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Ice Storms Slamming the South and North; Extreme Weather Triggers Record Flights Cancellations; Afghan Prisoners Released; Team USA Sweeps Men's Slopestyle Skiing; Rand Paul to Sue President Obama

Aired February 13, 2014 - 07:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And proof that in times of need, neighbors still help neighbors.

In suburban Atlanta, people used kitty litter, scrapers and hot water to free an ambulance that got stuck in ice as it tried to make it up a hill. The ambulance, which had a patient inside, finally got rolling with their help.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Really incredible pictures out of Virginia.

One person was injured after a piece of heavy equipment fell off a semi slamming into a car on I-95 in Richmond. The state has deployed more than 2500 transportation workers and thousands of trucks and plows, and the National Guard we're told is on standby.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And it's just not ending. What happened in the south is now hitting the northeast. They're our top story, of course. We've got the extreme weather covered like no other. Beginning with meteorologist Indra Petersons, she's live in White Plains, New York.

Just north of us, Indra, but much harsher conditions.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, definitely tough. That snowstorm or an ice storm that was in the southeast has finally made its way up the mid-Atlantic and now into the northeast this morning. Places like Baltimore, D.C., already reporting anywhere from six to nine inches of snow.

Out here in White Plains, very easy to see now that the sun is up. We're getting this very wet and heavy snow. It feels miserable out here, guys. And by the time we get to maybe 10:00 or so, we're going to even see some of this shift over to even more of a wetter snow, some sleet and some ice kind of mixing in.

Some places along the immediate coastline could even be seeing just some rain. So definitely miserable if you're out there today but keep in mind, there's two sides to this system. Once we get on the back side of it, once the sun goes down again, we should see the switch back over to snow. As far at totals, D.C., New York City will see as much as even a foot of snow, up towards Boston upping to about eight inches -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Indra. Thanks so much.

Turning now to the Atlanta area where two ice storms tell very different stories. People heeded warnings from forecasters who rightly predicted this would be an historic storm. The streets now eerily quiet as many stayed home. A far cry from just two weeks ago when a similar storm effectively shut down that city, you'll remember.

Let's get straight over to George Howell who's in the Atlanta suburb of Forest Park where a lot of people are still without power this morning.

It looks like a mess behind you, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, good morning, it is a mess. And here's the thing. Half an inch, just half an inch of ice as it coats on this power lines, 500 pounds of extra pressure. Take a look at what that means back here. You see a tree brought down a power line. The power line itself already under a great deal of pressure. The extra ice on the tree certainly didn't help.

This community overnight, Kate, basically had to sleep in the cold. They didn't have power. The hope is that power will be restored soon, but there are many, many communities throughout this area in the same situation.

The other thing that we're watching right now is the ice. The fact that we're walking, really -- I mean, if you look down here, I'm standing on what is, really, a bed of ice. You find it on the side streets. You also find it on the highway systems. So officials are telling people to stay indoors until the ice melts and we should see some clearing today.

PEREIRA: All right. We are hoping for that for you and for the folks there. Thanks so much, George.

Right now, North and South Carolina are under a state of emergency. Tens of thousands of people there, not only without power, they are also now trying to figure out how exactly to retrieve the cars they were forced to abandon on those ice-covered roads.

Bianca Spinosa of CNN affiliate WNCN is live for us from Dunn, North Carolina, about 40 miles south of Raleigh.

How are you doing there, Bianca?

BIANCA SPINOSA, WNCN REPORTER: Hey, Michaela, good morning. But we're actually here in Raleigh, in North Raleigh. And this is a major road behind me. This is Six Forks Road here, and it has only really been plowed once, but it is extremely icy. And if you look over here, it had rained earlier this morning, but it's only 30 degrees. So all of this has kind of iced over and people have been sliding continuously.

Now last night several people had to abandon their cars because they simply couldn't get through some of the roads. There was just total gridlock because clouds had not been able to come through, and the other issue, as you mentioned, are power outages. With all that ice, if you look over here at the power line, the ice is accumulating up there and can you can see it on the trees.

And where we've been we have seen the power flicker. We heard transformers making noises throughout the morning. So it has been a very tenuous situation here in Raleigh. Heavily trafficked roads that had been only plowed once because it's been extremely difficult to get out on to the roadways.

So just a very, very icy situation here. This is a road that would take you right into the parking lots here. So just a very dangerous situation.

Chris, we'll send it back to you.

CUOMO: All right, Bianca, thank you for the reporting this morning.

Ice certainly more of a problem than snow. They're learning that all too way in the D.C. area, that's just getting hammered all morning. Could see its heaviest snowfall four years. Federal offices, public schools closed protectively.

Let's get to Erin McPike on the National Mall with the latest.

Erin, how are you doing?

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, we're doing OK here but it is a state of emergency D.C. as well as Maryland and Virginia. Now in D.C. overnight they deployed about 200 snow plows. But in Virginia the situation is much worse. There are 2500 crew members out on the roads. More than 12,000 pieces of equipment.

The National Guard has also been staged there. There are about 300 crew -- service members, rather, who are in staging areas for the National Guard. Also about 9,000 power outages so far in Virginia, but the situation is getting worse.

I want to show you why. This is kind of heavy. We're looking at a mix of snow and freezing rain, and it's supposed to get worse, so just be complete freezing rain later in the day. So obviously it's going to be a very long day here in the D.C. area -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Certainly. Pack your patience, we like to say that because we mean it.

All right, needless to say, air travelers are out of luck once again. Canceled flights reaching record numbers. Many of them preemptively as the storm churns through the -- northeast, rather.

CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans has a look at the situation with the airlines and I'm expecting it's going to be pretty tough today.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It is really tough. I mean, come on. This is craziness. I've stopped counting how many of these storms we've had. Right now D.C. is virtually at a standstill this morning. All runways at both Reagan International and Washington Dulles are closed.

In total, you've got about 4500 flights that have been canceled coming in and out of the U.S. and that number is rising. Also, a mass of delays. More than 1800 and counting. Pack your patience.

Now I want you to take a look here at this map from Flight Explorer. These are all the planes in the sky right now and look at these blank areas along the East Coast. That's right. From the Carolinas up to New York, into Massachusetts, the number of cancellations is staggering. This should be clogged at this time of day, and it is not.

I want you to take a look at this misery index, too. This is short of delays, highlights the delays here, you could see in red the more miserable parts of the country. Misery really hitting cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, D.C., New York. Nearly 70 percent of flights canceled at Philly. Nearly 60 percent at Newark, Liberty International, Raleigh-Durham, also approaching about 60 percent of flights canceled there.

That's just a snapshot, really, of the mess this morning. The number of cancellations and delays is still growing, and so far this year, 71,000 flights have been canceled since January. All of those changes are costing you. They're costing the airlines big time. The cost of January's snowstorms, just January snowstorms, to passengers out of your pocket if you're a traveler, $2.5 billion.

Lost work time, added expense for things like hotel rooms and meal, the cost of all the storms for the airline so far, almost $150 million and growing. It's really an expensive, ugly winter, and you're in the thick of it again today, guys.

CUOMO: You could not put a price on the (INAUDIBLE) that it's causing everybody as well, Christine.

ROMANS: You're right.

CUOMO: Thank you for calculating it for us.

We have some news for you happening right now. This is a live look at a massive gas line explosion in south central Kentucky just outside Louisville. Local media reporting three homes, two bars and four cars on fire currently. One person taken to the hospital.

We'll bring you more on the situation as it develops.

BOLDUAN: The country's biggest cable company could get even bigger if a merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable is approved. This morning, Comcast will formally announce its intent to buy Time Warner Cable in a $45 billion deal. It still needs a thumbs-up from government regulators who'll be taking a close look at the merger's potential impact on consumers.

And of course, an important note, Time Warner Cable not affiliated with CNN parent company Time Warner. CUOMO: In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Senate passed a bill to raise the nation's debt ceiling but not without some drama, of course. Republican leadership helped stopped another filibuster from Ted Cruz. No Dr. Seuss this time. In all 12 Republicans crossed party lines to squash the filibuster.

BOLDUAN: And check out these jaw-dropping pictures of people stuck 60 feet in the air on a roller coaster. They were stranded on Busch Garden's cheetah hunt drive for three hours in the rain Wednesday. Firefighters used aerial ladder trucks to rescue them. Tampa Fire and Rescue says 16 people were evacuated. Park officials are looking into what caused the rollercoaster, of course, to malfunction.

CUOMO: Yikes.

Some more scary news if you're a Yankee fan and, of course, you are. Get ready for the Derek Jeter farewell tour this morning. The Yankee captain announcing on Facebook, 2014, his final season in pinstripes. The shoo-in for the Hall of Fame says he, quote, "knows in his heart it's time to walk away."

Hope he has a change of heart. He's just the best.

BOLDUAN: Breaking news this morning. Sixty-five Afghan prisoners who are considered dangerous insurgents by the United States have been set free this morning. U.S. military officials in Afghanistan condemned their release saying the group includes suspected Taliban fighters, some who are directly linked to deadly attacks on Americans.

CNN's Barbara Starr is live in Washington with much more on this.

What do we know, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this is just about as bad as it gets between the United States and Afghanistan. Overnight, CNN has obtained 23 pages of U.S. military evidence against these people. Evidence that the U.S. says they were involved, many of them, in attacks on U.S. troops, on Afghan troops, in Afghanistan.

Sixty-five of them walked out of an Afghan prison today. The U.S. military absolutely furious at this. They say that if these people return to the fight, as they believe they will, they will move to capture or kill them again.

This is -- this is being called a breach of trust. There are 34,000 U.S. troops that put their lives on the line every day in Afghanistan. The U.S. military's view is many of them, of course, directly have risked their lives over time for the Afghans, 2,000 U.S. troops killed in that war. 20,000 wounded.

This really is a very, very tough situation for the U.S. military right now -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: Massive effort on the part of our troops.

Thanks so much for that, Barbara. Let's take a look at what's in the papers this morning.

In the "Washington Post" we'll start with, Obamacare enrollment jumped in January. More than a million people signed up for health insurance plans last month, exceeding administration targets for the first time since health care exchanges opened last October.

There was a big pickup also in the number of young people who enrolled. A total of 3.3 million Americans have now signed up for coverage under Obamacare.

To the "New York Times," a series of daring escapes from Iraqi prison has freed hundreds of militants who reportedly now joined radical groups operating in neighboring Syria and also inside Iraq. That is a concern, obviously, to U.S. officials and a troubling reminder of the breakdown in authority since America -- Americans left in 2011. More than 600 inmates are believed to have escaped in one of the largest prison breaks.

And in the "Wall Street Journal," scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy say they've replicated the power of the sun, well, for a fraction of a second. Researches blasting the world's most powerful laser and the target the size of a pea, triggering a fusion -- fusion reaction that generated a massive amount of energy. The hope is that nuclear fusion will one day provide cheap and unlimited energy right here on earth -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. We've got a spoiler alert. It was a proud moment for Team USA at the Olympics this morning. But if you don't want to hear it just yet, it's a good time to put your pants on or see why the kids are screaming or do something else. OK, you ready?

All right. Clean sweep for Team USA in the first men's slopestyle skiing event at the Olympics. A continuing trend for the Americans who are just owning the slopestyle course. Other sports haven't proven to be as dominant for America as much as slopestyle.

Here to explain, CNN's Rachel Nichols live from Sochi -- Rachel.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Well, Chris, yes. For every disappointment, right, that's what we love about the Olympics. There's a sweetheart story that comes up in its place. These athletes have just seconds in a lot of cases to distill down decades of training. Sometimes it doesn't go well, but then sometimes it goes even better than expected. And that's what happened to the American men this morning. Take a look.


NICHOLS (voice-over): It was a sweeping one, two, three victory for Team USA this morning. American skiers Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper grabbing the gold, silver and the bronze. Team USA putting their red, white, blue stamp on the first ever ski slopestyle in Olympic history.

Meanwhile, the snowboarding halfpipe seems to be the epicenter of surprises here in Sochi. Just a day after Shaun White's surprising miss for a three-peat gold, American snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington shocked in the other direction. Pulling off a major upset for Team USA.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe it.

NICHOLS: Farrington was on fire Wednesday treading her way to a winning run that beat out three past gold medal winners. The 24-year- old was so excited she did a little dance before grabbing the gold, and veteran American Kelly Clark rallied back from a bad start to claim bronze.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now just to be here, like, I was excited just being an Olympian, and then now to have the gold medal under my belt, I can't even that believe still.

NICHOLS: Down at the skating venues, it was the rest of the world's turn to shine. In a big upset, the overwhelming favorite speed skater Shani Davis placed eighth in the 1,000 meters, well behind racer Stefan Groothuis from the Netherlands. Davis had won the event the previous two Olympics. But just like Shaun White, the third time was not the charm. Afterwards, the 31-year-old Chicago native seemed crushed, saying, quote, "There's no excuse."

Cheers and flying flags for teams USA and Canada went it was game on for the heated rivalry. Canada won with a 3-2 final score. And while this is just a preliminary game, bragging rights were high as the two teams are expected to face off again for the gold medal next Thursday.

And in pairs figure skating, no surprises, the Russian dream team pulling off yet another spectacular high-flying routine. The gold medal was an act of redemption after Russia's 2010 loss in Vancouver. Taking back their top stop atop the podium where they had proudly stood for the previous 12 straight Olympics.


NICHOLS: Huge news, that figure skating win here in Russia, and I also got to go back to the second place finisher in the skiing this morning. The American Gus Kenworthy, he's become a little bit of a hero, guys, in the Athlete's Village. He is understandably upset, like many others, about the government's here policy of trying to rid the streets of stray dogs by killing them. He found four or five puppies when he was out on a walk, and he's actually trying to make arrangements to bring them back to the States.

He's already gotten them vet appointments. He's got lots of volunteers for help on Twitter, now he's just trying to get them back on the plane. But the good soul and the good skier now, he placed second today.

CUOMO: Second. That's nothing to bark at. Especially at the Olympics.

So you mentioned Farrington. She did that little dance there, you know, wound up becoming a moment. What did you think of that? And are you seeing more of those starts to be generated where it becomes like a culture around the winner?

NICHOLS: Yes, absolutely. And she's got such a great story. She doesn't come from a snowboarding family, per se. Her dad own as ranch in Idaho. And when she used to want to travel to snowboarding competitions, he would have to sell a cow to pay for her travel expenses for each competition. So she said after her win, she said, I don't think he misses those cows now. I think he's happy with that decision.


BOLDUAN: That became quickly a very fair trade, I believe. Thanks so much, Rachel.

She's bringing us some great stories from Sochi. There really are a lot. And lots of highs and lows as we can see.

Let's give you an update on the medal count. How quickly it changes. Norway is now in the lead. We were just in the lead. Pulling back in front of the United States, thanks to a bronze in the ladies 10 kilometer cross-country last hour. The U.S. is next with 12 medals followed by Canada, the Netherlands and Russia.

PEREIRA: All right. Let's take a look at what is trending at this hour when social media meets Sochi. Gold medal winning snowboarder Jamie Anderson says Olympic athletes are champs up -- hooking up, thanks to dating apps like Tinder. She says Tinder is, quote, "the next level," and that there are some cuties on there.

Anderson says she had to delete her account on Tinder to focus on the games. Tinder's gay equivalent Grinder has been shut down in Sochi by hackers.


Newly tapped late-night host Seth Meyers has scored a major player for his debut. Vice President Joe Biden will join the "Saturday Night Live" alum on his February 24th premier. Also appearing in his first week, rapper Kanye West and "Girls" star Lena Dunham. Seth Meyers takes over for Jimmy Fallon who of course is taking the reins at the "Tonight Show" -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Nischelle, could this be a preview of Apple's iPhone 6? A mysterious Twitter user posted these pictures of possible prototypes. Now of course Apple not commenting, but rumors suggest the next generation will actually include three sizes. A 4 inch, 4.7 inch and a 5.5 inch screen. The new handset is expected to be revealed at Apple's Annual Developer Conference in San Francisco in June. They always do that with a flourish, too, don't they, Nischelle?

TURNER: I still have the iPhone 4 and I have no Siri.


I know. I need to catch up.

Some of the world's top wind surfers waited for some of the worst weather to hit the water. Surfers off the coast of England were riding waves of -- listen to this -- more than 30 feet. And sending them into the air twice that far. They're participating in the Red Bull Storm Chase Final. Competition can only be held in storm force conditions with winds up to 80 miles an hour.

I file that in the never in a million years would I do it story.


BOLDUAN: That might deserve a Sage Kotsenburg reaction of that is spicy. Just saying. Because we don't even know what it means.

CUOMO: We need a new word.

BOLDUAN: Like crazy.



BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, Republican Senator Rand Paul versus President Barack Obama. The Tea Party conservative suing Obama over NSA surveillance. How far will this case go? We're going to talk about it.

CUOMO: And another very important case. We are on verdict watch in the so-called loud music trial. We're going to tell you what the jurors were given in closing arguments. A decision could come down anytime this morning. Could have huge implications for the community down there. We'll break it down for you with the latest.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

After spending the last few weeks attacking the Clintons, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has another target now. President Obama. Paul announced Wednesday he's suing President Obama and top officials in the National Security Agency over surveillance.

Joining us to talk more about this is the chief political correspondent for the "New York Times" magazine, Jim Rutenberg.

Jim, thank you so much for coming in.


BOLDUAN: You have covered Rand Paul pretty extensively. You've written extensively about him. What do you make of this lawsuit and Rand Paul's motivations here?

RUTENBERG: Well, it's a brilliant combination of policy and politics. So Rand Paul is, as we've written, hails from the first family of libertarianism, it's very much against big government. The NSA program is seen as, by the likes of libertarian movement, as a kind of big government out of control. So for Rand Paul it definitely -- it's in his wheelhouse policy wise but it's also politically putting him front and center.

CUOMO: Is there any indication that it is working for him? I mean -- or is this just more noise coming from Senator Rand?

RUTENBERG: Well, this, I think -- what's working -- if we're talking in the context of 2016 and a potential presidential run, yes, this is what's working for Senator Rand Paul. Whether it ends up being noise, we'll wait and see.

BOLDUAN: I guess that's a really good point. I mean, you know, you have covered him extensively. I'm sure that also means you've been in Kentucky quite a bit covering him. His future ambition seems pretty clear. I mean, if you look at his schedule, he's heading in Iowa, he's heading to New Hampshire, he's heading to South Carolina.

What do you think of this strategy kind of leading up to what seems like an inevitable run for -- in 2016? How is he different, how is he approaching this differently than his father?

RUTENBERG: Well, his father's brand of libertarianism really has passionate fans across the country, young, old. It's quite striking in that way, and Rand Paul wants to have a lot of that, but his father's brand of libertarianism also is -- has alienated some people and it isn't as so accessible to mainstream, average voters just trying to get through the day.

Rand Paul is trying to bridge that gap so he's tamping down some of the more sort of in-your-face aspects of this father's style.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the Tea Party in a different headline, in a different context, this morning. Got to get your take in talking about the recent fight or non-fight over the debt ceiling. The Senate passed it yesterday. But what was most, I think, surprising and interesting is the fact that dozen Senate Republicans including Mitch McConnell and Jon Cornyn really stood up to push -- to silence Senator Ted Cruz and his attempted filibuster.

Ted Cruz unapologetic as he often is in this situation, but do you think this marks a bit of a turning point for Republicans, and the real divisions that we've seen within the Republican Party? Because Mitch McConnell and Jon Cornyn are both facing very tough Tea Party challenges in their primaries right now.

RUTENBERG: Well, you know, Senator Cruz achieved what no one's been able to achieve for years which is bipartisanship in the Senate.


And -- but I think that leader McConnell hopes it's a turning point in that he doesn't want to have these big, messy fights on his Senate floor while he's got this primary. At the same time, Senator Cruz pushed him into a vote that makes him vulnerable to a Tea Party challenge back at home.

CUOMO: You know, it's interesting. I want to know if you've been hearing the same thing I've been hearing that defiance is no longer the premium commodity even for the Tea Party as much as finding a way through inaction. Do you believe there's a little change in terms of what the appetite is for even the far right?

RUTENBERG: You know, it's funny you say that because I've been thinking the same thing. How -- so for the Republicans, as a party, stopping Obama has been a great strategy but it can't be the strategy forever. And so one gets the sense that they're kind of -- the leadership at least believes that they have to show their party means action. And, you know, now that leaves them vulnerable -- if it means cutting deals into 2014, the midterms, but for 2016, I think that you're right and I think that the party is starting to realize that.

CUOMO: It is unusual in politics that you continue to win by saying the other side sucks. At some point you have to offer something better.

BOLDUAN: It has been effective to this point, though.

CUOMO: But we'll see. We'll see what happens going into the midterm what kind of agenda they can put together.

I know you, Mr. Rutenberg, will be all over it so I look forward to having you back here with us.

RUTENBERG: All right. Hopefully not in the snow.


BOLDUAN: Good point. Thanks and thanks for --

RUTENBERG: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for making it in.

CUOMO: Coming up on NEW DAY, the damage is mounting from this wild weather that's crushed the south, now moving up the East Coast. Obviously power lines, a critical concern. We're showing you the cars. Lawmakers, all over the place, they're asking people to stay home if they can. And this is why. How do you even get out of an abandoned vehicle?

We'll tell you the story as it happens.

BOLDUAN: Also the fate of a man who shot a teenager in Florida is now in the hands of a jury. He says he feared for his life. Prosecutors don't agree. We're going to have the very latest on where things stand.