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Afghanistan Releases Prisoners; Flood Emergency In England

Aired February 13, 2014 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening right now, you're looking at it, this monster storm moving up the east coast. Millions of people in its path this morning. This storm is knocking down power lines, freezing branches, and shutting down airports. Driving is a mess. Question now is, how long will it last? Indra Petersons tracking the latest


BERMAN (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. Thirty-one minutes past the hour. And it's so interesting, when you look at this video, you're not used to seeing the call letters from stations from the south where you're seeing that kind of action. Look, this is the map, from the south all the way to New England. Heavy snow, ice falling, making travel treacherous.

Already, ten people have died. Their deaths connected to this storm. More than 4,000 flights have been canceled from Atlanta all the way to Boston. Call ahead, folks.

BERMAN: And as you're waking up this morning, one of the biggest concerns, the power. The power outages with the numbers continuing to climb. Right now, more than 770,000 customers do not have electricity in 15 states. This is mostly just the south right now. It hasn't hit the north as badly as it's going to just yet. What's happening, you're looking at it right now, the ice snapping tree limbs, dragging down power lines, and it could get worse before it gets better.

ROMANS: You know, it's also pulling down trees, leading to dangerous situations like this one, as those massive trees crash into homes and leave some just inches from escaping 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.


BERMAN: All right. Schools are closed this morning from Alabama all the way up to Maine. A lot of school districts being told now they're going to eat into some of your vacations because they've had so many snow days with students staying home in some cases day after day. Getting to school is just too dangerous. The icy, slick roads, as you can see, leading to accidents like this one near Atlanta.

A tractor-trailer off the road blocking traffic. Luckily, most people did heed the warnings and were not out driving. Good Samaritans had to hop in to get this ambulance moving in Marietta, Georgia. There was a passenger on board, but the ambulance could move because of the ice.


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



ROMANS: Take a look at this amazing picture from Charlotte, North Carolina. A car on top of another one after an accident, right on top of it. In Raleigh, traffic was backed up for miles. People getting out, pushing their cars down the road. One car caught on fire on a Raleigh Street. You can see all the other cars scattered across the road there.

BERMAN: In Virginia, it has been snowing all night, still snowing. Several inches started falling in the afternoon, making the commute a real mess. These pictures are from Danville. The National Guard is now on standby to help anyone who winds up stranded.

ROMANS: Indra Petersons live in White Plains, New York, this morning, just north of New York City, where it is snowing right now. And Indra, the only smiles on anyone's face all up and down the east coast are the kids who are getting another snow day. The rest of us just have to really grin and bear it, don't we?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. This is such a different type of snowstorm than what we've seen just the last few times, because it's almost that very wet, heavy snow that just makes you feel miserable. It almost feels like it melts on contact, but that's starting to change. I mean, this very heavy snow. I want to point out how heavy? Places like D.C., Baltimore, have already seen six to nine inches of snow, guys.

Remember, four years ago, they had five inches. So, this is a huge storm in the D.C. area, and it's still snowing in that region, also now making its way in through New York City. Keep in mind, by 10:00 a.m. today, though, we're going to start to see a change. Remember, it's all about the position of the low. When it's closer to the coastline, you get more of the snow at the coastline. But instead, it's actually shifted a little bit farther inland.

So, on the right side, we're going to start to get more of that warm air. What does that mean? It's going to feel even more miserable because you're going to get kind of that sleet mixture throughout the day, once the sun is up, right? Then, as we go through the evening hours, once the sun goes down, it's going to switch back over to snow as it's going to be colder out there. So, you're going to see a lot of transitioning throughout the day. D.C., by later evening or I should say early evening, you'll start to see this kind of shut off.

By midnight or so today in terms of New York City, you'll start to see the shutoff. The heavier amounts, though, they are going to be inland. And there's another factor to this storm. I don't know if you can see it behind me, but when this wind kicks up, it is absolutely miserable out here, guys. We're definitely talking about some strong winds as this low's developing and continuing to make its way up the coastline.

We're going to start to see those winds intensifying, so even 30, 40- mile-per-hour winds really blowing all the snow around. So, that's one side of the system. But remember, even down to the southeast, we still have the icing out there. So, that's unfortunate. We're still talking about half an inch of ice still possible. Freezing rain still being reported in towards the Carolinas.

So, there's really a lot to be taken into consideration here. Really a long way still to go as this system is expected to dump some heavy amounts of snow. D.C. could even see almost near a foot of snow, and also towards New York City, especially farther inland. We could see also maybe about six inches towards the city, a little bit higher inland (ph), guys. Tough day.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks, Indra.

BERMAN: It's going to be a long, long day. And if the weather's not bad enough, we will be dealing with impact for quite some time on the roads. We're talking about the potholes. They are just huge. In New York City alone, crews have already filled nearly 70,000 potholes since the first of the year as a result of the snow and the cold that causes the asphalt to crumble.

You know, teeth-rattling potholes. Water mains bursting. This damage will take a long time to fully assess and repair.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight, 65 suspected Taliban fighters have been released from jail in Afghanistan.


ROMANS (voice-over): The government taking this step despite fierce protests from the U.S. American military officials insist these men are a threat to NATO and Afghan forces, but the inmates were allowed to walk out of Bagram Prison around five hours ago.

It now appears extremely unlikely that the U.S. and Afghanistan can reach a long-term security agreement before President Karzai's term ends this spring.

BERMAN (voice-over): Now to Washington where a major crisis has been averted now that the debt ceiling has been raised or I should say suspended for another year. The Senate mustering 67 votes, including 12 Republicans, to break a filibuster and move forward with increasing the nation's borrowing limit for another year. This was a bipartisan move, although, Democrats made up most of the votes to prevent what could have been a real catastrophe for the economy.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And it would be hard to argue in the future that, somehow, having done it three times, it 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.


BERMAN: Senator Ted Cruz was leading the efforts for a filibuster. He made no apologies for that effort, saying the vote shows that politicians in Washington are not listening to the American people. There were other members of his party, including the party leadership, which called the vote a good outcome.

ROMANS: All right. New details this morning about just how many people have signed up for Obamacare. The latest government figures show nearly 3.3 million Americans have now signed up for health care coverage, 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 seven million Obamacare sign-ups to six million by the March 31st individual enrollment deadline.

BERMAN: Happening today in Seoul, secretary of state, John Kerry, is meeting with South Korea's president, and he will be briefed on the high-level talks between North and South Korea. His 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. scheduled later this month, but Seoul rejected that request. The secretary's visit is the first leg of an Asia trip that includes stops in China and Indonesia.

We're hearing this morning from Senator Rand Paul now that he and a group of conservative activists have filed suit against the president and his administration over the NSA's surveillance programs. The senator says the collection of phone records is unconstitutional, and he wants the highest court in the land to agree.


SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: We are going to try to have a decision on whether the Fourth Amendment applies to our phone records in an open court, the Supreme Court, and I think we will be heard, and I think that we have a very strong argument. Things are complicated with regard to how big a class is, but we didn't define the class.

This is defined by the arrogance of government that has decided that the Fourth Amendment really allows a warrant to be written for everybody's phone records. It shows the enormity and the egregiousness of really the government's intrusion.


BERMAN: Former Virginia attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, is serving as lead counsel. He, of course, ran for governor there, too. He admits it's likely to take several years before this case reaches the Supreme Court.


ROMANS (on-camera): Stocks closed lower in Asia. European markets break their longest winning streak of the year. And U.S. investors, well, you can look for more of yesterday's selling on Wall Street.

The two largest cable companies are joining forces. That's the big money story of the day. Comcast set to announce it's buying Time Warner Cable for $45 billion in stock. Deals this size typically comes under tough scrutiny from federal regulators. If approved, a combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable would hold a third of the American cable TV business.

Customers, beware, less competition typically means higher prices. It's definitely something that regulators look at. We should note, Time Warner Cable is a separate company from Time Warner, the parent of CNN. But that's the big money story we're following today, this huge, huge cable deal.

BERMAN (on-camera): You know, I have some breaking Olympic news right now, and it's rare good news for the United States.

ROMANS: What is it?

BERMAN: The U.S. just swept the men's slope-style skiing.

ROMANS: Fantastic.

BERMAN: Got the gold, silver and bronze in that, so congratulations, USA. You'll probably not be able to see that on TV for about 14 more hours, but we're giving you the results right now here on CNN.

ROMANS: That would bump us up to, what, 10, 11 medals?

BERMAN: Yes. Probably up to third place. Go, USA.

ROMANS: Third place, all right.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up next for us, huge, huge flooding overseas. Entire towns, beautiful villages under water this morning, and there is a new storm coming. We are live right after the break.


ROMANS: Happening right now in England, floodwaters are rising along the western coast after rain and intense 100-plus-mile-per-hour winds slammed the region. That's left thousands scrambling to try to protect their homes. Jim Boulden is live in one hard-hit area. Jim, bring us up to speed, what's latest?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, you can see it's actually quite a nice day today. We had terrible storms yesterday. We expect a lot more storms tomorrow. So, we are really just in the middle of that. But what you see here, and even though we're near the River Thames, this is not the river flooding. This is groundwater.

That's why we've come here. This is sewers that cannot handle all the rain that this area's getting. People had put out these sandbags, but it hasn't worked. It doesn't work because the water's coming from below. So, you see these families here have been flooded out, homes evacuated. These people live near the river, but they weren't expecting flooding because it doesn't flood here from the river.

So, a lot of people really caught out. You see this family here. They've had to take their refrigerator and put it out into the front yard. Some people, I've been told, are still in these homes, are refusing to leave. The police have said they should leave because we're going to get higher water tomorrow. Luckily, at this moment, the water has gone down a little bit.

As you say, much worse than the rest of the country, really, really bad storms overnight and bad storms hitting wales. They're telling us the river could be at a 60-year high in the next few days, the river over there. So, these people need to prepare, even though now, the water's receding, they need to prepare for what could be a very bad weekend -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Jim Boulden, thank you, Jim. When you just look at those pictures, it's incredible, and flooding is so insidious. It takes so long to clean it up.

BERMAN: It's so destructive.

ROMANS: And they're right in the middle of it. Right in the middle of it.

BERMAN: All right. Forty-six minutes after the hour right now. Let's take a look at what's coming up on "New Day." Kate Bolduan with us now. Hey, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Guys, we got to keep covering this storm and the storm that seems that never goes away or at least every week of a different rendition of it every other week. This deadly winter storm that slamming -- now slamming the northeast. It just barreled through the south leaving chaos. You can see some of this video, unfortunately, in its wake.

Nearly a million customers are without power this morning. We're going to have everything that all our viewers need to know and we're also going to talk to the mayors of some of the hard-hit cities of Charlotte and Durham, North Carolina about how they're handling the storm. Unfortunately, some of the interstates there, guys, look as if it's round two of what happened in Atlanta. Hopefully, not the same result this time. But also, this story for everybody. An Olympian will be in the house this morning. Sage Kotsenburg who made history winning the first ever gold medal in the snowboarding slope-style event, and of course, the first gold for the U.S. at the Olympics. He's going to be joining us live. We're going to talk to him, of course, about the winter games and that snowboarding lingo. We've been saying it ever since we learned it. We still don't know what spoice means.


BERMAN: Interesting. Can't wait for that. A revelation in lingo. All right. Kate, thanks so much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, a roller coaster ride turns terrifying. The dramatic rescue and what's happening this morning.


BERMAN: Breaking news is the weather. These are live pictures right now from Georgia, where you can see a sign right there, but behind that sign, I think you have a lot of snow, ice, things are freezing. Not good at all.

ROMANS: We've got live pictures as well from Raleigh. Lots of snow on the ground there. We're keeping a close eye on this monster storm as it churns from the southeastern coast of the United States all the way up here to some of the more populated cities.

All right. Happening today in Jacksonville, a jury gets back to work in the murder trial of Michael Dunn. He's the Florida man on trial for killing a 17-year-old, Jordan Davis, after a confrontation over loud music. Dunn insists it was self-defense. He had to fire at the car Davis was riding in to protect himself, but prosecutors said in their closing arguments that Dunn's claims simply don't add up.

BERMAN: The families of victims and defense lawyers are blasting a judge's decision in the Boston marathon bombing case. Their upset that the judge set a November trial date for accused Boston marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The families wanted Tsarnaev on trial sooner.

The defense didn't want the trial to start until 2015 saying the FBI isn't turning over evidence that they need to prepare their case. Three people died, more than 260 were injured in the bombings last April.

ROMANS: Former New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin, is now a convicted felon. A federal jury finding him guilty on 20 counts of bribery, conspiracy and wire fraud for accepting illegal gifts from contractors before and after hurricane Katrina. Nagin, of course, was the public face of that city during Katrina. He has long denied taking bribes. He likely faces 20 years in jail when he's sentenced in June.

BERMAN: Busch Gardens Tampa back open today after this. ROMANS: Terrifying.

BERMAN: Investigators will be on the scene looking into the scary stop of a roller coaster six stories above the ground. Sixteen people were on board the cheetah hunt, suspended at a 30-degree angle right there before fire crews were able to get them freed nearly four hours later. There were no injuries there reported.

ROMANS: Wow! All right. Coming up, a major deal that could affect how much you pay for cable TV. That's right. There's going to be a new name on the cable bill. Comcast merging with Time Warner Cable. I've got the details in "Money Time."


BERMAN: All right. We have more breaking news for you right now. These are live pictures from Kentucky where authorities suspect that a gas line exploded in a rural area southeast of Louisville. At least three homes now on fire. Amazingly, just one minor injury has been reported so far, but you can see the flames there still burning.

Not clear at this point what caused the explosion, but again, they suspect a gas line explosion of some kind. We'll keep an eye on this throughout the morning and tell you how it goes.

ROMANS: All right. Just a couple of minutes before six o'clock in the east.

Selling in stock markets around the world today. U.S. futures are lower. Another winter storm slowing business for many. European markets are headed for an end to a six-day winning streak. Asian markets closed lower as well. Interesting numbers on your 401(k) balance. They hit a record last year, have doubled, frankly, since 2009, averaging $89,300. That's the average, up 15 percent from a year earlier

Nest Eggs getting a boost from stock market gains last year, of course, but it's not all unicorns and sunshine and rainbows. People approaching retirement age have a little more cushion, but many young and low-income workers are cashing out rather than rolling over their 401(k)s when they leave jobs. Fully, a third of people who are leaving their jobs cashing out the 401(k).

If workers don't roll over funds, it makes it harder to grow retirement savings, obviously. Cashing out also carries a 10 percent fine and heavy tax penalties. So, retirement planning experts this morning looking at that so-called good news about 401(k) balances and saying, great, the 401(k)s are growing, but people are cashing them out and spending them when they leave their jobs. That's a real danger sign for the future.

BERMAN: Yes. Very few people ever advise you to cash out your 401(k) at a young age.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Penalties there are huge!

ROMANS: Yes. Also that number for pre-retirees, the 55 -- you know, close to 55 getting ready to retire, that number should be higher. It should be more than 165,000 grand you've got in that account. So, stock it away.

BERMAN: Certainly a better time to retire now than it was during the recession or the crash a few years ago when a lot of retirees lost so much money.

All right. That's it for us. "NEW DAY" starts right now.