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Colorado Triggers Avalanches on Purpose; Comedian Bill Maher Tries to "Flip" Congressional District; Castaway Returns to El Salvador; Corvettes Swallowed by Sinkhole; Bad Driving Weather in NC; Superman, Darth Vader Witness Cop-Car Break-in

Aired February 12, 2014 - 15:30   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: So, should the cops just ignore this guy? If they try to hunt him down, are they not feeding into his hysteria?

Here now, HLN law enforcement analyst Mike Brooks, what's the safest route here, Mike?

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Don, I tell you what. They want to get this guy off the street.

Number one, he's a menace to society. I just got off the phone with Chief Bill McManus who we just saw their in Deborah's piece, and they do.

They want to get this guy, not only for this, but look at this right. He's is going in between traffic. If one of those cars had moved just an inch, he could have killed himself, possibly killed somebody else.

And the fact that he is wanted, actually, Don, on two felony warrants and one misdemeanor warrant, that's the other reason they want to get him off the street is because he's wanted on those two felonies and a misdemeanor.

So, it's not a matter of if. It's a matter of when the San Antonio police catch up with this guy and lock him up.

LEMON: Mike Brooks, thank you very much. Appreciate it.


LEMON: See Mike on HLN.

Coming up, a wave of avalanches leaves six dead across the western United States. This man riding a snowmobile catches one on video.

We're going to take you live to Colorado where officials are using controlled explosions to try to prevent those deadly avalanches.

Plus, eight Corvettes swallowed by a sinkhole inside the National Corvette Museum, no doubt, in Kentucky, you will see all the pictures.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Six people are dead killed in a series of avalanches in three states, Oregon, Colorado and Utah. The one you are about to see happened in the Utah Mountains just north of Salt Lake City.

These are pictures of a man digging his friend out of at least two feet of snow. They were on snowmobiles when they were hit.

His friend was able to stick his hand out of the pile under the snow for five minutes, but his friend did eventually get him out.

CNN also has pictures of another snowmobiler being hit by an avalanche, this time in Gunnison, Colorado. The incredible video was shot from his helmet-cam.

Joining me now, CNN's Ana Cabrera, Summit County, Colorado, you have been watching some controlled blasting. We just heard six people have died from this.

How big were these blasts?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a very serious situation, Don. Today's controlled blast not as big as some they've seen recently, still big enough to bury a skier or snowboarder, perhaps, who were caught in one, but not big enough to bring snow all the way to this parking lot.

However, this giant pile of snow next to me did come from one of the recent controlled blasts in this area.

The department of transportation was able to trap all this snow here in the parking lot before it reached the main interstate that's just behind me.

But I'm five-feet tall. You can see this pile is more than twice my size.

Let's give you a look at the video now of the blasts that happened today to give you a better sense of what we are talking about when we're talking about the controlled-avalanche blast.

Take a look. You will start to hear some of the booms. There you go. That's one of a series of blasts that happened in this area.

And, basically, what's happening is they are shooting from a small cannon from the road up into the mountain side that's above the interstate in order to release the weaker layers of snow and the snow that's on top of them down the mountain in a very controlled environment.

Now, it is incredibly powerful, the snow that's coming down, reaching speeds of 20-to-80-miles-per hour.

And some of the recent blasts they've seen recently have been so huge, it's left piles of snow 300 feet across roadways, 12-to-15-feet deep.

So that gives you a sense of how dangerous the avalanche conditions are right now.

Listen to one the experts we talked to describe why these controlled blasts are so crucial.


CABRERA: What happens if you don't do this. What is the major concern?

TOM HURST, CDOT AVALANCHE CONTROL SPOKESMAN: If you let it build up and it covers the road. It disrupts the traveling public. It's a sift issue and can bury people and injury or kill.


CABRERA: We are talking about this controlled blasts, preventing the snow from reaching the highway should an avalanche occur.

The backcountry is a different story. People who are heading back are really, really needing to have the right equipment.

I have a probe. I have a beacon and a shovel. These are the bare necessities so someone can find you and help you if you got caught in an avalanche. People are starting to use to protect themselves.

You heard of the air bags that keep you above the snow and prevent you from being buried.

This is called an Avalon and some skiers and other backcountry recreationalists are using this technology should they be buried. They breathe into this tube that is like a snorkel. The carbon dioxide is expelled behind them.

They continue to breathe in fresh air and they won't be overcome by asphyxia. Even this technology is no guarantee.

LEMON: Yeah, until someone comes to rescue them, at least it may prolong their lives for a little bit.

Thank you very much, Ana Cabrera, reporting there.

He is a vocal supporter of the president, but has recently criticized the president openly.

Comedian Bill Maher sat down with our very own Jake Tapper to talk everything from pot to nasty weather. His hilarious take, next.

Plus, it is a rivalry that's led to trash-talking and even fights. Today, the U.S. and Canadian women's hockey teams faced off at the Olympics, and there was a controversial ending that has a lot of people talking today.


LEMON: President Obama signed an order this afternoon to raise the minimum wage paid to federal contract workers, the president doing as he promised in the State of the Union, using his powers to act where Congress won't.

In 2015, the minimum wage paid by government contractors will rise to $10.10 an hour. It's $7.25 right now.

Jake Tapper is up next here. Did I catch you off guard there, Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": I was just looking at my -- I didn't know when I was coming on. I was just checking out the news.

LEMON: I do it all the time. They're like, We're up.

We're up? Oh, wait a minute. Sorry. I was reading email.

So, Jake, I head you have comedian Bill Maher today. What's that all about?

TAPPER: It's interesting. Bill Maher, we have lots of different kinds of guests with lots of different ideologies on the show. We've had conservative talk show hosts, and Bill Maher, obviously a very successful show on HBO.

He's doing something interesting. He is trying to flip a district. Obviously, his humor is very much based on politics. Now, he wants to get his audience, his viewers, his fans involved in unseating a member of Congress.

So here's a little preview of our interview.


BILL MAHER, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": There is this tremendous paradox in America that the approval rating of Congress is sometimes -- what, sometimes it's as low as 10 percent.

And yet the rate of Congress people who are returned to office is over 90. How can that be?

So we thought we would test it, and the response has been amazing. People really do, on an individual-district basis, not like the people who are representing them very often.

And we think if we just shine a little light on some of these people we might be able to flip one.


TAPPER: Now, some members of Congress have been asked about this.

Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa gave a very edgy response, saying that Maher should get into the arena and run for office himself. That's the true test of metal of a man.

So we'll have Bill Maher respond to that, and we talk about a lot of other issues, including one of his big causes, legalization of marijuana.

LEMON: Yeah, he talks about that a lot -

TAPPER: He does.

LEMON: -- and he makes no secret to the fact that he smokes pot and he likes it.

All right, thank you, Jake. We'll be watching.

TAPPER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Jake Tapper, "THE LEAD" starts in just a few minutes here on CNN.

And, up next, CNN is there for an emotional homecoming. The man who spent 13 months adrift at sea arrives home to El Salvador with cameras flashing.

He's so overcome with emotion he's not even able to speak, but today a warning from doctors about his health.

Plus, eight classic Corvettes swallowed up by a giant sinkhole, it all happened at the National Corvette Museum at Kentucky.

Can any of the cars be saved?


LEMON: A remarkable survival story that's now come full-circle, the castaway adrift for more than a year returned to his home in El Salvador.

CNN was there as Jose Alvarenga received a hero's welcome. He was too emotional and weak to speak at the airport.

Alvarenga was taken to the hospital, and doctors says his psychological condition is not ideal for him to be exposed to the world.

Physically, he is basically healthy. His story made national headlines. Alvarenga's boat washed ashore last week on the Marshall Islands after 13 months at sea. He survived by eating turtles and fish.

If you love Corvettes, heads up. This might be tough to watch. Eight of the classic American sports cars have now been swallowed up.

I'm talking about vintage models that now are sitting at the bottom of a sinkhole, a giant sinkhole, inside the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky. That's right, inside the museum.

CNN's very own car guy, Peter Valdes-Dapena is here now. How important were these particular Corvettes?

PETER VALDES-DAPENA, CNNMONEY AUTOMOTIVE EXPERT: Some of them were pretty important.

There's one in particular, a 1992 Corvette, that was actually the one millionth Corvette produced.

Now, ordinarily, a 1992 Corvette, according to the folks at Hagerty Insurace -- they insure collectible cars -- they told me ordinarily a '92 Corvette could be about $15,000.

That one could be worth up to a million dollars because there is only one-millionth Corvette and now it's at the bottom of a hole.

LEMON: A lot of people probably didn't know there was an actual Corvette mu semi. Tell us about the museum.

VALDES-DAPENA: This museum is right near the factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

In fact, if you buy a Corvette, one of the things you can get is museum delivery, where you go to Bowling Green to get your car, you can go to the factory where they make it, and then you go to the museum right next door and they'll deliver your new Corvette to you right there in the museum.

So among Corvette fanatics, this is an important place.

LEMON: Interesting. Can these cars be salvaged?

VALDES-DAPENA: Well, a lot of times whether or not a car can be salvaged depends on how much the car is worth. If this were the national corolla museum, no one would be talking about saving them.

But you have a couple of ZR-1 show cars in that hole. I bet you these cars will be saved because it's worth saving them.

And from the photo that I saw the cars look to be pretty much in one piece so I'm betting they'll mostly be put back together.

LEMON: Look, Corollas lasted a long time. That's all I have to say.

VALDES-DAPENA: Nothing against Corollas. Not dissing the Corolla.

LEMON: We know what you're saying. We know what you're saying.

Thank you, Peter. Appreciate it.

Just getting some pictures now, some very eerie pictures. It looks like Atlanta two weeks ago. But you know what? This is Durham, North Carolina.

I'm going to speak live with someone there, right after this break.


LEMON: So, we told you about those pictures. Look at that. Look at the interstates.

This is in North Carolina. I want to go now to someone who is stuck in some that. His name is Mike Crosswhite. He is in Raleigh and he's heading to Durham. What is it like? Are you creeping?

MIKE CROSSWHITE (via telephone): I'm creeping. I'm doing about 20- miles-an-hour, which is actually good for this weather. I'm happy with that.

But the visibility is not very good. The only good thing is the traffic on my side of the highway is fairly light so we are able to keep it moving here.

LEMON: You said that -- you told me in the commercial break you were caught off guard by this? You didn't think it would be this bad?

CROSSWHITE (via telephone): I didn't anticipate this much snow so quickly. We were thinking 1 to 4 inches and that it wouldn't really start accumulating until later in the afternoon. But, again, right at 12:30 the sky just opened up. Everything turned white.

LEMON: Yes. So describe the conditions for me because I know that, according to our reporter who's there, the ice hasn't started yet.

It's pretty powdery stuff, and they did do some salting of the roads. Is that helping you out?

CROSSWHITE (via telephone): Not really. I've seen probably over 30 accidents and people abandoning their cars already.

There's folks out there helping out, pushing people out of ditches, so folks are helping.

But right now this is the second time I'm going to have to clean off my windshield wipers because the ice is accumulating on them and the visibility is really low.

LEMON: Mike, be safe out there as well as the rest of the drivers. Mike Crosswhite who is down in -- heading to Durham now from Raleigh in North Carolina. Best of luck.

Finally today, there's some crazy video that you have to see. A guy loses it on one of America's most famous sidewalks, no less, taking out his anger on a police car.

And if that doesn't get your attention, get this. Witnesses included Superman and Darth Vader. Here's Glen Walker from our affiliate KTLA.


GLEN WALKER, REPORTER, KTLA: It was a typical day along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and you know what I'm talking about.

KTLA photographer Victor Vargas was shooting video when he witnessed a deranged man demonstrating his affection for the LAPD.

VICTOR VARGAS, PHOTOGRAPHER, KTLA: Next thing I hear is, "I love Jesus Christ," and I hear a smash.

I look back and it's a guy smashing the windows of a cop car that I was standing right next to.

WALKER: Walking away to put some distance between the man vandalizing the black-and-white cruiser and himself, Victor said he pulled out his cell phone and called 911 and then continued to capture the crime in progress.

And a Darth Vader character witnessing a young man who had clearly crossed over to the dark side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw the whole thing.

WALKER: Not that the guy dressed as superman did anything to stop this crime in progress.

You're Superman. Why didn't you do anything to stop it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not my job to jump in the middle.

WALKER: After busting out the car windows and grabbing a laptop computer, the bad guy handed in the direction of Victor, stopping at a kiosk to check out what he just swiped.

That's when he looks right at Victor.

VARGAS: He looks over at me and that's where I really got nervous.

WALKER: What he did next was get arrested.

Remember Superman telling me he didn't want to get in the middle? He had no problem getting in the middle of Victor's shot as the officers made the arrest.

VARGAS: He was trying to take credit, but video doesn't lie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll show you where he got taken down.

WALKER: Oh, yeah, and Superman? He does get credit for one thing today. He was certainly a good witness.

His face was on Susan Lucci's star.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's when they actually got the cuffs on him, because they actually started taking him down back here, but like I was saying earlier, he was resisting arrest.

WALKER: This was a three-star pursuit?


WALKER: Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves and then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, it's a good lineup.


LEMON: Thank you very much, Glen Walker. Did we get a response from Susan Lucci? No, no response.

Superman, do some sit-ups, brother.

No word yet on a motive other than the Jesus-mention. Police say the man was booked for felony vandalism and burglary and is being held on $20,000 bond.

We can't yet confirm a date for his court appearance and whether he hired an attorney.

I'm Don Lemon. Stay safe out there, everyone.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.