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Comcast to Buy Time Warner; Wife of Man Who Opened Package Bomb Dies; PA Train Derails; NC Governor on His State's Weather Preparedness; Power Out Across Southeast; Storm Slams Eastern U.S.

Aired February 13, 2014 - 12:30   ET


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: And the nation's biggest cable television provider may soon get a whole lot bigger. Comcast has sealed a deal to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion in stock.

Now, that's Time Warner Cable, not Time Warner, parent company of this network and many others.

If regulators approve, the combined company will have more than 30 million customers.

And that package bomb explosion just east of Nashville, it is now a double homicide. Investigators say the 72-year-old wife of the retired lawyer who was killed when he opened the parcel on Monday also has now passed away.

Law enforcement says the package came with a note, but they will not reveal its contents.

And another train hauling crude oil has gone off the tracks, this time in western Pennsylvania.

The "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" reports 21 cars of a Norfolk Southern train derailed and hit a metal factory.

So far there are no reports of injuries or fires, but there are reports of leakage from one of the cars.

Ashleigh, back to you, what's happening now? Still raining?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, because we've gone up in temperature, Jean.

You know, over the course of the morning this was a blizzard-like city, and now it's just an awful rainstorm.

The rain is driving, and it's painful and it's cold, and it's also making things very slushy, so pedestrian traffic in the biggest pedestrian city in the United States is really, really uncomfortable.

That's just uncomfortable, but there are places that are dangerous and where motorists have had to be, you know, stranded in traffic, yet again, hours and hours in North Carolina.

Overnight, it was a gridlock mess. They got the kind of snow they knew was coming, but didn't know how fast it was going to be coming, so here they are again, day two, getting another full round of it.

So how is the governor of that state managing as they're actually in the emergency? He's going to join us, live.

He's going to take a few moments just to join us live to get us up-to- date on the emergency circumstance in North Carolina.

Live from New York City, I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Back in just a couple minutes.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to New York City everyone. I am on Columbus Circle right at the edge of Central Park.

And what this morning was a very blustery and snowy blizzard-like city, but now the temperature's 34 degrees so it's become a bonafide rainstorm, sleet storm, rainstorm, very uncomfortable.

And here's a strange statistic that turns out to be true. New York City's experiencing a shortage in snow boots. Go figure.

Apparently, all of the merchandisers really didn't predict we were going to have this many storms sequentially, one after the other.

My thought is Jersey's probably experienced a lot of stress as well when it comes to that state of emergency in this state, state of emergency in New Jersey, as well.

And now we can say 10 people have died as a result of this storm in the United States going up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

In North Carolina, two deaths can be attributed to this storm. So, listen, it is a dangerous storm no matter where you are.

Pat McCrory is the governor of North Carolina. He's kind enough to join me live.

We just spoke with David Mattingly, our correspondent in your state, looks like round two is coming.

We watched this happen in Atlanta, and we watched awful gridlock where kids were on buses and staying in schools overnight, people were sleeping on store floors.

And yet we did see it in your state, as well, yesterday. Why is that?

GOVERNOR PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA (via telephone): Well, we didn't get to that degree, thank you, Ashleigh. The adventure continues.

But last night we had about four to five hours of gridlock in the Greensboro area and the Raleigh-Durham area. But we got everyone out of their cars.

No one that we know of spent their night in a car. In fact, I made sure that every abandoned car was checked from 9:00 on to make sure that we didn't lose anyone due to the cold weather or any other types of danger.

So we didn't have anyone overnight or school buses overnight or anything like that. But it was still very difficult, and this storm came very quickly.

We had the roads cleared. We have it all set, but it was very soft snow pack with ice on the bottom. And it only takes one or two accidents to block everything. And that's what was happening along I- 85, I-40, I-77 throughout the state.

You know, we had literally five major metropolitan areas hit at the same time from Bloomington, North Carolina, to Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area to Greensboro- High Point area to Charlotte and Asheville, that many metro areas in the tenth largest most populated state in the nation.

We have not seen a storm like this in decades.

BANFIELD: I hear you. It's been bad in this city. It's been bad in this state and I feel we're getting dress rehearsals and the real thing over and over.

That's why I wanted to ask, do you think you did enough early enough or was it the fault of the motorists who need to be rescued?

MCCRORY (via telephone): No, we did everything. We cleared the roads. We did a state of emergency -- we had the same storm Atlanta had two weeks ago. And we did the exact same steps.

BANFIELD: Soon enough?

MCCRORY (via telephone): But the issue there was probably the snow pack was a little bit different, which put things at a standstill.

And we had, you know, some accidents that just caused a standstill in addition to some icy spots. And some people didn't take my warning. And we gave 24-hour warning.

And, you know, I said be smart and take your stupid hat off, but we had a lot of people still get out and just say, well, maybe this is a false alarm.

But thankfully, again, it didn't stay overnight. This was a four or five-hour hit. Charlotte's getting hit real bad right now. Asheville's getting hit. And Greensboro is about to get hit and Raleigh later on this afternoon for a second round.

But the good news is no one's at work or trying to get home from work during the next day, so it should be quite a bit easier.

And we've also retrieved and made sure there is no one stranded. There was no one stranded that we know of over the night in any of our major metro areas. We made sure of that.

BANFIELD: I want to do --

MCCRORY (via telephone): -- in the past two weeks.

BANFIELD: I wanted to ask you, and I don't know if you have this information because it's all sort of coming in on the live lines, but there are two deaths now being attributed to this storm in your state.

I don't know whether they're traffic-related. I'm not sure if you've been briefed on it yet.

MCCRORY (via telephone): We've had two traffic-related deaths and also a death from a falling branch in one of our rural counties. And that's the only concern we have right now is the public's safety.

And we're expecting more power outages tonight. And that is a very big concern because as this new wave of snow and ice comes down on our state, across literally 500-some miles, we're real worried about power outages in addition to the icy road conditions.

And what's ironic, today on the coast which got hit by the storm yesterday, we're going to have 62-degree weather in one part of our state. In another part of our state we're going to have a foot of snow.

We have to worry about flooding in one part of our state while we're worrying about one foot of snow in another part, so it's just the great uniqueness of North Carolina.

We've got a variety of terrains and weather patterns all within one state and over 9 million people.

BANFIELD: Well, we wish the good people of your state in North Carolina luck in getting through this. We hope everyone has heeded the warnings.

I hope that the warnings went out early enough and it's a real tragedy for those who lost their lives.

I hope that they got those warnings in time, and that this is just a mistake that perhaps they made it was avoidable.

But, Governor McCrory, thank you for your time. I appreciate your insight into this.

I'm sorry. I'm hearing something else. I'm not sure if I've still got the governor.

But when we come back after the break, I want to get you back to the place where we watched so much of the gridlock and disaster after an ice storm hit, just two inches of snow paralyzing the city of Atlanta.

So round two, how'd it go? Did they know what to do this time? Did they do it? You're going to see in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: Welcome back to New York City. It is not the nicest place to be right now. There is freezing rain that is coming down in droves in this city on top of a lot of snow. Nine and a half inches fell earlier in blizzard-like conditions. And what a difference two degrees can make because it's 34 degrees, which turned this all into rain.

I want to go down to Georgia right now because Atlanta got hit bad a couple weeks ago and now northern Georgia is one of the hardest hit spots in this most recent storm. Our George Howell is in Clayton County, Georgia. And as I understand, George, this is really - they're really struggling through this one this time.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You know, what we're looking at right now, we're in the clear as far as the storm is concerned. The temperature's rising. That's good news. But the problem is there are a lot of power outages. And we talked to some folks here who are trying to deal with it.


HOWELL (voice-over): The worst of the storm may have passed, but now there's a new challenge for hundreds of thousands who lost power in the south and northeast, and more outages are expected.

GAYLA HOLLAND, LOST POWER IN ICE STORM: It's cold. No heat. We can't even see.

HOWELL: Left in the dark, Gayla Holland and Alfred Hartsfield (ph) had to sleep through the cold.

HOWELL (on camera): How did you get through the night?

ALFRED HARTSFIELD: I just stayed up under cover and prayed, I guess. I mean it was really cold. It was really down in the lower degrees. So, I just managed what I could.

HOWELL (voice-over): This community in Clayton County, Georgia, one of the hardest hit when it comes to power outages. Nearly 300,000 lost power alone in Georgia. Residents here knew the ice and snow that built up on trees and power lines would cause problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Took out three transformers. Just like fireworks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounded like a bucket of a backhoe, boom, boom, boom, and everything went out. And I said, we're going to be here for a while.

HOWELL: Power crews are doing their best to restore power as quickly as possible, but they say the process could take days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not going to surprise me at all. This is Georgia, man. I've been here for years.


HOWELL: So, one thing in Georgia, the pine trees, that's a big concern. A lot of the pine trees that had that extra weight on them. We've seen those trees fall over onto power lines. The good news though is crews are doing the best they can to restore the power, Ashleigh. And if you look around me, we've been talking about that sheet of ice. The ice is melting. The temperature's going up. So, you know, there's a silver lining here.

BANFIELD: Oh, OK, George. Sorry, I lost your audio for a bit there. Good luck, buddy. It just sounds miserable there. And I'm so sorry for the people who are having to struggle through all that. Those power outages have been really bad.

Not far from where you are, George, Nick Valencia is holding down the fort. He's watching a story develop in Decatur. And apparently the power outages there is really the lead story.

Give me a feel for what's happening there, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it -- like George was saying, we seem to be in the clear. The sun is out, which is a good thing. And around 9:00 a.m., the snow stopped.

I'll show you exactly what we're dealing with here now. This is sort of what it is. It's a mixture of slush. The ice is melted away. We took a tour of the city streets of Decatur just to see how people were dealing with it here. Roads are doing better and we saw a woman actually out skiing in the center part of town.

But you mentioned those power outages. If you look behind me, the reason we're here, Ashleigh, is because all of those old trees, it's a very old community here in Decatur, and that was the concern. Residents in this community, they say they did have power as of this morning and last night, but so many others are without power. More than 230,000 people without power across the state. And really that's going to be the story going forward through the weekend.


BANFIELD: All right, Nick Valencia, thank you. I think I heard you say the sun was out. I couldn't imagine it because it is just so miserable here right now.

We are at 34 degrees and a driving cold rain that's making the sidewalks and the streets slushy and slippery. And when you see people walking around with umbrellas, they weren't able to hold those umbrellas earlier because of the blizzard-like conditions and the wind that came just snarling and howling through this city.

When we come back after the break, there is one man who knows how to deal with severe emergencies, like most of the east of this country has been experiencing, and that is General Russel Honore, the guy who almost single handedly rebuilt Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. We're going to talk to him about all of this. What we need to do, what we may have learned and what we can do in the future to make sure that we are better prepared for all of this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: Welcome back to New York City. This has really been a fascinating weather pattern that I've been witnessing. From 1:00 in the morning when the snow just began to fall last night on a city that was nice and quiet because everybody pretty much got off the roads in anticipation of this, to a morning that is just been crappy. And that is my official term for it. It started off as a blizzard. It turned into freezing rain and mush. And we are expecting more blizzard-like snow later on top of all this mush. Still at 34 degrees.

But, listen, this is only one of many places getting slammed by this incredible system. Chad Myers has been watching this system for days. He knew before all of us how bad it was going to be. He's been broadcasting how bad it was going to be. All governors were able to hear Chad Myers on his national broadcast. Also, General Russel Honore knows a thing or two about emergencies having basically taken the reigns after Hurricane Katrina and got that place functioning again.

So first to you, Chad. You know, I'd like to look back a little, but mostly look forward. When will this at least be ending and what have we learned from this?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That was likely a transformer that just blew up behind you. I could hear it through the mic.

BANFIELD: That's what I was thinking and I'm just looking to see if I can surmise, but I can't. But go ahead, Chad.

MYERS: And that's going to be happening because these power lines now are getting heavy. You're going to start losing them.

What do we have to look forward to? Exactly what you said, the rain, the sleet stops eventually tonight and then it turns into a blizzard with a northeast wind and more snow tonight on top of what's freezing right now. So it's one layer on top of another. It's crazy storm 2014. It's literally been everywhere, it's been everything. To some people to the east, it's been just rain. To the west, just tremendous amounts of snow, almost two feet in the mountains there west of Washington, D.C.

We knew it was coming. It was a great forecast. I will give kudos to the American weather model this time because we always give them to the European model because we always say how good of a job they did. The American models and the American forecasters did a great job with this storm.

BANFIELD: So let's talk a little bit about how to handle what we've been watching. Look, we saw Atlanta completely crater to the weather systems. And we feel like we should have learned something from it and yet North Carolina had people needing to be rescued from highways yet again.

General Honore, what are we doing wrong?

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): Well, these governors have to use that pen that they have to close the roads. They've got the authority the federal government give them to control those interstates. They're going to have to put the state troopers out there to close roads and close state roads. They don't want to do that because it's unpopular and they're all scared they might hurt their economy. That's why they don't do it. That's why New York opened school in the morning and then let the kids go back home. It is stupid.

BANFIELD: And let me ask you this, general. I've been reading a lot of the consternation over burying power lines throughout the communities across North America, the extraordinary expense that it takes. But I'm starting to wonder, after 32 storms that have come through just New Jersey so far this winter, haven't we spent the money already on dealing with the aftermath of these storms, of the flight cancellations, of the power outages, of the snow removal, et cetera? I mean haven't we spent all the money that that costs anyway? Wouldn't it be cost effective to bury those lines and stop people from losing power and businesses from going out of business?

HONORE: I think - I think you're on to something, Ashleigh. About 80 percent of our lines are above ground. It costs about -- right at $200,000 to put in a new subdivision underground - above ground power. It costs over $400,000 to put underground power. And to go into an existing neighborhood, it's over $700,000 per mile.

That being said, to replace one power pole in an urban area could be up to $9,000 for one pole.


HONORE: Our problem is, as is in the case of Atlanta, North Carolina, South Carolina, D.C., we don't trim the trees. We need to have a law that you can't have a tree that can fall on a power line. Because Mother Nature will break these trees by wind, through snow. We've got to make a decision, do we want power or you want the trees? We can put the trees on the other side to plant, but we're going to have to get a law -

BANFIELD: I've heard you talk about that. I - yes, general, I've heard you talk that it takes almost an act of Congress to be able to cut the limbs back because they are protected and there are a lot of people who don't want to see those - those trees being cut.

But, Chad Myers, just jump in if you will. I've been watching these images of the ice that collects and how fast the ice collects on everything from your radio antenna on the top of your car as you're driving, to those power poles, to those trees, et cetera. There's really nothing you can do about that, is there?

MYERS: We're pretty helpless after it gets to be 30 degrees on the ground, or 31, and it's raining. And people don't understand how that can possibly happen. How can it be 30 - how can it be below freezing and rain? Because, up above, 3,000 feet up above, it's 35 degrees. It makes raindrops up there. The raindrops fall down through into the colder air that's stuck here and it collects and it collects quickly and it gets heavy and very, very fast it goes down.

We have now new pictures coming in from Augusta, Georgia. I don't think you're going to believe what happened to some of those eastern counties in Georgia and into South Carolina. Nearly every tree has some type of damage. We're rolling those videos right now trying to get them into the system. Pretty amazing stuff you're going to see later on today and it just -- it's all about the rain, freezing rain.

BANFIELD: It's all - I -- oh, I hear you, my friend, Chad Myers. I hear you with the freezing rain. Look at this. look at this outfit. Look, I'm just going to shake it off me.

Russel Honore, General Honore, thank you for being with us. I always love hearing your perspective. Chad Myers, you're just a brilliant man all around and everybody should listen to every single forecast you give, period. Thank you, both.

And, by the way, to the viewers out there, if you're home on a snow day or you're home from work or you're home from the federal government, thank you for watching us. Keep with CNN. We are on the severe weather story all day. And we've got critical information as it moves throughout this country and changes rapidly. Thanks for being with us live from New York. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.