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Storm Paralyzes East Coast; Atlanta on Ice; State of Emergency in Pennsylvania; Comcast to Buy Time Warner Cable; Debt Ceiling Raised; Massive Gas Line Explosion; Jury Gets Loud Music Murder Case

Aired February 13, 2014 - 06:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (voice-over): Breaking news. That catastrophic storm hits full force. The south pummeled with cars stranded on icy and snowy roads. Drivers stuck for hours with nowhere to go. Now, the northeast in the crosshairs. A full-on nor'easter hitting at his hour. Some areas expecting to see more than a foot of snow. Schools and offices closed across the entire eastern seaboard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are cars all over the side of the roads. There were in the medians. People were sliding all over the place. I don't think we were quite as prepared as we should have been.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: More than half a million customers in the dark this morning. Power lines down, people left out in the cold.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- down the power lines. You could hear the rumble and then the snap of the power.

BOLDUAN: And this storm is creating a nightmare in the skies. Thousands of flights cancelled, even more delayed, and no relief is in sight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four to six more inches on top of what we've got tonight with temperatures in the 20s. We are definitely not out of the woods yet.

BOLDUAN: We're live throughout the storms on everything you need to know.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, February 13th. It's 6:00 in the east and we're beginning with breaking news. Another monster outside your window paralyzing the south and now pounding the northeast, this system is massive and deadly. Ten have lost their lives so far. The pictures, as always, tells the story. Take a look. This is chaos in North Carolina. Epic traffic jams forcing thousands to abandon their cars on icy roads, of course.

BOLDUAN: And in Atlanta, lesson learned it appears. Check out the streets there. They are packed with ice, but this time, there is no one else on them after the crippling storm two weeks ago that shutdown roads and schools. Everyone seemed to stay home. Still grave danger as all that ice snapped tree limbs and power lines.

Look at this home near Atlanta, the tree in their front yard now in their living room. Almost 800,000 people are without power this morning with thousands of flights cancelled and schools shut down from all the way from Alabama to Maine.

Let's begin our storm coverage with meteorologist, Indra Petersons in White Plains, New York, just north of Manhattan, of course, where they've been getting the worst of it right now -- Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Let's hope everyone is prepared because right now the storm is underway. The good news here is because we are in a high plains and I just saw two snow plows go through in just last several minutes. So here in the northeast it does seem like they're prepared, but that it is not necessarily the case as many are affected by the storm from Maine all the way down to the gulf.


PETERSONS (voice-over): Developing into a full-fledge nor'easter overnight, more than 100 million people in the path of a catastrophic winter storm now pounding the eastern seaboard. The crippling blast marching at the I-95 corridors dumping over a foot of snow some places. In Virginia, the governor declaring a state of emergency as hundreds of accidents riddled the roadways. One man died from a head- on collision. The National Guard, on the move.

SPECIALIST ROBERT AYERS, VIRGINIA ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: We'll have a lot of downed tree, and helping people out and getting nurses and doctors where they need to go.

PETERSONS: In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia closed its doors for all non-essential personnel as snow and freezing rain will make travel treacherous.

NICK MARTINO: Certain parts of the district we're getting heavy snow, up to 14 inches.

PETERSONS: Sleet, ice and snow suspending some Amtrak trains in the northeast. Snow caking the doors of this train headed to New York, a disastrous mix for air travel. Thousands of flights cancelled again today. In Maryland, grocery store shelves laid bare as the rest of the east coast up to New England braced for the worst.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This has just been a brutal winter where it's never really gotten warmer.


PETERSONS: So we're still talking about ice in the southeast. If you look at the radar right now, you can tell we are still talking about ice concerns in the southeast. They could see another half inch of ice. Now it's all about this nor'easter that has developed. You can actually tell we're seeing snowfall rates almost two inches an hour. D.C., Baltimore already seeing six to nine inches of snow. Remember four years ago, they only had five inches, but definitely a devastating storm in that region now making its way in through New York City. It's the wet stuff that makes you feel miserable. Unfortunately soon as the sun comes up later today, we are going to see a switch towards sleet, but be prepared. Once the sun goes down again tonight, once again we are going to see more snow on the back side of this -- Chris and Kate.

CUOMO: All right, Indra, thank you very much. Stay warm. Be careful with those cars behind you there. We'll be back to you a little bit later on.

Let's turn to the south now. There is a state of emergency in the Carolinas. The National Guard is on standby. They've already have to be helping stranded drivers who were lining the roads. Tens of thousands of people are finding themselves in the dark and the cold waiting for power to come back on.

Our storm coverage continues. We got George Howell live in Forest Park, Georgia. What are we seeing down there?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning. So a light snow here in the metro, Atlanta area. So we are kind of out of the woods as far as that sleet is concerned. That freezing rain, but when you go in to the woods, the wooded neighborhoods here in this area, you can see the problem, you know, look back there. You see tree that brought down a power line. One of many neighborhoods that's been affected by this, and it could take a long time. It could take days before the power's restored.


HOWELL (voice-over): Late in to the night the south reeled from the chaos created by the storm. Especially in the carolinas. Crews desperately tried to clear the streets covered in snow and littered with abandoned cars. Parts of the south once again an icy gridlock. A major ice and snowstorm lasting Georgia and the Carolinas, in some areas, falling at least one to two inches per hour resulting in yet another traffic nightmare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It came on so fast and furious. It just happened so quickly. That is why so many of us were caught.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of cars were abandoned. They just left. Next thing you know, I see planes.

HOWELL: Trying to outrun the storm, drivers in Charlotte and Raleigh found themselves paralyzed on the highways and skidding off the streets. Those who had no choice but to be on the roads took hours to get home or simply abandoned their cars. And in South Carolina, more than 200,000 people and climbing are still in the dark. Energy crews were forced to call in reinforcements to help repair the fallen lines. In Georgia, trees toppled under heavy coatings of ice, bringing down power lines and destroying homes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Terrifying. Hearing the tree crack and watching it fall from my window and landed on my daughter's room.

HOWELL: This tree darted through the ceiling of a house in McDonough, barely missing a 19-year-old man in his bed by inches. The 86-year- old Leila Grier was sleeping inside her Atlanta home when an ice- covered tree crashed down on her roof.

LEILA GRIER, STORM VICTIM: Just laying in the bed and I hear all of this noise and all of this stuff is on top of me.


HOWELL: So a live picture here back at my feet. It's not my incredible moon-walking ability but I'm standing on what is a sheet of ice, really. You can't even get down to the pavement and you find this all over the metro Atlanta area. So what the officials are saying, what the local affiliates, TV stations are saying, stay at home. People did that the other day. They're hoping that happens again, because it will take some time, guys, for all of this ice to melt.

BOLDUAN: No kidding. Not only the power line problem behind you, but the problem under your feet, this is going to be days before this gets back to normal. George, thank you very much. Be careful. Good news.

The D.C. area has been also getting hammered all morning. You can see up to ten inches of snow potentially. Right now federal offices and D.C. public schools are closed. But let's get the very latest on how it's looking from Erin McPike who is on the National Mall for us with the very latest. It's beautiful behind you, but that's not to say it's not dangerous -- Erin.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, that's right, and the mayor of D.C. did declare a state of emergency here, as did the governor of Maryland, and the governor of Virginia. Now, in D.C., 200 snow plows were deployed overnight. However, this is Third Street behind me, and it's still a mess. Also the bus system is totally shut down.

The subway system, however, still is operational, but that is subject to change. But I would say this, though, that snow brings out the best in Washington. We saw already a snowball fight at the Lincoln Memorial overnight and I'm sure we'll see much more of that because all of the major universities in the area are closed including, you know, Georgetown.

My alma mater, American University, it has cancelled chases for the day, and Kate Bolduan's alma mater, George Washington, is also closed. You know, when I was in school that only happened one time, Kate and Chris, so this is a rarity here in Washington.

BOLDUAN: I have a feeling I don't remember when it happened at GW, but that might be for another reason, not for lack of memory. Erin, thank you very much for what you normally do during a snow day. Thanks, Erin.

CUOMO: So that's a developing situation there. Now we are going to go to Philadelphia, and you have to remember, they are already suffering from the last storm. Many of them just starting to get power back right now. Now they're forced in areas around Philadelphia to brace for another foot of snow, and maybe losing their power again.

Thousands and thousands of families are at risk again of having no heat and no electricity. Let's go to Margaret Connelly. She is reporting from Abington, Pennsylvania, just north of Philadelphia. Margaret, people have to be on edge there?

MARGARET CONLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris. People here have feared another snowstorm. Lots of snow coming down, as you can see right now. We're into Abington Township. This area had a near complete blackout last week because of power outages. We were out in town yesterday, last night, talking to people. There is an owner of Chicken Time, a restaurant, out of power seven straight days.

When we talked to him he had just started to get back up and running and he is worried about this storm. There's a bagel shop owner also out of power last week. She was just working overtime to get more bagels stocked up, because she stored them in her basement refrigerator. All of those went to waste.

Now she has to work to stock up because people are going get extra food and water. She's working overtime to make back her business. PICO, that's the big power company here. They say they have over 4,000 people standing. They flew people in help from Canada. We talked to them this morning. They say that everything so far seems to be OK, but it is early -- Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Margaret, keep us updated. You look like you're getting hit yourself. Thank you so very much. We'll continue to follow the weather, of course.

Another big story that broke overnight, a blockbuster media merger in the works, Comcast striking a $45 billion deal to buy Time Warner Cable. It would combine the two biggest cable companies in the United States. Chief business correspondent, Christine Romans is here to break it down for us. What more are we learning about this merger?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's a very big, big merger. It's interesting because this is a combined Comcast/Time Warner that would essentially providing television channels and internet connections in roughly one in three homes in America. Most of those are in New York, L.A., Philly and Washington, D.C. customers may like Comcast's next generation software and set-top boxes, but they might not like their new cable bill.

As we often see less competition typically means higher prices. When it comes to cable bills, already customers are paying sky-high prices. I want to show you this chart. According to a market research group, NPD, cable bills have been increasing at a rate of 6 percent each year forecast to reach $200 on average by the year 2020. Pricing and competition are, of course what regulators will be looking for when they scrutinize this deal.

Charter the other company pursuing Time Warner Cable appears to be stepping aside now that Comcast has come forward with this $45-billion deal. But certainly, you may end up paying write a different check to a different company if you are a Time Warner Cable customer.

BOLDUAN: And you can only hope when it comes to our cable that even though they're merging it will help cable bills go down because as you say, it keeps going up and up.

ROMANS: I want not more blackouts. I want to be able to get what I want. I want to pay for what I want and I don't want to pay more than $200. Can you fix that for us?

BOLDUAN: We'll have to talk to the authorities. Thanks so much, Christine.

CUOMO: All right, let's go to Capitol Hill now, a potential crisis averted or finally focusing on you. Pick the headline you want, but here is the fact. The Senate voted to raise the nation's borrowing limit another year. The vote was full of suspense, of course, because of the political game going on there including a filibuster overcome by a rare show of bipartisanship.

CNN's Jim Acosta is at the White House where the president is praising the vote. So how do you play it, Jim? Is this both sides finally coming together or they just have to do this?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think this is just a ceasefire in these legislative battles here in Washington. I hate to be that doubter on a snowy morning, but the president wanted a clean debt ceiling bill with no strings attached and that's what he got.

And as you mentioned he released a statement last night thanking lawmakers for passing this increase to the nation's debt ceiling, but also said in the statement he hopes this puts an end to what he called the politics of brinkmanship. Something this town has been dealing with the last three years at least on budget matters.

As you saw yesterday, Senate Republicans managed to defeat a threatened filibuster by Texas Senator Ted Cruz who wanted budget cuts in exchange for this bill to raise the nation's debt limit and defiant move on the part of Republicans because of a lot of conservative and Tea Party groups saying, do not vote for this bill.

After what they saw, their poll numbers in what happened to their poll numbers last fall, they were not about to let that happen again. They feel like they're holding some pretty good political cards heading into the mid-term elections because of the rocky rollout of Obamacare.

As for the White House, officials are optimism perhaps the b teak through will lead to others, perhaps on immigration here say they are optimistic that perhaps this breakthrough that we saw yesterday will lead to other legislative victories perhaps on the minimum wage and the immigration reform.

But with the mid-terms drawing closer and closer, that is going to get tougher and tougher, Michaela, it just looks like this may be one shining moment in what could be a gloomy year between the White House and Capitol Hill -- Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Jim Acosta, thanks so much. And look at the snow coming down there. Stay warm.

Take a look at more of your headlines happening right now. We are going to show a live look at a massive gas line explosion in Southern Kentucky about two hours from Louisville. Local media reporting that three homes, two bars and four vehicles are on fire. One person has been taken to the hospital. We are hearing, though, that their injuries are not severe. We're going to bring you any more information as it arrives here at our newsroom.

Sixty five suspected Taliban fighters have been released from jail in Afghanistan despite strong objections from the United States. Many of the released prisoners have links to attacks that killed American troops. The U.S. says the release poses a threat to NATO and Afghan forces. This move comes as tensions build over President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign a bilateral security agreement.

More than 3 million people have now signed up for health insurance under Obamacare, the latest federal figures show a surge in enrolment during January. More than a million Americans signing up on state and federal health care exchanges. Even more promising, the number of young people enrolling in Obamacare jumped 3 percent last month.

Medals already being handed out this morning in Sochi, spoiler alert, we have some big results. If you don't want to know cover your eyes, cover your ears, here we go. Team USA back on top in the medal count tying with Norway nailing a clean sweep. Look at that, a clean sweep of the podium.

In the first-ever men slope style skiing event. How about that at Olympics? The trio of Josh Christenson, Gut Kenworthy and Nicholas Goford took gold, silver and bronze and how about that music right there? Do you have a secret handshake?

BOLDUAN: Get them mittens.

CHRIS CUOMO: You need mittens.


PERIERA: Now on the flip side -- let you enjoy it for a second. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, now to stuff a little more mahwah mahwah mahwah.

American speed skater Shani Davis, we had such high hopes. But he went the way of Shaun yesterday, not only did he failed on third straight gold, he didn't medal in the event, finishing eighth. Now, that is the same place American skier's Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso landed in their respective downhill event, despite being favored.

Can we look at the medal count one more time?

BOLDUAN: Yes, please?

PEREIRA: Let's just do it. Come on. It's right there. CUOMO: You are exceeding our technical capabilities.

PEREIRA: No. It's right there.

BOLDUAN: There we go --

PEREIRA: Ah, yes. After the American slope style sweep, Team USA pulled in a tie with Norway at the top, 12 overall medals followed by Canada, the Netherlands and Russia. All very sunny locations, by the way.

The medal event -- the next medal event, my bad, is just after 7:00. The ladies 500 meter speed skating. That's another one that's -- there's a bit of a battle between two U.S. skaters I think people are ready to watch.

CUOMO: And just to add some perspective on that, you got to remember, Shaun White, Shani Davis, trying to do something that's never been done, these three-peat golds.


CUOMO: You see a little bit of it in the really amazing Olympians in the summertime, but it was unlikely, even though they were favored.

PEREIRA: Here's the other thing, when you're on top, a whole bunch of people are coming at you. They're like, let's knock them off their --

BOLDUAN: They still have a lot to be proud of.

PEREIRA: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Sure, just making it to the Olympics is amazing. How are those mittens doing for you?

PEREIRA: They're great. I feel good.

BOLDUAN: My hands are cold. We're going to need to break and go USA.

CUOMO: No reason to make a show of it. U.S. on top, I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised.

BOLDUAN: I love rubbing it in.

CUOMO: Let's take a break here on NEW DAY, you got to act like you've been there before. We're used to being on top.

We're going to give you the latest on the storm and the front as conditions continue to change throughout the morning. The Northeast is now getting smothered. So, we'll be showing it to you. The South already paralyzed. The National Guard mobilized in North Carolina. We're going to speak with the mayor of Durham, where the situation turned dire.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, a verdict could come this morning in the so- called loud music murder trial. Did testimony from Michael Dunn's own girlfriend convince jurors that his story does not line up?


CUOMO: Jury deliberations are about to resume in the loud music murder trial. During closing arguments, a blunt message from prosecutors: use your common sense.

Their key point was a question. If Michael Dunn killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis in self-defense, why did he flee? Dunn's lawyers raised the hot button stand your ground. The question is, will it work on jurors this time?

CNN's Alina Machado is in Jacksonville -- Alina.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, the jury deliberated for about three hours before breaking for the night and got the case after each side presented very different reasons for why Michael Dunn started shooting that night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- by his actions.

MACHADO (voice-over): In closing arguments, prosecutors took jurors back to the night Michael Dunn shot and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis. The recording of the gunfire played in court one more time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God. Somebody's shooting. Somebody's shooting in their car.

MACHADO: Prosecutors argue each shot is evidence that Dunn was deliberate and acted in anger, not in self-defense.

ERIN WOLFSON, PROSECUTOR: That is premeditation. Knowing when he pulled that gun out, he had it ready to go. He didn't pull a gun out just to brandish it, try to back him off. He pulled it out and immediately started firing.

MACHADO: Dunn claimed he saw what he thought might be the barrel of a gun pointed at him before opening fire. But prosecutors told the jury that Davis and his three friends were unarmed when an argument over loud music turned violence.

WOLFSON: There was no gun or weapon ever found. And that wasn't because it's shoddy police work. That was because there wasn't one. The boys didn't have a gun. They didn't have a stick.

MACHADO: The defense used silence, three minutes of it --

CORY STROLLA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: One minute. Two minutes. There was no weapons found in that truck in that three minutes.

MACHADO: -- to suggest that the teen sped away from the Jacksonville gas station where the shooting happened, and got rid of the weapon Dunn claims he saw, arguing that just because police never found a weapon, that doesn't mean the teens were unarmed.

STROLLA: Never checked the bushes. Never checked the dumpsters, but you know when the detective alleges they did it? Five days later.

MACHADO: Davis' father appeared visibly distraught as the prosecution talked about his son, telling the jury while the living deserve respect, the dead deserve the truth.

JOHN GUY, PROSECUTOR: This is the dead -- physical evidence that cannot be explained away. That cannot be refuted.


MACHADO: Now, the jury has asked to see the surveillance video from inside the gas station convenience store. The one where you can actually hear the gunshots and likely be able to see that video when deliberations resume later this morning -- Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Alina, thanks so much. We'll have much more coverage of this trial later in the show.

Coming up next, though, on NEW DAY -- a state of emergency in the South where hundreds of thousands are without power this morning. Epic traffic jam, cars abandoned. We're going to talk live to the mayor of Durham ahead for the very latest on how it's going.

CUOMO: And we're going to be talking about Rand Paul and here's why. First, he was harshly going after Democratic foes, specifically the Clintons. Right now, he's making a big deal of suing the president over the NSA's phone surveillance.

What's really going on here? Is this a tactic? And will it work for the Kentucky senator? We'll take you through it.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

What a mess. We are tracking the breaking news overnight. You're taking a live look right now at the snow coming down on the roads in both New York and Washington, D.C. This beast of a winter storm barreling through the Northeast right now. It's already done significant damage in the South.

It's pure chaos throughout the Carolinas. Just look at this video of the roads. Thousands of drivers forced to abandon cars on icy highways. Some of them having to walk home.

CUOMO: Atlanta once again shut down. Ice up to one inch thick taking down trees and power lines all over the city. That gets compounded by how hard it is to get to the lines to fix them. Latest count, three quarters of a million people in the South without power. The number will continue to climb and the time it will take to get fixed is going to continue to extend as the weather continues.

Meteorologist Indra Peterson is tracking the extreme weather from White Plains, New York, just outside Manhattan, a little north of us there where conditions are considerably different than we saw here this morning.

Indra, how's it now?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, right now, you can see in White Plains, we're starting to see the heavy snow really coming down and the difference between this system and the last of the season, it is that wet snow. It makes you feel so miserable out here.

This storm has crippled the Southeast the last several days. Let's talk about some of these numbers.

Let's take a look at totals. The amount of ice they saw. We're talking half an inch to even three quarters of an inch of ice. That's what they saw in the Southeast and more ice is expected on the way today. And then there was the snow.

They've seen anywhere from five inches to even a foot of snow into the Southeast and now that storm is making its way up the Eastern Seaboard. So, that is the problem today.

Let's talk about the totals we're expecting. They've already upped the totals. Now, Boston, looking to even four to eight inches of snow. D.C. already reporting. In Baltimore, six to nine inches.

Four years ago, that huge storm only brought them six inches. So, definitely a much more powerful storm is out here, even potential for a foot of snow especially the western portions. Why? Why do I keep saying western portions?

If you're on the right side of the system, the temperatures are warming. So, we're actually going to transition to sleet and some places rain. But the farther west you are, we're on the back side of the low where you're getting that colder air. So, you're seeing snow throughout the day and you'll get those heavier amounts.