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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser; Interview With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; Millions in Path of Monster Winter Storm; Storm Coverage; Trump, Cruz Sparking GOP Civil War. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 22, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Bringing brutal winter weather to one-third of the United States, states of emergency declared up and down the East Coast, with residents of the nation's capital being told there are life and death implications. Are some of the country's largest cities prepared?
Tracking the storm, new details of who will bear the blunt. And now we're learning the storm is strength right now, with the snow and the wind increasing and expected to continue for days. Millions of people expected to lose power. Are they prepared to tough it out alone?
Total shutdown, schools and governments closed, major events canceled, along with more than 6,000 flights, the storm already paralyzing Washington. The mayor joins us this hour with critical new information.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, 85 million Americans right now in the path of a dangerous storm, blizzard warnings stretching from Washington to New York, with winter weather extending north of Boston and south to Atlanta.
States of emergency are in effect in six states, as well as here in Washington, D.C., where residents are being told they could be dropped in doors for 36 hours without power, potentially, or water.
This is expected to be one of the strongest storms ever to hit the nation's capital, where the National Guard has been deployed and the mayor says there are life and death implications.
Our correspondents are all along the East Coast. They're covering the crisis. And we will be talking to top officials as we bring you the most critical information this hour.
Let's begin with our meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Jennifer, before our coverage, this is only the beginning and this storm is continuing to strengthen.
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You're exactly right, Wolf. That is what is key to remember. This is not going to be over in two or three hours. We're talking about 24 hours, 36 hours, even longer.
We're talking about some major cities experiencing blizzard conditions in the coming hours, places like D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and all of the towns in between and this could last for several hours on end, blizzard conditions.
We're talking about winds 35 miles per hour or greater, sustained winds, visibility less than a quarter-of-a-mile and lasting for three hours or more. We're in it for D.C., Philadelphia, right on the fringes of you, starting to fall there. New York City, you have a couple of hours to go.
But, D.C., by 10:00 tonight, the snow is going to be extremely heavy. We're talking about blizzard conditions possibly around the midnight hour, and you could actually hear thundersnow as you go through the overnight hours as well.
So, Virginia is going to see the brunt of this. As we go forward in time, look at this. The rain starts to push onshore just a little bit as we get into Saturday morning, but still a lot of snow for the D.C. area, northern portions of Jersey, New York City, Long Island still getting the snow, and even portions of Massachusetts seeing it by Saturday evening, still in it in D.C. Saturday evening.
It is going to be Sunday morning in the wee hours of the morning before it starts to move out of the D.C. area, but, New York City, by Sunday morning, you could see a few lingering snowflakes. That's why we're talking about we are in this for the long haul.
GRAY (voice-over): Tonight, the monster storm is barrelling up the East Coast with roughly a quarter of the entire U.S. population in its path. Several fatalities are already blamed on the storm, which quickly left parts of North Carolina and Tennessee frozen under a blanket of snow and ice, crippling the region.
Six states and the district of Columbia have so far declared a state of emergency. And with 30 million people under blizzard warnings, as the storm moves north, major cities are bracing for high winds and record amounts of snow. The storm's biggest target, Washington, D.C., the mayor today issuing an ominous warning.
MURIEL BOWSER (D), MAYOR OF WASHINGTON, D.C.: I want to be very clear with everybody. We see this as a major storm. It has life and death implications. And all the residents of the District of Columbia should treat it that way.
GRAY: To minimize the storm's massive impact on the nation's capital, federal agencies closed early and all public transportation services will be suspended by later tonight. Popular landmarks like the National Mall have also been closed to the
public. Today, the National Weather Service extended its blizzard warning to include Philadelphia and New York City, millions now staring down a storm that could rank among the worst in nearly a century.
GRAY: We're not talking about inches of snow in the D.C. area. We're talking about feet of snow. Could see up to three feet.
We're also looking at about eight to 10 inches in the New York City area, give or take a little bit. We're also going to see very strong winds, gusts up to 65, 70 miles per hour during the height of this storm, which will be tomorrow morning.
We could see major beach eroding, coastal flooding. Could see the worst flooding we have seen in the Jersey area since Sandy. And so the winds are going to be a serious concern, Wolf, when you are talking about power outages as well, 40 mile-per-hour sustained winds with gusts up to 60, more than enough to take down those trees and power lines.
BLITZER: That's a really, really powerful, dangerous storm.
Jennifer, stand by. The New York City area is also in line right now to get hammered by this winter storm. Trucks and plows, they are being moved south from elsewhere in the state.
Joining us now on the phone is the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo.
Governor, thanks very much for joining us.
Eight to 10 inches in New York City, is that what your forecasters are telling you as well?
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Basically, Wolf. Good to be with you again.
The National Weather Service has even upped it lately, the forecast. So, you know, in a situation like this, you prepare for the worst, you hope for the best. The forecasts give you the best information they can at the time and you plan around that.
But, as you mentioned, we have been deploying all the assets from across the state down to the New York City-Long Island area. That's the area that all forecasts say will bear the blunt. The snow is obviously problematic, but we can handle that.
The coastal flooding for New York and Long Island is actually, in my opinion, a worse problem. We went through Sandy. The good news is we have some experience, and we have actually built in resilience that we didn't have before. The bad news is, there's only so much you can do. And when Mother Nature brings her wrath, she brings it. As you were just saying, snow plus heavy wind gusts is a bad combination, especially outside of the New York City area, Long Island, Westchester, et cetera. It brings down trees, brings down branches, brings down power lines. And the situation gets much different when the power is out. And now it really becomes a crisis.
BLITZER: It certainly does, Governor, because what worries me is all those homes, it's freezing outside and all those homes going to be without power, and there are children, there are elderly people. What can you do about that as a governor of a major state? I'm really worried about Long Island.
CUOMO: Well, that's what we went through with superstorm Sandy, exactly that combination, plus the flooding. The flooding creates an evacuation issue right from get-go.
And I used to work in the federal government, as you know, Wolf. Every region of the country has its own set of circumstances and its own geography which presents its own problems. In New York, Long Island, the density becomes a problem. It's very hard to quickly evacuate New York City or Long Island, which is essentially -- it's an island, but it's a peninsula. All the roads lead into New York City area.
So, evacuation is very, very difficult. It's one of the geographic problems that we face. The power outage, we had people during Hurricane Sandy who had no power for two, three weeks. Now, during that period, luckily, the weather broke a little bit, but you are right. It is a true health and safety issue when you put that storm together with power outages.
We had people coming in from all across the country to help with line trucks to install power lines, but we had thousands and thousands of lines down. So, depending on the ferocity of the storm, it can get very bad very quickly.
BLITZER: Governor, good luck to you, good luck to all the New Yorkers. We know this is going to be obviously a horrendous situation and we hope for the best.
The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, thank you very much.
Here in Washington, residents are being asked to stay off the streets right away. That appeal started at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, with the mayor saying this storm has life and death implications for all of us.
Chris Frates is along the National Mall for us.
Chris, the city, the government all shut down right now. What are you seeing? What are you hearing?
CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the mayor and officials here had urged all the citizens to get off the street.
And if you take a look, this is 14th Street. At 6:00 on any other night, this would be popping. There would be all kinds of people around. The intersections would be crowded. We're not seeing that tonight. That message is getting through.
Not surprising, because the federal government and the city government both shut down at noon today. Schools were out all day long. So that message seems to be resonating. The mayor saying it's life or death, and her emergency management director saying that this storm will bring fatalities and they need to stay off the street.
We're starting to see that. There's been a trickle of traffic. It started to subside. There is still a lot of people on the road, though, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's an awful situation, indeed, and we hear a lot of sirens going off right behind you, Chris Frates on the National Mall for us.
Let's get more on the dangers here in the nation's capital.
The mayor of Washington, Muriel Bowser, is joining us.
Mayor, is this as bad as you anticipated?
BOWSER: Well, Wolf, thanks for coming to us.
It started a little bit earlier than had been originally forecasted. The storm started coming in at 1:00 p.m. It's wet. It's coming fast. And we think the forecast is going to hold, 36 hours of snow and high winds.
BLITZER: Is the city ready?
BOWSER: Wolf, we are throwing every resource that we have at this.
We haven't had a storm like this in over 90 years. I stood up my emergency operation at 6:00 a.m. this morning. We have fully pre- treated our streets. We closed our government at noon, so that everybody could get home and get home safely.
We want people to stay inside, where it's safe. Ride out this storm. And just as soon as its over, we will start the cleanup.
BLITZER: You said it has life and death implications. Let me read precisely what you said, Mayor.
"People should treat it that way. People should hunker down, shelter in place and stay off the roads."
What happens if they lose power and it's freezing in their homes? What do they do then?
BOWSER: Well, Wolf, we have set up, and as I -- as the governor was just talking to you about, any time that you have winds like this, you can expect that trees will go gown and power lines will go down. Our emergency management folks have been working with the utility
provider here. And the model suggestions that as few as 25,000 people could lose power here in Washington, D.C., but it could approach 75,000 or 100,000 people.
So, we have set up warming centers in each area in the District of Colombia. And if people lose power, they lose heat in their homes, there will be facilities where they can come and get warm.
BLITZER: We just got word, Mayor -- and this is pretty ominous -- further south from where we are here in Washington, D.C., 123,000 customers have already lost power in the Southeast, 110,000 of them in the Carolinas alone, according to Duke Energy.
That's a lot of people. And, presumably, we're going to get a whole lot more snow here than there. So, we're bracing for the worst. You have got National Guard and military personnel on duty right now to help?
We have tapped our National Guard already early in the week. They are providing critical vehicle support to us, so that we can get all of our essential personnel in to work to serve the residents and visitors of Washington, D.C., so that has been critical.
Our power company, Wolf, also put out a call that the power companies do when we have a storm like this for mutual assistance. So, they are bringing in aid not only to our fellow Americans in the Carolinas, but we know that they will tap aid for our response in Washington, D.C., too.
BLITZER: Finally, Mayor, what's the most important thing you want Washingtonians to do right now?
BOWSER: We want Washingtonians to stay inside, stay off the roads. Staying inside allows our vehicles to keep the roads passable for emergencies.
And as soon as the snow and winds stop, it will allow us to get the roads clear, so we can get back to some normal operations. The other thing we want them to do is be safe while they're inside. So, if they are using an alternate heat source, be careful that they are not going to have a fire. Be careful that they don't have carbon monoxide that can poison their families.
Also, take care of themselves, any medical care that they need, and if they need us, of course, to call 911.
BLITZER: Good advice from Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, D.C.
Mayor, good luck to you and good luck to all the personnel that are fighting right now and working to try to protect everyone. Thanks very much. We're getting more information on other parts of the East Coast about
to be impacted by this monster storm. We will take a quick break. We will be right back.
BLITZER: It's snowing here in Washington, and it's only just beginning. This could go on for 24 hours, maybe even longer.
You're looking at Pennsylvania Avenue, this shot from the Newseum here in Washington, D.C. Normally, at this time on a Friday night, that Pennsylvania Avenue traffic would be bumper to bumper. You see very few cars on the streets of the nation's capital right now.
We're following the breaking news, this very dangerous winter storm affecting 85 million Americans here on the East Coast. Blizzard warnings are up in Washington all the way up to New York City, with severe winter weather stretching actually from Atlanta all the way up to Boston.
Our meteorologist Jennifer Gray is with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Jennifer, these conditions clearly seem to be deteriorating.
GRAY: Yes, they're deteriorating by the minute.
And we have been on for the last hour-and-a-half or so, and just in that time, you can see the progression of the snow line. D.C., we're in the thick of it, but, look, Philadelphia just about an hour ago, it wasn't snowing. The snow definitely falling there.
New York City, it is getting closer and closer to you, so in the next couple hours, you will start to see your first snowflakes. But as we get into late tonight into tomorrow morning, we are going to see very, very heavy snow.
This is not going to go away soon. This is going to last for 24 to 36 hours so. So, by the time we get to the morning, do expect more than a foot of snow on the ground in D.C., and then, as we get into the afternoon, we could see those totals as high as two to three feet.
And keep in mind, because the winds are going to going to be so strong, 30-to-40-mile-per-hour sustained winds with gusts even higher, some areas will look like they have got a little bit of snow, while other areas will look they have gotten more than forecasted, because the wind is blowing all of this snow around.
And so that's also what is going to cause the visibility to be almost zero.
Let me show you those snowfall totals. You can see that bullseye in western portions or northern portions of Virginia and eastern portions of West Virginia. And we're also going to see D.C. at that 24- to 36- inch range. New York City could see a foot of snow, depending on close that low tracks to the coasts. We could see higher amounts or not as high amounts.
So Wolf, we're in it for the long haul. We're in it's now and we're going to still be talking about it this time tomorrow night.
BLITZER: Yes. And it's a very dangerous, dangerous storm. The mayor of Washington saying it's life or death for a lot of people. Be very, very careful.
Jennifer, I'm going to get back to you.
I want go to Brian Todd right now. He's in Northern Virginia on the roads there.
Brian, the roads clearly are treacherous and it's only going to get worse.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's only getting worse, Wolf.
And here's an example of it. I just talked to Trooper Chris Grelzack (ph) up the road a little bit when he was helping out a stranded motorist who had spun out. Now the same state trooper has got to deal with an abandoned vehicle just in front of his squad car here.
This is what state officials and AAA and others are telling us you just cannot do in this situation. You should not abandon your vehicle. They say stay in your vehicle until you're rescued. And if you have to turn the car on for five minutes to get warm, do that. Then turn it off to save a little battery power and gas. But stay with your vehicle until you're rescued.
This state trooper, who could be helping out some other people who are stranded, now has to deal with an abandoned vehicle. They say do not do that. Here is what you're looking at also, Wolf. Look at the snow behind me just on the side of the road. It's probably a good six inches accumulated on the side, but if you look over here on 395, a major highway, going north-south into D.C., it's -- the slush is just piling up.
We just saw two snowplows go by us. There is not much they can really do right now. They are just trying to clear some of this off. But they can't keep up with this volume, Wolf. The state trooper just told me that south of here, on Dale Boulevard, there is a multiple-car pile-up. We're headed over there to see what is going on there.
But the situation is getting much, much worse right now on the roads. And, again, state officials are saying to everyone, stay off these roads.
BLITZER: Good advice. I hope they do.
Brian, be careful over there. We will get back to you.
More than 6,000 flights have already been canceled today and tomorrow because of the storm.
Let's go to our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh. She's over at Reagan National Airport just outside Washington, D.C.
Rene, we're certain to see even more cancellations. For all practical purposes, I take it Reagan National has shut down.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Pretty much, Wolf.
I can tell you this colossal storm has managed to bring air travel in the Northeast to its knees. Take a look at these boards here. Thousands and thousands of cancellations have stacked up, Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area at a complete standstill.
And how is this for a picture, Wolf? It's Friday night 6:00 p.m. and take a look down there, absolutely quiet, not a soul inside this airport.
MARSH (voice-over): Passengers showing up hours before their scheduled flights.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's this or hotel for the next several days. So, hoping to get out.
MARSH: Most airlines have canceled flights up and down the East Coast Friday afternoon through Saturday. Flight tracking Web site FlightAware shows dwindling air traffic over the blizzard's path. Travelers waited in long lines early this morning in hopes of beating the storm. And a few were lucky to get on some of the last flights out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our flight was for Sunday and we found one ticket to leave today for Las Vegas.
MARSH (on camera): So you do not want to take any chances. You want to get out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at all. Yes. We want to get out. We're going to get out.
MARSH (voice-over): Beginning tomorrow, all flights in and out of Philadelphia International Airport will be canceled. Reagan National and Washington Dulles International Airports will also stop operations.
But it's not just air travel. Officials are warning drivers to keep off roads as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have never seen it this bad. Oh, no. I feel sorry for those guys down there. There's nothing they can do but sit there. And I live on up the road here. So I just thought I'm going to walk.
[18:25:08] MARSH: Ice and snow made for hazardous driving conditions in
Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina this morning. High winds are expected to complicate efforts to keep the roads clear. Major bridges could be closed, and many states have asked drivers to stay off the roads.
MARSH: All right.
And at this hour, Wolf, today through this weekend, nearly 7,000 cancellations. And we're likely, as you mentioned, to see those cancellations continue to stack up. It could take two, three, possibly more days before these airlines can clear the backlog of passengers and get people to where they need to go, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Rene, we will get in touch -- we will stay in touch with you as well, Rene Marsh over at Reagan National Airport, which, for all practical purposes, is now shut down.
Joining us on the phone right now is the spokeswoman for the National Park Service's National Capital Region, Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles.
Jenny, thanks very much for joining us.
Explain what the Park Service is doing right now as a result of this blizzard.
JENNY ANZELMO-SARLES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: Thanks, Wolf.
To put this in context, just in greater Washington area, the National Park Service manages over 700 park areas that range in size and several major roadways, like the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
So, what we're doing right now is working to plow nearly 300 miles of road, clear 155 bridges, and shovel numerous sidewalks. We want visitors to stay safe and come back out once the storms have ended.
BLITZER: What about the parks? You're telling people, stay away from the parks, don't even go near them; is that right?
ANZELMO-SARLES: All park facilities and services in the greater Washington area are closed through at least Sunday.
You know, the safety of our employees and visitors is our top priority. So, we want you to hunker down. Heed Mayor Bowser's advice and others. Stay off the roads, stay home and stay safe.
If you do have to venture out, bring extra clothes, high-energy snacks and water, and be prepared to spend more time outside than you anticipated.
BLITZER: Are there any homeless people that you have found in the parks, in tents, for example? I have lived in Washington for a long time and I have seen that from time to time. ANZELMO-SARLES: It certainly can be a challenge. The city has set up
several warming stations. And I know that their community services, we work quite closely with to try and help people all of the time, but especially when the weather is like it is today.
BLITZER: Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles of the National Park Service, Jenny, thanks very much. Good luck to you and all your colleagues. We know you're doing important work.
The conditions, they certainly are treacherous right now on the roads all along the East Coast. We're going to get a live update as the breaking news continues.
BLITZER: We're following this monster storm, hitting the East Coast of the United States. Eighty-five million, 85 million Americans now impacted by this storm with blizzard conditions expected.
[18:32:50] CNN's Nick Valencia is just outside Washington D.C. He's over in northern Virginia at a Virginia Department of Transportation facility.
Nick, how bad are the roads where you are?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Wolf. The cold has been a big issue all day long. The roads not so much.
This area did a lot to prepare for that pending storm, the storm that's going to cause havoc across the weekend. We were just outside on Interstate 66. Some cars moving pretty slowly on those roads.
The conditions are looking pretty good right now. Virginia State Police, of course, saying that there have been more than 500 accidents out there on those interstates.
This is the kind of material they're treating those roads with. They have about 4,000 pieces of heavy equipment out there from snowplows, heavy machinery out there, treating the roads. They've been under preparations since June we're told by the spokespeople here at VDOT.
Of course, they're also taking their own precautions, clearing the roadways, clearing the sidewalks here. It is going to be especially brutal at about 9 p.m. when that wind starts picking up. We hear from some estimates of the National Weather Service, perhaps up to 40 inches of snow throughout the weekend, with the height being between three and six inches per hour. This storm is really all it's been billed to be, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Nick, thanks very much.
I want to get the latest on the situation in Virginia. The governor, Terry McAuliffe, is joining us on the phone right now.
Governor, thanks very much. You've already declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The snow has started. Where do you expect it to hit the hardest?
GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA: Well, listen, we went out early. We were the first state yesterday to declare. We went out Thursday morning at 8 a.m. And the reason you do that, Wolf, is it allows you to take weight restrictions off and reposition your heavy equipment.
The ancillary roads with not get hit as much in Northern Virginia. So we moved equipment to northern Virginia. We have 13,000 pieces of equipment, 9,500 personnel right now on the streets. We're looking at, really, the I-81 Interstate 81, which carries 70,000 cars and trucks a day. That is obviously a top concern. We've seen southwest Virginia get hit very hard and, of course, millions of people who live in northern Virginia.
So we got the National Guard. I authorized 500 stood up yesterday. I've just mastered 200 more. I've just signed the order for that. They are already doing active missions. All of our state police, everybody is out. You know, we've got the salt, 650,000 tons of salt. Two million gallons of liquid salt. We have the trucks. We've got the equipment. We've got the personnel.
So we're pretreating. We're ready to go. We've got the plows. So I'm very comfortable in Virginia that we're going to handle this big storm.
BLITZER: It's not just snow. It's heavy snow, Governor, as you know, with huge, very, very high winds and there are going to be power outages, because trees are going to fall down on power lines. What are you bracing for as far as power outages are concerned?
MCAULIFFE: Right now we have about 1,117 power outages in the commonwealth. Dominion Power. We brought in about 60 teams from states around the country who can come in to assist us to do it. It's going to be our big issue. Obviously, Northern Virginia, a lot of trees and with this heavy snow, they're going to be down.
Bu we have our emergency operations center up. We've got a couple hundred people right now operating. I've been operating out of the governor's command center in the Patrick Henry Building. We're monitoring the outages, and as soon as they happen, we'll be pulling trucks there.
The good news for us, if we can get the roads clean, and Wolf, I cannot stress enough to folks, please stay off the roads. We have the equipment, but if you're in a car and you abandon the car in the middle of a road, it really hurts our ability to get these roads clean.
When the roads are clean, we can get Dominion Power, we can get these utility trucks to fix it. Stay off the roads for the next 36 hours.
BLITZER: What worries me, Governor, not just in Virginia but in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York state. I spoke to Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York. Once you have power outages in this kind of freezing weather, what are the people supposed to do if they are stuck in freezing -- in freezing homes? MCAULIFFE: Well, that's one reason we have so many, as I say, and now
there's 700 National Guardsmen and women to call the emergency number. We are prepared to help everybody. We will go in, evacuate folks. We have active missions going on now throughout the commonwealth with the Guard, and as we speak, I have 23 missions going on right now, where the guard is getting people out of their homes, evacuating, getting people to medical attention that they need.
But right now, you know, 11, as I say, with about 1,100, we can handle that. We're on top of that situation. But as we continue to go through the next 24 hours, the key is keeping those roads clean Wednesday before it started. I dispatched 500 trucks to Northern Virginia before it started to get those roads, you know, to get the treatment, to get the salt brine on the roads.
So I mean. We're prepared, and if there's issues, we can move very quickly. We're very proud of the folks and of people who are helping deal with this situation.
MCAULIFFE: We're very confident and prepared for this, and we're ready to go.
BLITZER: Unfortunately, the storm is only beginning. It could last for 24 to 36 hours. So the power outages, I'm sure, are going to get a whole lot worse. The bottom line right now, Governor, what's your message to Virginians?
MCAULIFFE: My message to everybody in Virginia is stay off the roads. Stay home. As I say, 13,000 pieces of equipment right now moving around the commonwealth, 9,500. Twenty-five hundred state employees and about 7,000 contract employees, they are out working around the clock. They are going to stay on duty now, and they're going to go through the storm.
Help us do our job, just stay off the roads. We're going to be able to do it and then next week, we're going back into the 40s. We get these roads clean and we'll be back. The commerce of Virginia will be back up very quickly.
BLITZER: I'm sure it will. Governor, thank you very much. Terry McAuliffe, the governor of Virginia. We're going to continue to follow the breaking news. Much more information is coming in. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[18:43:35] BLITZER: Live pictures from Washington D.C. right now. The snow is coming down, and it's intensifying even as we speak. It could continue for at least 24 hours, maybe 36.
Blizzard warnings are now posted from Washington to New York as this potentially record-breaking storm pounds, one-third of the United States and continues to strengthen tonight. Let's go back to CNN's Brian Todd. He's in northern Virginia for us.
Brian, the roads are clearly treacherous. You've seen, what, accident after accident, cars stuck along the side. What are the -- what's the latest?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the latest is we were told of an accident right here in Dale City, Virginia, on an exit off -- off 95 South, heading from D.C. towards southern Virginia.
I'm going to get out of the car here and go to the dash camera. Cars are struggling to get off this exit now. The cars trying to get off this exit are stranded trying to get off.
On the dash cam now, we're told that there is an accident of multiple cars and accidents over to my left, to your right. There are some police vehicles over here, but because of that accident, there are several motorists now who are struggling to get off the highway, which they want -- many of them, of course, want to do. The visibility here tonight is getting much worse as we move along. There are heavy layers of slush along 95. This is a major highway. The snowplows cannot keep up with the volume that is coming down tonight. We are told that high winds are going to start to be a problem a little later. And that's going to cause snow drift.
You can see the accumulation here.
[18:45:00] It's a good six inches already along the sides, the slush and the thick snow starting to develop along the roads here.
There are the police vehicles down there. They're trying to get to the scene of an accident. We were trying to get to it. We can't get past this line right now. We're going to try to move a little closer in a little bit.
But, Wolf, again, the state police are telling people don't abandon your vehicles. Stay off the roads. This is what you're up against if you come on and even when you try to get off these highways now, sometimes you're jammed up and sitting here maybe for a period of hours, Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Pretty dangerous situation, Brian. Be careful over there. We'll get back to you.
But I understand it's getting worse in Baltimore, not very far away. CNN's Miguel Marquez is on the scene.
A lot of people are worried about Baltimore specifically. I spoke with the mayor. What are you seeing, Miguel?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is reason to worry. And officials here have gotten more and more serious in their concerns about this particular storm. The wind is starting to pick up. I want to show you what is happening here. They are worried about wet snow. Right now, the wind is starting to pick up, maybe gusting to 15, 20 miles per hour. It does hurt when you're out in it. Overnight, though, they are expecting wind to get up to 25, 30 to 35
miles per hour and gusting up to 65 miles an hour in Baltimore. You can see, a few people are still out, but this is the inner harbor here in Baltimore tonight, not a lot of people out. They are trying to get out there on the streets and get them clear.
The big concerns are about keeping those streets clear because if there are fires and emergency vehicles need to get somewhere is going to be very difficult to do if they can't get there. A lot of resources statewide. The state of Maryland in an emergency state, as well, 2,700 vehicles trying to clear those roads, those major roads throughout the state, 365,000 tons of salt in order to keep those roads clear.
They believe they are ready for this, but it's anyone's guess this storm expected only to get worse. They are expecting two inches of snow per hour at certain points and once the wind kicks up, they are very, very concerned about the effect on the residents and people's ability to move about, and if they don't have food, water, shelter, warmth -- all those things sort out now, it may be getting too late -- Wolf.
BLITZR: It's a very dangerous situation. Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.
The storm is bringing freezing rain to parts of the Carolinas making roads impassable and knocking down trees and power lines.
CNN's Alina Machado is in Charlotte for us.
Alina, the south is taking a pounding right now. I'm told about 150,000 customers, homes are already without power down there.
ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, the situation here has been difficult all day. The city of Charlotte has been a virtual ghost town. We've seen everything here from rain to slow to sleet.
And this is the product, sidewalks covered with at least a couple inches of snow and we're not talking about the light fluffy stuff. We're talking about snow that looks like this. It's icy, it's hard, it's heavy.
Also worth noting, take a look at the light pole. This is ice starting to accumulate. This is what officials here are very concerned about. So far, about 110,000 people in the Carolinas, we're talking North Carolina, South Carolina without power right now.
If this sleet continues to fall, if we continue to see snow and it stays below freezing overnight, the situation here, Wolf, could get much worse.
BLITZER: Alina, be careful over there. We'll get back in touch. Let's hope for the best for the Carolinas as well.
We're tracking this storm. We're getting new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. More on the breaking news right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[18:53:04] BLITZER: The breaking news: blizzard warnings are posted from Washington to New York and a potentially record-breaking storm pounds one-third of the United States and it's continuing to strengthen and could go on for at least 24 hours, maybe 36 hours.
Let's go back to CNN's Brian Todd in Northern Virginia, not far away from the nation's capital, where the roads are treacherous.
Brian, I've got to tell you. Experts are telling us it's about to get a whole lot worse.
TODD: It's already getting a whole lot worse, Wolf. The temperature is dropping precipitously right now. The snow is starting to kind of drift side ways because the wind is kicking up. That's going to cause snowdrift and that's going to make the roads even more treacherous.
This is an exit near Dale City, Virginia. And come on over here, I can tell you that the state police trooper that just talked to me said they are blocking this exit right now. They put the pile-ones to block the exit because people trying to get off, here's someone trying to back up right here, people trying to get off have gotten stuck moving to the right and trying to get up that hill.
Right now, the police can't do much to help them. They are trying to call tow trucks and others to help people trying to get off the exit and go up the hill. But look, it's pretty much gridlock.
Now, the good news is, on the main highway, 95 north to south, we're seeing far more fewer vehicles on the road than an hour ago. People are starting to heed the warnings. They are starting to get off the roads. But again, look what they are up against when they do that.
Part of the problem, in northern Virginia, Wolf, as you know, it's very hilly. When you get off these roads, you're not dealing with a straight-away. You're often dealing with a steep incline or decline and that's what we're dealing with right here.
So, some of these people may be stranded for a while and that's why people say you should not be out here by this point, and certainly, do not go out later on.
BLITZER: Very good advice. I hope people heed it. Brian, thank you.
Power outages are certainly and a growing danger in this storm.
[18:55:02] Joining us on the phone is Kevin Curtis. He's the vice president of Dominion Virginia Power.
Kevin, thanks very much.
How many customers in Virginia are now without power?
KEVIN CURTIS, VICE PRESIDENT, DOMINION VIRGINIA POWER (via telephone): Good evening, Wolf. Right now, we have about 600 customers out across our service area in
BLITZER: We know in the Carolinas more than 100,000 customers have already lost power. What are you bracing for over the next 24 to 36 hours?
CURTIS: Well, we knew the storm was going to be a very significant storm and potential for significant multi-day outages. So, we've been preparing since the beginning of the week and we've got over 4,000 personnel ready to go and some of those folks from far away as Florida and Arkansas and we've got crews are working 24 hours around the clock to restore power as quickly as possible in the event that it does go out.
BLTIZER: The snow is very heavy and winds are going to be very, very high. This is potentially going to knock down trees and, as a result, knock down power lines. You're bracing for that, right?
CURTIS: Absolutely. That's the greatest threat. We didn't expect many outages at this point in the storm, but as you've been covering extremely well on your show tonight, we do expect the worst part of the storm to be ahead of us and the threat with the wet snow and high winds is the greatest potential risk for knocking trees and limbs on power lines and will then take power out.
BLITZER: Kevin, thank you. Good luck to you and all of your crews. A lot of people are counting on you guys. Thank you very, very much.
Our breaking news blizzard news is going to continue in a moment but, first, an update on the race for the White House right now, and a major political war, a civil war that's brewing.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is in Iowa tonight.
Sunlen, we're seeing Republicans turning on Republicans. Update our viewers.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This is a real struggle going on within the establishment wing of the Republican Party. In one corner, you have those who are intent on stopping Donald Trump, and in another corner on those taking down Ted Cruz.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People don't even think about the "National Review".
SERFATY (voice-over): In an unprecedented move, the conservative magazine, "The National Review", out with a complete and total take down of Trump, calling Trump "a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it under foot on behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself."
A special issue with 20 respected conservatives piling on. Trump is trying to brush it off.
TRUMP: That's a dying paper. Pretty much of a dead paper.
SERFATY: And Cruz is continuing to be raked over the coals by establishment Republicans with take down this week from Iowa's Republican governor, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, and former presidential nominee Bob Dole, who called Cruz an extremist who would bring cataclysmic and wholesale losses to the party if he wins.
The chaos underscores just ten days to the Iowa caucuses how much of the establishment wing of the Republican Party is still deeply dissatisfied with the front-runners. But with Trump and Cruz on top on the polls, the decision the party is now forced into facing, who will do more harm to the party long term.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You know, whether it's death by being shot or poisoning, does it really matter?
SERFATY: As both men face incoming from their party, the two continue to inflict serious blows on each other.
TRUMP: Cruz is going down. He had his moment and blew it.
SERFATY: Trump unloading on Cruz, releasing his first negative TV ad today, a hit on Cruz, painting him as pro-Amnesty.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want immigration reform to pass.
SERFATY: And Cruz now hammering Trump in his own ad on eminent domain, the government's power to seize private property for public use.
TRUMP: I think eminent domain is wonderful.
SERFATY: Portraying the real estate developer as just a power hungry, land snatcher, an issue that resonates with New Hampshire voters.
CRUZ: He supports using government power to seize private people's home to give them to giant corporations to say hypothetically build a casino.
SERFATY: Trump today shooting back, tweeting in response, quote, "Without it, we wouldn't have road, highways, airports, schools or even pipelines."
SERFATY: And the RNC has responded to "The National Review's" takedown of Donald Trump. They have basically disinvited "The National Review" from participating in CNN's debate with the Republican candidates next month -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty, reporting for us. We'll stay on top of the political news as well. Don't forget, Monday
night, a CNN town hall meeting in Iowa with three of the presidential candidates.
We're following all of the breaking news on this historic storm hitting the greater Washington, D.C., area. These are live pictures coming in from the nation's capital. You can see the snow.
It's only just beginning really. It's going to go on for at least 24, maybe 36 hours from Washington up to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and then on to New York City, Long Island. The winds, that will be a huge, huge problem.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching.
CNN's special coverage of this historic storm continues with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".