Return to Transcripts main page


Historic Snow Storm; Storm Shuts Down Government

Aired February 13, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a deadly winter storm creating absolute chaos for millions of people this morning up and down the East Coast. Hundreds of thousands without power. Major airports all but shut down this hour, roads covered in ice, schools closed. The message: find somewhere safe and stay there.

We're bringing you live, team coverage of the damage done and what's still to come.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START.

It is a tough morning for a huge number of people today. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: A big sigh from my co-anchor. I'm Christine Romans. It's Thursday, February 13th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: And we're going to begin with what is happening up and down the coast now, from the South, all the way up to New England. Look at that. That tells the story. Snow, heavy snow, and there's ice, too. Very, very dangerous, very deadly.

Already ten deaths have been connected to this storm. More than 4,000 flights have been canceled from Atlanta all the way up to Boston, 700,000 people without power.

ROMANS: Seventy-one thousand flights canceled since January, billions of dollars out of travelers' pockets. All of this drama continues and we all wait for spring.

Look, a number of power customers without power this morning climbing. The heavy ice has taken down power lines. More than 770,000 people are now without power this morning in 15 states, John.

BERMAN: The ice also causing situations like this one. Oh, my goodness! Just trees snapping under their own weight throughout the Southeast. And again, that is moving north at this minute. These trees are crashing into homes, leaving some people just inches away from tragedy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Terrifying. Hearing the tree crack and watching it fall from my window and landing on my daughter's room was very traumatic. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Many schools closed today from Alabama to Maine, because of the icy, slick roads from this storm. That means accidents.

This one near Atlanta, a tractor-trailer off the road blocking traffic. Luckily, most heeded the warnings and were not out driving. Good Samaritans had to step in and get this ambulance moving to Marietta, Georgia. There was a passenger on board, but the ambulance couldn't move because of the ice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would move maybe ten feet and then just stop, then we would have to start the process all over again.



ROMANS: Take a look at this picture from Charlotte, North Carolina. A car on top of another after an accident.

In Raleigh, traffic was backed up for miles. People had to get out, push their cars down the road. One car caught on fire on a Raleigh street. You can see the others scattered across the road there.

BERMAN: You talk about schools being closed. You know, our school system here now already cutting into vacation days because of snow days.

ROMANS: I know.

BERMAN: Look at this scene in Virginia. The snow there started falling mid-afternoon. It has been going all night. It's snowing now.

These pictures are from Danville, near Roanoke. The National Guard is now on standby to help anyone who winds up stranded.

ROMANS: OK, our reporters are out covering the storm from all the angles this morning.

Let's start with Indra Petersons. She's live in White Plains, New York, just north of New York City, where it's snowing right now.

Indra's joining us on the phone.

Good morning!

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): Oh, good morning. I thought I was going to get a lucky break this morning. We looked out of our row at the hotel this morning and it looked like nothing was going on, but it took only 15 minutes before things quickly changed. I mean, right now, we're getting the hardest type of snow. We're talking about a very wet snow coming down strong right now. So, in the last hour, we can tell that the system is making its way in. We know we have a tough day ahead of us.

But here's the thing, we kept talking about the placement of the low. The low itself is just a little bit farther inland. Why does that matter?

If you're on the right side of the low, which means everyone closer to the coastline, you're going to start to transition around 10:00 this morning to more of that sleet, so that really kind of wet stuff that makes your day absolutely miserable. That's what we're going to be dealing with in these major metropolitan areas throughout the day.

And then, on the back side of it as the low starts to make its way out, we'll start to see that transition again to snow overnight.

So, what does your day look like? Well, if you're farther inland, that's where you'll really get the heavy amounts of snow. I mean, D.C., we're still talking about almost near a foot of snow. Unbelievable. Again, it will be more of the western portion of the city.

Right now, I've already heard reports of about 2 inches per hour. So, definitely some heavy snow in that region. New York City got about an inch overnight, but again, it is now making its way in, so that's where we're starting to see that heavy snow line.

BERMAN: Yes, Indra, thanks.

We're hearing Indra up in White Plains, New York, just about a half hour out of the city right now, where the snow is starting to fall. And you could see it on that map, just the stretch of snow all the way from the Southeast up to the North.

And in a large part of this country, this is just the beginning. This is going to go through the night, as Indra was saying, it turns to rain, turns back to snow, it freezes, it unfreezes. This is a mess and it's going to be a mess until tomorrow morning, at least.

Let's check in now in Washington, where you know, they always handle snow and storms so well. I'm not being honest about that.

ROMANS: I was looking forward to testimony today from Janet Yellen, the new fed chief. She will not be testifying today because the federal government is closed. They're looking for what, I think eight inches of snow this morning? Ice as well in the nation's capital.

Erin McPike is live for us in the Washington Mall.

Erin, what's it like there right now?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, guys, we have at least six inches now, and we know they were supposed to get at least eight, maybe a foot. Now, we have heard that crews, hundreds of crews are being deployed. However, this is Third Street behind me, and it is still covered. So, the roads don't look good right now, but the federal government closed about 10:00 p.m. last night. They decided to close for the day. D.C. public schools are closed and all the major universities are closed in the area, too.

So, nobody's taking any chances here. But we can't see any snow really covering the Capitol Dome yet. Hopefully, we'll get to see more, but D.C. actually looks pretty good in the snow, I would have to say.

BERMAN: Federal snow globe with Erin McPike sitting in the middle, being shaken up right now.

All right, Erin, we'll check back with you in a little bit. Nice picture right there with the snow falling in front of the capitol.

Atlanta not a pretty picture this morning. It is on ice, along with much of the South. The mayor's urging residents to stay home again today, even as this storm moves North, because the icy mess that is there and is staying there today.

George Howell out surveying the damage. He's in Forest Park, Georgia, this morning.

George, give us a sense of the situation.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, you know, the good news is we're out of the woods as far as the sleet is concerned. Still, a little snow coming down, but when you go into the woods, when you go into these wooded, suburban neighborhoods, you see the problem back here. You see the tree that has fallen on the power line.

This is a community and one of many here throughout the area where people had to sleep, you know, in the cold, without power. In this particular case, we spoke with the crews, and apparently, they're waiting to get permission from the power company to move that tree. They want to make sure that the line is safe.

Certainly, we're keeping a good distance away from it as well, as you see -- you may not be able to see it, but the yellow tape there, staying away from that. But again, this is something you find throughout the area.

You know, I used to work here in this market. Not surprised by this, because these trees and also the power lines, when they get that extra weight on them, the weight from the ice, the weight from the snow, just not prepared for that weight, and it brings the trees and power lines down. That's one thing we're watching here in the Atlanta metro area.

And then the other thing also is the fact that we are, many of us are standing, driving on beds of ice. That ice from the sleet yesterday, it's coating many of the roadways on top of the snow that has yet to come. We understand that we should see clearing by noon today Eastern Time. But again, you know, it will take some time for that ice to melt.

BERMAN: George, you've been out in that ice since yesterday. In fact, I'm not quite sure when George slept because he's been on for us about 24 straight hours.

I think the good news in the Atlanta area, in Georgia, was that most people heeded the warnings. They learned the lesson from last time and they stayed home, is that correct? Because I saw some pictures from Charlotte, North Carolina, not so much with the learning thing, George.

HOWELL: Absolutely, and that's the interesting thing about it. When you think about the rush hour yesterday, no one, no one was on the roads, and they all paid attention to what the officials said.

The local stations here, they drove the message home, stay home. That's what people have done.

But you know, you get on Twitter and you hear some of the things that people are saying. They're saying, hey, you know, starting to get cabin fever, I want to get out. You have to wait another day at least. Wait for this ice to melt. Wait for the roads to become safer. And that's the hope, you know, as we get through this final day of this storm here.

ROMANS: All right, George Howell, thanks so much, George.

You know, the storm making travel very difficult today. The effects of bad weather could be felt for months on the roads. In New York City alone, crews have already filled 70,000 potholes since the first of the year, the result of the snow and the cold causing the asphalt to split open. Aging water mains are busting as well, damage that could take a while to fully assess and repair.

BERMAN: All right, breaking news overnight. Dozens of terrorists released from prison. Why men who killed U.S. soldiers were set free?

ROMANS: And a trial date for at accused Boston bomber, but it's not sitting well with the victims or the defense. We're going to explain that story next.


BERMAN: Breaking overnight, everyone -- the Afghanistan government releasing 65 suspected Taliban fighters from jail, despite fierce protests from the U.S. military officials who insist that the men are a threat to NATO and Afghan forces. But the inmates were allowed to walk out of Bagram Prison around five hours ago and now it appears extremely unlikely that the two countries will be able to reach a long-term security agreement before President Karzai's term ends this spring. Relations between the two countries now, not good at all.

BERMAN: This morning, the latest potential crisis over the debt ceiling is over! The Senate mustering 67 votes, including 12 Republicans to break a filibuster and move forward with raising the nation's borrowing limit for another year. It is another moment of bipartisanship in a capitol not used to that sort of thing. Remember, it's been three years of debt ceiling brinksmanship. Perhaps this sets a new course for working together without risking the economy.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Hard to argue in the future that somehow having done it three times, doesn't matter now, we're going to threaten to shut the government down again, threaten to default on the full faith and credit of the United States again. I think that argument becomes harder to sustain in the future.


ROMANS: Senator Ted Cruz, who was behind the filibuster, was unapologetic, saying the vote shows politicians in Washington are not listening to the American people.

But others in his own party called the vote a good outcome.

BERMAN: It was a frantic hour on the floor of the Senate.

ROMANS: It was.

BERMAN: It high drama.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says she is encouraged by the latest figures on Obamacare enrollment, a total now of 3.3 million Americans have now signed up for health care coverage. This is according to the administration, including a 53 percent increase in sign-ups since the beginning of the year.

Still, the Congressional Budget Office has downgraded its original projection of 7 million Obamacare sign-ups to 6 million by March 31st. That's the enrollment deadline. They're about a million behind where they thought they would be at this time.

ROMANS: All right. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Seoul today to meet with South Korea's president and get briefed on inter-Korea talks. That visit follows the highest level talks between the two Koreas in six years. The North reportedly asked for a delay in joint military exercises with the U.S. Those are scheduled for later this month. But Seoul rejected that request.

Kerry's visit is the first leg of an Asia trip that includes stops in China and Indonesia.

BERMAN: Breaking overnight, one of the biggest mergers ever for cable television. Comcast is buying Time Warner Cable for about $45 billion in stock. The two cable companies are the largest in the country, each providing TV to millions of Americans. Together they hold about 33 percent of the market here in the U.S. This deal undoubtedly will get tough security from federal antitrust regulators.

We should note, as we always do, that Time Warner Cable is a separate company from Time Warner, which is the parent company of CNN. ROMANS: And, John, the biggest question is what happens to your cable bill with all this? I mean, cable inflation has been about 6 percent a year. This giant cable company's going to have a third of all U.S. customers, certainly something regulators will consider.

Looking at the stock market today, worldwide selling in stocks today. Japan, Hong Kong, Shanghai all lower. Stocks in Europe breaking a six-day winning streak. The stock market here in New York gave up its winning streak on Thursday. Looks like selling again today.

February is looking pretty good so far for stocks. One question, will it be a temporary bounce or will investors be able to shrug off a rough start to the year and go for another run at record highs? If I knew the answer to that, I would be not here in this weather, I would be on an island in the Caribbean, maybe even someplace more remote.

BERMAN: The Time Warner/Comcast thing sounds like a huge, huge deal.

ROMANS: It's a very big deal. And Time Warner Cable has had other suitors over the last year, I think. Time Warner kept saying the offer's not high enough. It is a very big deal and it will be a humongous cable company, as prices have been rising because of, you know, the cost of the content, blackouts, all kinds of stuff. The big question for me is what it will mean for consumers.

BERMAN: They may have to pay higher prices, also will have a different number to call to complain every week for their service when it doesn't work.

ROMANS: Different logo on the cable guy.

BERMAN: All right. Sixteen minutes after the hour now.

The jury resumes deliberations this morning in the Michael Dunn trial. He is the Florida man accused of murder in the killing of 17-year-old Jordan Davis after a confrontation about loud music. Dunn insists it was self-defense and that he saw a gun. Police never found any gun. No one else saw any gun. But prosecutors said in their closing arguments that Dunn's claims just don't hold up.

ROMANS: This morning, victims' families and defense lawyers are not happy with a judge's decision setting a November trial date for accused Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The families wanted Tsarnaev on trial sooner. The defense didn't want to start until 2015, saying the FBI isn't turning over evidence they need to prepare their case. Three people died. 260 were injured in the bombings last April.

BERMAN: He's guilty. We're talking about former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. The federal jury finding him guy on robbery, conspiracy and wire fraud -- this for accepting illegal gifts from contractors before and after Hurricane Katrina.

Nagin, one of the public faces of that city during Katrina, has long denied taking bribes. He is likely to face about 20 years in jail when he's sentenced in June. ROMANS: Kentucky this morning is being told it must recognize same- sex marriages, at least the marriages of residents who wed outside the state. A federal judge making that ruling and pointing to last year's Supreme Court decision striking down a key part of the defense of marriage act. Four Kentucky couples challenged a state law that declared their out-of-state marriages void. Couples in Missouri are currently challenging a similar law there.

BERMAN: New details this morning of how a policy change at the Boy Scouts of America may be affecting its membership numbers. (INAUDIBLE) report a 6 percent membership decline in the last year. That is since it allowed openly gay boy scouts to remain in the scouts, a move that angered some conservative groups.

However, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts insists that other issues, including the decreasing amount of free time that many kids have, may be a bigger cause. Look, any parent knows that kids are doing a gillion things now, so less time for any one thing.

ROMANS: All right. Happening today in Tampa, investigators will be at Busch Gardens to try to figure out why 16 rollercoaster riders were stuck nearly six stories above the ground. This happened on the park's newest roller coaster, Cheetah Hunt. Riders were suspended at a 30-degree angle for nearly four hours. There were no injuries, except for the one I suffered just having to even think about it doing this story.

BERMAN: Exactly, the heartbeat I just skipped.

All right. The doors are set to open this morning at the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky. You must have seen this picture.

ROMANS: Unbelievable.

BERMAN: This is crazy. A giant, 30-foot sinkhole swallowed up eight of these cars, these classic Corvettes, unique, collector versions of these cars with a value of several million dollars apiece.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where we had corvettes, there's now a big hole.

JASON POLK, GEOLOGY PROFESSOR: Definitely well known to have sinkhole occurrences throughout this area of Kentucky and in other places in the southeastern U.S. We've had a lot of rain recently. It's been a really wet winter, and so, that type of thing is something that could be a contributing factor but I just can't say for sure right now.


BERMAN: Other cars near the sinkhole have been relocated to other parts of the museum. They're now trying to figure out the best way to pull out the Corvettes. The Corvettes falling into the sinkholes, first sign of the apocalypse, right? First sign is the Corvettes, then what happens? ROMANS: The Corvette lovers yesterday were sharing this video virally, and there's a 1962 black Corvette that fell in there that people were particularly crying over. I think they're close to the mammoth caves there.

I think this is -- my parents actually go there. The Romans' list of things to see --

BERMAN: Wow, right before the ball of twine, you go to the Corvette Museum?

ROMANS: We are the Corvette Museum fans, yes. So, glad I saw it before it collapsed.

BERMAN: All right. Twenty minutes after the hour now.

I don't know if you heard, but Derek Jeter has only got one year left to play. This went unnoticed largely yesterday. Derek Jeter announced that he is retiring after this season.

Andy Scholes joins us now, in a little bit, I should say, with the "Bleacher Report," breaking down this announcement. That's coming up next.


BERMAN: So, really big news in the world of sports. I'm sure you missed because no one's been talking about this.

Yankees great Derek Jeter announcing that the upcoming 2014 season will be his last.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes joins us now with more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys. This season will be the end of an era for the Yankees. Their captain, Derek Jeter, is going to be calling it quits after his 20th season in the big leagues.

Jeter made the big announcement on Facebook yesterday, saying, "As I came to this conclusion and shared it with my friends and family, they all told me to hold off saying anything until I was absolutely 100 percent sure. And the thing is, I could not be more sure. I know it in my heart the 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball."

Now, for the first time in his career, Jeter struggled with injuries last season, playing only 17 games, but in his 19 years, he's played more games than any other Yankee ever, and everyone wants to see his last game at Yankee Stadium.

Tickets to the final game this season, they've skyrocketed. The cheapest ticket's gone from $20 all the way up to 300 bucks. All right, over in Sochi yesterday, the U.S. ladies reigned supreme on the halfpipe, a day after Shaun White failed to medal in the men's competition. Kaitlyn Farrington dazzled the crowd with a gold-medal performance. Her teammate, Kelly Clark, not too far behind her, taking home the bronze medal. Unfortunately for Team USA, though, these were the only two medals won yesterday.

Now, on the ice, the U.S. and Canada renewed their rivalry in hockey. The U.S. was up one-zero heading into the third period, but Canada would score three goals to get the win 3-2. There's still a good chance, though, that these two teams will meet again down the line in the gold medal game.

Now, the U.S. men's hockey team, meanwhile, will open play later this morning. They're going to take on Slovakia in the preliminary round.

Here's a look at the current medal count. Norway leads the way with 12 medals. U.S. hanging in there with nine. Germany has eight medals, but they do lead the way with six of them being gold.

Trending on today is a story about all the stray dogs running around Sochi. But one U.S. Olympian's doing what he can to save some of them. Look how cute this is. Skier Gus Kenworthy, he stumbled upon this adorable family and tweeted that he's going it take them all to get vaccinated and has lined up kennels for them and really wants to take them back to the U.S., but I'm sure there's a lot of paperwork and headaches involved in that.

But, guys, how cute are these puppies?

BERMAN: Very adorable. You can't get yogurt in and out of Sochi, so I think getting puppies in and out of Sochi is not going to be too easy, but awfully nice, great sentiment. Great picture, too.

Andy Scholes, nice to see you this morning.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right, our big top story this morning -- snow, ice, freezing rain. The East Coast is covered this morning. It's a deadly storm that has all but shut down the South. It's moving North. We're going to have everything you need to know about this right after the break.