transformer that a squirrel can't trip. It can be set at any time and the power will go out. So how do we build resiliency in the community?

PEREIRA: And that's obviously something we need to do, especially when you look at all the money that is spent on relief after the fact when one of these disasters happen.

We want to say a big thank you to retired General Russell Honore joining us today from Baton Rouge. Thank you so much for your time today, sir. BERMAN: Thanks, General.

You know, there was another big story that just jumped off the pages of the newspaper when I woke up this morning. And it's about mammograms in a new giant study that questions whether these mammograms actually save lives. This study says, no, that mammograms do not prevent deaths from breast cancer, and in some cases could actually do more harm than good.

PEREIRA: It is making me a little crazy right now. Researchers tracked 90,000 women over a 25-year period, which makes it one of the largest studies ever done on the procedure of mammography.

Our doctor Sanjay Gupta joins us from Atlanta with details on it.

Sanjay, I have to ask you -- and you can understand this. I know that you can hear the frustration. I'm a woman over 40. I had my mammogram, my yearly exam last week. It is making so many women crazy. And they're probably shouting at the TV right now, do we? Don't we? Do we? Don't we? And then a research paper like this comes out and it muddles the issue further. How do we make sense of it?

SANJAY GUPTA, MD, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It does. It's very confusing. Look, and I think I have been reporting on this almost as long as I have been a medical correspondent.

Let me cut to the chase, Michaela, to your question, which is (AUDIO GAP) based on the conversations we have already had, get a mammogram, starting at age 40, earlier if you are considered high risk. And then, depending on what that mammogram shows, you are going to need follow-up mammograms. Those are still the recommendations.

But this particular study is raising a lot of concerns. As you've said already, it is one of the longest term studies, 25 years. They divided women into two groups. One group got -- did self-breast exams and a mammogram. The other group did just self breast exams; 45,000 roughly in each group.

And what they found by the end was they had about the same outcomes, about the same number of people were found to have cancer. About the same number died from that cancer. So there was no difference at least in this particular study. And that's what researchers are going to be looking at.

Buy again, Michaela, there are all sorts of different studies out there. This is another study that is going to be taken into consideration.

BERMAN: The part that was really confusing and really glaring, startling in a way to me, Sanjay, was the claim that in some cases, getting a mammogram can do more harm than good. Explain to me the reasoning behind that in the study and what you make of that.

GUPTA: When we talk about screening tests, John, what we're talking about is obviously trying to find cancers and find them early. Screening tests can have false positives. They can have false negatives. False negatives is you don't find something that's there, and a false positive is you find something that subsequently is not found to be cancer. So it's some sort of anomaly on the mammogram that then warrants a lot of anxiety, first of all, on a woman's behalf, and then possibly a procedure, a biopsy, even an operation all because of what turned out to be a normal variant. And that's where the harm part comes in.

And that's a problem with any screening test. No screening test is going to be perfect in terms of that false positive, false negative thing.

I should point out with a big study like this, since you asked the question, there are all sorts of different variables. One is that this study was conducted some time ago back in the 1980s. When the study was started, mammography wasn't as good as it is today.

Also, on a more positive note, treatments have gotten a lot better. So even cancers that are found later can still have the same -- as good an outcome as cancers that are found earlier. That may make it sound like mammography is not that useful because finding it early doesn't seem to make as big a difference. That's because the treatments have gotten better.

PEREIRA: It doesn't have to be a death sentence. My concern -- we'll leave it here, Dr. Gupta. We appreciate it. My concern is that we have gotten so much awareness about breast cancer now. Women are checking themselves; they're getting checked regularly. I worry that this will damage that, and I don't want us to go backwards. Do you know what I mean? We are taking our health into our own hands. This just worries me a little bit.

BERMAN: You know, one important thing in this study, it's not saying, don't be curious. Don't ask questions about breast cancer and the risks if you are a woman in the age group. In fact, it's comparing mammography to self-exams and saying the self-exams can do almost as much as the mammograms. So that's one interesting point here, too.

PEREIRA: Shall we talk Olympics?

BERMAN: Let's talk Olympics.

PEREIRA: We haven't yet. And you know I kind of wanted to.

BERMAN: It's a tough time for the U.S.A.

PEREIRA: But I'm OK. I'm OK.

BERMAN: Canada is doing well.

PEREIRA: Yeah! We want to warn you if you haven't looked at the coverage or you haven't checked your DVR yet, a bit of a spoiler alert. We're gonna rattle off a little bit of medal info right now. Shield your eyes. Shield your ears. Let's take a look at the count.

BERMAN: Yeah, let's look at the medal count right now. And it's ugly for the United States.

On top right now, Norway leading with 12 medals, four of them gold. Canada, leads the world in crack-smoking mayors but also number two in the medal count there with 10. Down in third, the Netherlands -- I guess the Netherlands tied for second also. Then behind that --

PEREIRA: The U.S. and host nation of Russia are tied, seven medals a piece. Germany, we should really give a shout-out to Germany. Germany's got the most gold. They've got five gold medals.

BERMAN: Yeah, really one of the biggest stories of this Olympics so far is a little bit of disappointment for the United States. One of the biggest stars, maybe the biggest star, Shaun White, failing to medal in the halfpipe. Just a few minutes ago, speed skater, Shani Davis, shocked the world also, failing to medal in the 1,000 meter speedskating. Bode Miller didn't do well. A little bit of a mess for the United States.

PEREIRA: Level of expectations so very high.

BERMAN: However, there is one category where the United States is leading. It's not the color gold, though.

PEREIRA: Oh yeah. Oh, that.

BERMAN: It is the color pink.

PEREIRA: Yeah, you wanna see a little bit of pink going on. You probably have already seen it. NBC host Bob Costas, bless his heart, has not one but has two pink eyes. He's got a case of pink eye, my friend.

BERMAN: Yeah, Matt Lauer filled in for him. I don't think it's quite that bad. Matt Lauer filled in for him last night. He is doing it again tonight also.

PEREIRA: The internet has been having a little bit of fun. They gave him a Terminator eye.

BERMAN: God bless your soul, Bob Costas, speedy recovery to you, sir.

PEREIRA: Yeah, feel better.

All right, we're going to take a short break here. Ahead at this hour, we're going to hit the road or sort of we will. When I say we, it's the royal we. We're gonna hit the road to see how the South is dealing with this major ice storm. We will give you a live view from our live, roving vehicle up next.


PEREIRA: You might have heard that the White House threw kind of a big party. But the guest of honor came alone.

BERMAN: Yeah, 350 guests attended last night's state dinner in honor of the French president, Francois Hollande.