Return to Transcripts main page


20 Counties in NC in State of Emergency; Hurricane Arthur Moves Up the East Coast; Interview with Warren Judge; Obama Thanks Military on Fourth of July; Surviving a Sinkhole; Interview with College Friend of Justin Ross Harris

Aired July 4, 2014 - 07:00   ET


INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Michaela, the strongest hurricane we found on the U.S. mainland that made landfall since 2008. You can see here the beach erosion that's already happened. I'm going to step down and you can see that's what happened as the waves came onshore this morning with more of that easterly direction.

But take a look behind me. This is our concern. You can actually see, way back in the distance here, someone is now swimming. That is the last thing you want to see with this big threat of a rip current that will continue throughout the day, even after the storm passes. Definitely not what you want to be seeing.

Now, what you're noticing right now if you actually take a look at the ocean is it's starting to go backwards. There's a reason for that. This morning, all the beach erosion was because the waves were coming or the wind was coming from the easterly direction, bringing the waves onshore, eroding this beach. But now we've switched wind directions. We're now getting on the back side of the system so you're seeing the winds coming out of west, pushing all of the water right back into the ocean.

Now that's a thing for this side of the beach; it's not a good thing on the opposite side of the Outer Banks where we have this sound. That's what we're really concerned right now about a storm surge. We've already heard reports of water rises as high as 6 feet in less than 20 minutes. Think about that. I'm only 5'7. You have water going over your head that quickly. That is the danger. That is what causes deaths from hurricanes.

So that's a big concern as we move forward. What's predicted in this region is about 3 to 4 feet of storm surge. Remember, it only takes you 6 inches to knock you off of your feet. Of course, there's a big wind event as well. You can really see winds kind of kicking up around here. We're hearing that the wind has already taken out power and about 17,000 people from North Carolina all the way down into the northern portions of South Carolina already.


PETERSONS (voice-over): At least 20 counties here in North Carolina now in a state of emergency. Hurricane Arthur making landfall at 11:15 Thursday night. CNN's Rene Marsh camped out at Atlantic Beach when it hit.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The winds are extremely strong and if you take a look at the sky you can see them lighting up and that is not lightning. Those are transformers blowing out. That means people are without power most likely at this point.

PETERSONS: Despite the darkness along the Outer Banks, North Carolina's governor told the thousands without power to stay inside.

GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Wait for this storm to leave for a long period of time before you venture to the outside.

PETERSONS: The now Category Two hurricane living up to emergency manager fears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trees broken and crashed into this house here.

PETERSONS: Sustained winds of at least 100 miles per hour. Storm surges and dangerous rip currents are warding off Fourth of July beach-goers.

MCCRORY: We want to warn our citizens up the coast and our thousands of tourists who may be dealing with this for the first time that this is a serious storm.

PETERSONS: This is a photo from inside the eye of the storm -- of concern, the inner eye wall. now shrinking in size. The danger -- the smaller the eye gets, the stronger the wins become.

MCCRORY: So we're most concerned now about flooding inland and also storm surges in our sounds and our rivers further inland.

PETERSONS: Governor Pat McCrory says rescue and emergency crews are at the ready to assess damage and begin the cleanup effort.


PETERSONS (on camera): So the storm is now making its way offshore, pulling away from us, but that still means these very strong winds as we continue to get on the back side of the system will be rpesent. You have to add the storm's wind itself, plus the direction. It's picked up speed -- 20, 25 miles per hour. You add the two together to get your maximum speed on that back side.

Now, keep in mind, this storm, it is headed in your direction. It's heading to the northeast and it's going to stay pretty strong. We're still expecting it to be about 90 miles per hour at the south of Cape Cod so that's going to be the next concern. Of course, here in the Carolinas, we're going to have watch, as the back side comes in, what happens with the storm surge and these really strong winds that continue to knock you out of your feet at a moment's notice. A lot we're still going to continue to watch, guys.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And we watch you brace yourself, it gives you an idea. I can't believe there's somebody that's decided to go in the water. That is exactly the thing that authorities don't want and are discouraging people from doing.

Indra, continue to watch that situation for us.

As you can tell, this storm has left quite a mark on North Carolina. Crews are now working to restore power to thousands who lost it. In fact, about 15,000 customers, we're told, are currently in the dark. Add to it sand and debris now litter the coast, blown around by rain and wind like this.

Let's take you to Kill Devil -- well, we've been in Kill Devil Hills. We're going to head south now to Wrightsville Beach. That's where we find Alina Machado. The storm is going north and we're going south. And look at that. What a different scene. You have a short sleeved shirt on, you're standing, there's a bit of a breeze there. The sun seems to be out.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sun is definitely out, Michaela. It's amazing what a difference a few miles makes, a couple hundred miles makes, and also a few hours, because really we were feeling the effects of Hurricane Arthur for all of yesterday. On and off we had periods of rain and wind and then, at night, probably around 7:00 or 8:00 Eastern Time, we really got the brunt of Arthur. We got really strong wind gusts and also heavy downpours.

And right now you couldn't even tell that this happened. It's amazing. All these people are out. The good news here, at least, is that there are no reports of widespread damage or power outages or flooding as far as we're -- as far as we know. Authorities though say that they do plan to come out today during the day to assess and make sure that nothing really big happened here. Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. That is just evidence of what happens in the wake. Look at the difference from there to where we saw Indra just moments ago.

All right. Let's talk to Warren Judge, the chairman of the Dare County Board Of Commissioners; he joins us on the phone this morning and he is joining us from Kill Devils Hill. Sir, how was your evening?

WARREN JUDGE, CHAIRMAN, DARE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS (via telephone): Well, it was -- Michaela, it was long and -- it was long and restless.

PEREIRA: I'm sure it was. What are you waking up to this morning now that the sun has come up?

JUDGE: Well, we're just now beginning to get our emergency personnel, the folks that evaluate things once we have daylight. We get them out on the roads and around. And we've -- we're beginning to get reports in, and -- and we're hearing better news than we expected, but it's really kind of too early to put any sort of countywide assessment on it. We probably need another hour to 90 minutes to have a really good picture of where we are this morning.

PEREIRA: Yes, your hope is that you can get up and have a look at things before, you know, the folks that live there, the residents do, so you can get a clear assessment of what you can advise them to do.

Obviously a lot of concerns here. We understand that one of the concerns, of course, is the beach front but also the -- the Highway 12. Have you heard any word about Highway 12? There were reports of flooding on that road.

JUDGE: We do know that we have flooding in the Rodanthe area. We think the beach towns are in good shape on Highway 12. We're still waiting on one report from down at the very south end of the northern beaches. But water -- pretty good amount of flooding in the village of Rodanthe. Again, it's a very preliminary assessment. People are trying to look out windows and assess where they are standing at that time. Once we get people out in the field, we'll -- we'll have a much better assessment. We haven't gotten a report yet from Buxton Village, which is another area that is prone to flooding on the highway.

PEREIRA: We've also heard reports of power outages, sir, a couple of your big power companies there reporting some -- anywhere between 17,000 to 20,000 folks without power. Obviously the hope is to get them back to having power as soon as possible. Any word on that?

JUDGE: On the -- on the -- on the northern island, we -- if we have outages, it's sporadic.


JUDGE: And the distribution more than transmission. We do have distribution problems that we're all aware of in Hatteras village and some of the other villages on Hatteras Island.

But, again, Michaela, a little bit too early to speak with a great deal of confidence and conviction, but we feel like the transportation of power -- moving the -- the transportation lines are good. It's distribution; it's taking the power from individual substations and transformers into people's homes and businesses.

PEREIRA: Fair enough. We understand it is awfully early and awfully soon to tell exactly what the results of that storm passing through are going to be. Do you feel that you have adequate resources at the ready to assess, to protect, to restore service and repair damage?

JUDGE: Yes, ma'am. The -- the beach towns -- the six towns all take care of their assessments with their planning department and different inspectors. Dare County will have people in the unincorporated areas of the county. We will, as soon as we can get crews of people on Hatteras Island, even if we have to put them -- even if we have to take them by boat or something if the road is flooded, they will be on the ground. They will assess damage. We do this very quickly.

We will have a very good estimate, probably we'll need to sharpen the figures over the weekend, but by the end of the day, it's our plans that we'll have assessed the entire county and we'll know what we have as far as damage. We can begin making preliminary reports to the state if there's going to be any, you know, help coming from FEMA, those things. We should have those numbers well in hand by the end of the day.

PEREIRA: Well, hopefully we'll be able to check back in with you and the folks there in Dare County. We know you're hardy people. We know that many of you have lived through many a storm in this time. We're glad to hear it wasn't as bad as some were fearing. We want to say a big thank you to the chairman of Dare County Board Of Commissioners. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

JUDGE: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: So the eye of the storm has cleared the Carolinas, but the threat is not over yet. Arthur is set to move up the East Coast over the next 24 hours. Let's get the very latest from meteorologist Karen Maginnis to talk about this projected path, where it's going to move, and what that means -- what people could be feeling still on the East Coast.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. There will be several impacts, Kate, and this is kind of a high resolution, a 3-D view. Here is the eye right now. This is an image over the last four hours. This is going to be racing up the eastern seaboard and into New England.

What can you expect? Well, we've already seen that very heavy surf in a lot of areas. Also heavy downpours. We're looking at coastal flooding. There will be wind damage. There could be plenty of beach erosion.

We just got our update from the National Hurricane Center, and the one critical piece or one difference is that this is now moving to the northeast at 23 miles an hour, so that's good. The faster it moves, the less impact it's going to have along some of these very fragile coastal areas. And Michaela had mentioned it earlier. Some of these beautiful shoreline areas, the national sea shore is very ecologically fragile and this storm system essentially pounded that area for the past eight hours or so. That is going to produce substantial damage. They will have to go out and assess it.

Right now the winds are blowing offshore. That's on the back side of Hurricane Arthur, which is still a Category 2 hurricane. And as it moves up the mid-Atlantic coast, you'll get some heavy downpours. We're looking at 2 to 4 inches, maybe as much as 6 inches possible. There you can see it -- Friday at just about 90 miles an hour, so we're looking at the winds coming down just a bit. It's getting into some colder water and then just off the coast of Boston for this evening. The high tide in Boston is at 5:04, so watch out for a tide 3 to 5 feet above that. Kate?

BOLDUAN: That's a really interesting point, Karen. Thanks so much.

The governor of North Carolina had said the good news that they were dealing with is that it hit at low tide, and so they didn't have the impact. He didn't think it would be as much. Boston, Massachusetts, those areas might be dealing with quite a different scene tonight as it could be hitting at high tide. PEREIRA: Look at even the difference between our reporters, how much

beach there is. Looked very calm where Alina was, a little further where Indra was, gnarly. People shouldn't be in the water there, at Kill Devil Hills yet we saw one person in the war. It's a different scene each few hundred miles.

BOLDUAN: And it's moving right on. Let's hope it moves faster and faster so the impact is less and less. We're going to follow that. We'll be following the weather for you of course.

Let's get over to Christine Romans now, who has a look at some of our other top stories today.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, you guys. A lot going on.

In Iraq, ISIS militants have seized a major oil field in Syria. The field produces 75,000 barrels of oil a day. It's the latest under the areas to fall under the control of the Sunni extremists. This as U.S. military officials say the door is still open to increased American forces in Iraq should ISIS militants pose a threat to the U.S.

Pentagon has halted all flights of its F-35 fighter jets. Now, these planes are grounded while investigators determine how one caught fire as it was taking off from the Elgin Air Force base last month. This is the latest setback for the Lockheed Martin-built fighter. A mid- flight oil leak on one of the planes triggered another fleetwide inspection in June. At $398 billion, the F-35 is the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program ever.

Mississippi's Republican primary results now being challenged. Tea Party-backed state senator Chris McDaniel fighting those results, serving papers to senator Thad Cochran's son Thursday. Campaign staffers and volunteers say they've combed through investigate records in 51 counties. They claim to have found nearly 5,000 irregularities. We're going to talk with McDaniel next hour.

The White House is hosting military families for fireworks and barbecue on the South Lawn today. In his weekly address this morning, the president give a special thanks to members of the military and their families.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You keep us safe and you keep the United States of America a shining beacon of hope for the world. And for that, you and your families deserve not only appreciation of a grateful nation, but our enduring commitment to serve you as well as you've served us.


ROMANS: This Fourth of July is especially sweet for the Obamas, by the way. Today, First Daughter Malia celebrates her 16th birthday. Happy birthday.

All right, we brought you this story a little bit earlier but let's take a closer look. A newly released 911 call reveals a mother and son's terror as their car is swallowed up by a sinkhole. 15-year-old Benjamin Hernandez was delivering newspapers with his mother when the road gave out from under them.


JUANITA PINEDA, CAR PLUMMETED INTO SINKHOLE: My son is having trouble breathing.

ROMANS (voice-over): A frantic call for help after a mother and sun plummet into a giant sinkhole while driving down a dark road in rural Illinois. Her son badly injured in the crash -- and then the unthinkable.

PINEDA: Oh my god! No! Another car!

ROMANS: This pickup truck flies right over the gaping hole where Juanita Pineda and her son Benjamin are trapped. The driver cannot believer that he drove right on top of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just drove on top of you?

PINEDA: Yes, you just went over me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my god. Oh my god, are you OK?

ROMANS: The car so damaged Pineda and her son were unable to escape. Emergency crews had to rip apart the roof of the car.

PINEDA: I remember hitting something and then all of a sudden I felt where my car fell down and that was it.

ROMANS: 15-year-old Benjamin suffered a fractured spine and broken ribs, nose, right arm.

BENJAMIN HERNANDEZ, INJURED IN THE ACCIDENT: It just happened so fast. Is like all I remember is my mom waking me up screaming, screaming for me to wake up.

ROMANS: The pair out delivering newspapers, had no idea heavy rain had washed away the road until it was too late.

PINEDA: Doing my best to hold on for him. We're just lucky to be here. That's all I can say.


ROMANS (on camera): And you just feel for Benjamin. He's in fair condition at a local hospital, and his mother is doing fine. Terrified by what happened, obviously, but doing fine.

PEREIRA: A lot of people feeling a lot of things when you see that story, but that family feeling gratitude. You could hear it. Lucky to be alive.

BOLDUAN: Unbelievable. The fact that you would not only be driving along and then fall into a sinkhole but then another car would come up just behind you.

ROMANS: First a sinkhole and then driving right into the sinkhole, the son is hurt and then another car driving right on top of you, just unbelievable.

PEREIRA: He's got youth on his side. Hopefully he'll make a speedy recovery.

BOLDUAN: That's right. Counting those blessings today.

PEREIRA: All right, short break here on NEW DAY. Up next, we'll have the latest breaking news for you as Hurricane Arthur making its way up the East Coast. We're live with our correspondents in the thick of it.

BOLDUAN: And stunning kind of sordid details in court about what happened the day a Georgia father left his son in a hot car for seven hours. A friend of Justin Ross Harris from their college days joins us live. That's coming up next. What does she think of the charges?


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY, where we have a special Hurricane Arthur edition of NEW DAY, and our coverage will continue in a moment to give you the latest you need to know about the storm and where it's headed.

But, first, another story. Shocking courtroom allegations against the Georgia father who stands accused of killing his child by leaving him for hours in a hot car. The prosecution painted quite a picture of Justin Ross Harris, painted him as an unfaithful husband who wanted to be child-free, that he had life insurance policies out on the toddler and allegedly sexted women on the very day his son died.

Our next guest knew Harris in college. Kristen Riker joins us now. Kristen, good morning to you and thank you for getting up early. I can imagine this is a very unsettling place to find yourself in. Somebody you know stands accused of killing his child. I want you to give us a sense of the Justin Ross Harris that you know. You guys met in college. Were you in the same graduate program, correct?

KRISTEN RIKER, KNEW JUSTIN ROSS HARRIS IN COLLEGE: We were actually in undergrad together, so it was a close group of people so we got to know each other pretty well.

PEREIRA: Did you spend much time with him?

RIKER: Yes. We had group projects and it was a very strenuous program, so we saw a lot of each other.

PEREIRA: Describe Justin Ross Harris to us, as you know him.

RIKER: He was a genuinely nice guy. He was very hard working and intelligent. He was reliable and always willing to help others in need, whether it's a class project or a personal matter. Before this tragedy, I'd never heard anyone say a bad thing about him. He was just an overall great guy.

PEREIRA: So I can imagine you were probably quite surprised when you heard the news. Tell me about the day you found out about this.

RIKER: I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw people that I know posting about it. We were all in shock because we all knew him. It's just still a disbelief, not knowing what to think.

PEREIRA: Do you think he's capable of it?

RIKER: The Ross I knew in college, absolutely not. Never intentional. So something just doesn't make sense. It just doesn't add up.

PEREIRA: Have you found yourself trying to make sense of it?

RIKER: I'm trying to stay unbiased just because of the man I knew in college, he was such a great guy.

PEREIRA: Right, I understand that. That makes sense.

Yesterday, we were watching this compelling -- really troubling testimony going on. We heard a detective making accusations and bringing up some pretty shocking revelations about things like Ross sexting women, about searching for various things on the internet. What is your reaction to that? Does it fit -- dose it square with the guy that you knew?

RIKER: The guy that I knew, absolutely not, but I feel it is unrelated to the actual case at hand with Cooper. But, no, I could never have pictured him doing that.

PEREIRA: You don't feel that it has anything to do with -- with maybe the motive for what could have happened here?

RIKER: I don't think so. But I'm trying to stay unbiased. I'm sure other people have a different opinion.

PEREIRA: Did you get amu sense that there was any trouble at home?

RIKER: No, I did not. Not when I knew him. Not at all. He always talked about his wife and you could tell he was happy and that he loved her.

PEREIRA: Had you met her?

RIKER: No, I have not.

PEREIRA: And there's also some discussion in the testimony yesterday that he was depressed. Does that seem like something that makes sense with the Justin -- or the Ross rather -- that you knew?

RIKER: When I knew him, no. You could walk into a room and he would light it up. He would make a joke, he would tell a story; he was just a very happy person. PEREIRA: Kristen, sometimes, you know, you have friends that you

know, and they know you, but there are probably sides of you that your friends don't know about. Do you think that that could be the case here, that we are not seeing the full picture of who this young man is?

RIKER: I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but that would have to be an extreme case of hiding for a long time, and I JUST -- I don't see how -- how any of this happened.

PEREIRA: It was also mentioned in court that he sort of displayed different sides of his personality. Did you see different sides of his personality in those times you were sitting with him in college/ Or maybe when you were out socializing after class?

RIKER: No, not at all. So it must have happened in the past two years, but not when I knew him, no.

PEREIRA: You say you're trying to make sense of it. What do you think could possibly have happened? Do you think -- we know, we hear these stories a lot, unfortunately, someone being forgetful and leaving a child or a pet in a hot car, becoming distracted. When you look at the situation, what does your gut tell you?

RIKER: Like I said, because I -- of the great man I knew him to be, I really want to be unbiased and not believe it, but I'm also not sure exactly what the facts are, because the media portrays different things and it gets taken out of proportion. So we just have to wait and see what the evidence says.

PEREIRA: You're right. We're not in the courtroom. We also weren't there. Only he knows what happened that day.

RIKER: Right.

PEREIRA: So Kristen, what are your friends saying, the other people that knew him? I don't know if you're in contact with some of your friends from college. Are you talking amongst yourselves about the case and about Ross and about how you all knew him?

RIKER: Yes. On social media, everyone is talking about it. It's the main topic. But everyone that knew him is still just in shock and disbelief. Of course, there are people saying terrible, terrible things about him, and it's just hard to read because they didn't know him and the great man that he was.

PEREIRA: I can tell you that this is really upsetting for you, and I'm not trying to upset you. I know this is very difficult when you know somebody a certain way and you hear allegations of something terrible that they are being blamed for, it's really hard to reconcile with those two things.

Are you watching the story online? Are you watching the news? Are you trying to just sort of give yourself some space from it?

RIKER: I'm trying to stay away from the gossip that people are saying and the media, but I did watch the hearing just to try to get be a idea of what authorities are saying.

PEREIRA: Did it change your view of things?

RIKER: It made me a little wary to think what if something like this terrible could happen, but still trying to stay unbiased just because of the man I knew.

PEREIRA: What did you see when you watched him in that hearing? He was there and we got to see him, some of us, for the first time. What did you see when you saw him?

RIKER: I tried -- I really -- I'm not sure if I could imagine the scene from his face. I saw he was distraught and I saw him cry at one point when they were talking about Cooper.

PEREIRA: What do you know about his extended family? Does he have siblings, parents that he's close with?

RIKER: I'm not really sure details of his family, but I know his brother was talking at the hearing.

PEREIRA: Kristen, I can imagine this is just almost unbearable for you, you know. We have, like I said before, we have ideas of who our people are and when they stand accused of something like this, it's hard to make sense of it all.

RIKER: Right.

PEREIRA: I understand it's difficult for you to do this interview. I thank you for doing it, giving us a glimpse of the Ross Harris that you know and knew. Our thoughts are with you. We know this is a difficult time for anybody that -- that is friends with him, or a family member.

Kristen Riker, thanks so much for joining us this morning on NEW DAY.

RIKER: Thank you.

PEREIRA: Kate, a very different picture that she paints, but even still there are some questions.

BOLDUAN: We'll continue to cover that case for sure.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, where is Hurricane Arthur headed next? We're going to have the latest storm track and we're going to speak to some of the folks riding out storm. How it's been and what it looks like this morning.

Then it may be a wet Fourth of July but some cities, like Boston, decided their fireworks displays must still go on. Some of them, just a day early. Take a look.