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Nor'easter May Bring Region to a Halt; CBO Estimates 24M Uninsured by 2026; March Madness Tips Off Tonight. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 14, 2017 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: winter making the final stand. Snowstorm with whiteout conditions starting to churn with tens of millions of people in its path. It is here, folks. We have complete coverage of the late winter nor'easter.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Dave Briggs. It is Tuesday, March 14th. Hard to believe, 5:00 a.m. in the East, because we're less than a week away from spring.

[05:00:03] But it does not feel like it along the coast. The snow we have been warning about, starting to fall across the Northeast, expected to get heavier throughout the morning, keep falling all day. Tens of millions under blizzard or winter storm warnings.

ROMANS: And there are states of emergency from Maryland, on up to New England, making for dangerous and or deadly conditions. New York City and Boston expecting to be hit hard. New York to get a foot of snow or more. Chad Myers just told us it's going to snow for another ten hours here.

Parts of Massachusetts could see two feet. Officials warning of high winds creating potential whiteout conditions and schools in Boston, Philly, New York, they've been already been closed.

BRIGGS: So far, airlines have canceled more than 5,300 flights in the U.S. according to Amtrak says it will run what it calls a modified schedule in the Northeast today. As always, ahead of the possible blizzard, folks have been clearing out grocery store shelves like the end of the world is upon us.

We have the very latest on the storm with reporters all along the East Coast, starting with meteorologist Chad Myers right here at Columbus Circle.

Chad, is it the light fluffy variety or that hard, wet Northeast snow we see sometimes?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, we are still light and fluffy. That is because it was so dry and so cold yesterday. It never really warmed up much. We're like 33 degrees at sunset. The dew point means the relative humidity was low. When it started to

snow, the snow made it even colder here. So, now, we are now down into the 20s.

If I walk back here, this is Columbus circle. I can do this for a while until traffic. So, probably two to there 3 inches of snow here tops. That is all we have right now. They are not salting it. This is all snow. There is no salt on this road at all.

They're just going to plow it. They will eventually plow in big piles and if they can, they're going to push into the Hudson River and maybe the east side if they can. Other than that, what I'm seeing now is the snow particles picking up.

I switched positions with my photographer so the snow is blowing in my face. And let me tell you, it is cold, it's blustery and it is starting to sting a little bit. We talked about this with Ryan a bit ago, he's already down in Philadelphia feeling that sting of that changeover with sleet mixed in. We will see more snow to the west. More rain/snow where we are and all rain farther east.

I think we are going to see 24-inch snow totals in western Massachusetts and into parts of New York state and also into the Poconos, into the Catskills, and all the way down the spine of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Farther to the East, I-95, that's where the rain kind of snow kind of mixes.

Now, if you are east of New Jersey or Atlantic City, you are all rain. You're not even going to get any snow. If you are Nantucket or Cape Cod, very little snow. But you're going to get wind.

Everyone later today as the storm picks up, I know it's impossible to believe, it's going to get worse in this. But it's going to go way worse than this. We'll see winds of 55 miles per hour. so, this wind is going to blow around for sure.

ROMANS: Wow, that's dangerous. All right. Chad Myers, for us, it looks cold. We're still here warm in the studio. Thank you, sir. We'll talk to you very soon.

Let's get on the phone with the New York City Office of Emergency Management, James Esposito, was there. He's the deputy commissioner for planning and preparedness.

Could you hear me, sir? Good morning.


ROMANS: What are you expecting in terms of snowfall? We've just heard Chad Myers report there. This is just the early innings here, isn't it?

ESPOSITO: Yes. We have National Weather Service working closely with us here in New York City Emergency Management. The latest forecast we are told involves 8 to 16 inches through the metropolitan area. The areas to the south down by Rockaway, down by JFK, we are expecting somewhere between 9 inches and 10 inches, whereas the farther north you travel, we are looking up in Riverdale, they may see 16 inches of snow.

So, we have a storm with a very sharp gradient as NWS is referring to it. And these type of differences are significant as you travel through the five boroughs.

BRIGGS: What types of preparations is the city making in advance of the biggest snowfall which is still to come?

ESPOSITO: Yes, we have sanitation out on the streets. They have some 1,600 plows deployed throughout the five boroughs. They have 283,000 tons of salt out there. DOT has deployed crews to pre-treat, to pre- treat pedestrian overpasses and certain bridges across the rivers.

The emergency operations center has been activated since last night. We have 35 agency representatives, including state and National Guard folks as well. We are working together and coordinating our operations, our communications and we are doing our best to support whatever emergencies may arise.

ROMANS: Mr. Esposito, you often hear people when there's a storm like this say, oh, you know, this is nothing.

[05:05:03] We have seen big storms before. We are overreacting.

These can be potentially very, very dangerous. Both for roadways and also for the high winds we're expecting later today. How concerned are you about the high winds?

ESPOSITO: Yes. The National Weather Service has not ruled out blizzard-like conditions when we have steady winds and/or gusts of 35 miles an hour or more over a three-hour period. They say the likelihood of that occurring is very real. We are still looking at perhaps 2 to 4 inches of snow coming down some time between 7:00 a.m. this morning and 9:00 a.m. this morning.

So, the safety of New Yorkers is obviously first. We highly recommend everyone to stay off the roads. Let sanitation do their jobs. If you have to go out, please use the subway system if at all possible. But anticipate delays and possible cancellations.

BRIGGS: What is the status of the subway system?

ESPOSITO: So, the subways are running right now. Express subway service has been suspended.

BRIGGS: So, aboveground trains will be shutdown. But below ground, you plan to keep throughout the day?

ESPOSITO: Right now, for specific information, the public is being directed to website. They will have all of the details on that right now.

ROMANS: What is your advice to people who are waking up and think they will try to trudge to work or think this is something they want to be out walking around in or driving around in?

ESPOSITO: Now, we highly recommend New Yorkers stay at home. Work from home if you can.

ROMANS: All right. Work from home if you can. Dave and I did not get that memo.

James Esposito, thanks, sir. And I don't think you're working from home either today. So, stay safe for us. Check in with us if details warrant. Thank you, sir.

BRIGGS: So, again, Mr. Esposito and all New York officials encourage you to stay off the roads. But we encourage CNN's Alison Kosik to stay on the roads to tell us exactly what the conditions are like in northern New Jersey.

What is it like, Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just think about, if I wasn't on the road right now, you would not see what it looks like on the New Jersey turnpike. So, here's what it looks like. Let's switch the camera.

And there's a nice thin coating of snow right on the ground here. It doesn't look like plows run through here in some time. Now, on the turnpike, we have sort of gone back and forth on it a bit, noticing the salt spreaders out going north, as well as we did see a plow going north as well. Not seeing it going south.

Here and there, we are seeing cars and trucks on the turnpike. You see a truck in front of me with its hazards on. One good thing we are seeing cars and trucks on the turnpike heeding the warnings and at least going slowly. As you heard, New Jersey transit, that is the commuter rail system working on a weekend schedule, the bus service has been shutdown.

You know, there has been a state of emergency declared in New Jersey which means everybody should really stay off the roads. I mean, it looks like a winter wonderland out here. It is kind of pretty because it's sort of untouched snow at this point.

But don't be fooled. It is really slippery out here -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: It's just so nutty, because just the other day, I mean, it was a beautiful 70 degree day, with crocuses up, with the daffodils starting to come up. So, late -- just Mother Nature really knows how to get you.

All right. Alison, thank you so much.

KOSIK: Exactly.

ROMANS: Philadelphia among the areas under a snow emergency. The city taking a brunt before the storm heads up here to New York City.

Ryan Young is there for us in Philadelphia where it looks so wet and really kind of miserable.

And I know you've had this little longer than we have so far. But you still got hours to go, I suspect.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do have hours ago and I guess the good news here is the last few snow plows that have gone by haven't even had to put it down because look at the road way at this point. It's a little bit just a slushy mess. We really didn't dealing with that, sort of that ice, pelt, sleet mix so far.

But we went to sleep last, we expected to see a lot more snow. You look in this direction, of course, areas that have not been plowed. You can see the snow that has fallen in the last few hours. But as of right now, this is like a rain event for us that is in their area, because every time you go back inside the truck, we're completely wet. We are not dealing with the snow.

More and more cars, though, are starting to hit the road and, as you see, it's very passable. The thing that worries you right now is, of course, maybe the idea of black ice and all this slush, and I have to mention this, the wind hasn't really picking up. And, of course, we talked about in the last half hour, winds gusts expecting to reach 50 miles per hour. That seems like that could be something that can be dangerous later on with people who might be dealing with it.

Look, this guy is going by on a scooter. He is not worried about the snow. You see how different at this point in terms of how the roadways are.

BRIGGS: That is unexpected.

ROMANS: You never know what is going to happen.

BRIGGS: Brave soul.

YOUNG: Live shots. Live shots.

BRIGGS: They are tough in Philly, man.

[05:10:01] ROMANS: They are tough in Philly.

BRIGGS: Thank you, Ryan.

The wind, though, is the key. That is what you have to look out for.

ROMANS: And the power companies have been sending out e-mails all night long in the Northeast saying, you know, look, be prepared for power outages here. If you have old growth trees, you know, coming down on the power lines. We'll wait and see if that happens.

BRIGGS: I'm going to get out in the 9:00 a.m. hour. I'll let you know.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BRIGGS: Another storm brewing, this one in politics. Republicans looking for a path forward after a dismal CBO report on their health plan. We will crunch numbers for you, next.


ROMANS: All right. Welcome back. Good morning, everyone.

Republicans in Washington on the defensive after the Congressional Budget Office released a rough estimate on the effect of repealing Obamacare. The CBO score says 14 million fewer Americans will have health insurance by next year, 24 million fewer in 10 years.

[05:15:01] And premiums would jump on individual health insurance market at least in the short-term. But, ultimately, would be down 10 percent.

Let's bring in political analyst Ellis Henican, author of "Trump's America" column for the Metro papers.

Good morning.


When you say rough, do you mean general or do you mean like pounding, nasty?

ROMANS: I mean, it's a rough estimate and rough estimate, both. Let's listen to what Tom Price, Secretary Tom Price said and listen to what Congressman Paul Ryan said about the very same set of numbers.


TOM PRICE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out. We believe that our plan will cover more individuals at a lower price and give them the choices that they want, for the coverage that they want for themselves and for their family, not that the government forces them to buy.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, actually, I think if you read this entire report, I'm pretty encouraged by it and it actually exceeded my expectations. We're saying that government is not going to force people to buy something that they don't want to buy. And if we end an Obamacare mandate that says you must buy this government one-size-fits-all plan, guess what? People are not going to buy that.


BRIGGS: All right. If you didn't hear it, I got to read it back to you. They're encouraged, exceeded their expectations, and yet strenuously disagree with it.

HENICAN: I can't believe it.

BRIGGS: You've got to speak with one voice. Which is it?

HENICAN: It's a little confusing. My guess is the scapegoating is getting ready to begin, right? This is not doing well. And who's going to get blamed? Is it Donald Trump for not getting involved? Is it Paul Ryan for guiding the process?

BRIGGS: Were they surprised? Did they expect these numbers?

ROMANS: I think they did expect these numbers, right?

HENICAN: They expected bad numbers. I think these were a little worse than expected, but I tell you why, because you know for past week, they have been trashing the CBO, the people who are making it. If they were expecting to like the numbers, they would have said, what a fine bipartisan agency that was.

ROMANS: Let's remind, everybody. The CBO, you know, alphabet soup of Washington, the Congressional Budget Office. It's nonpartisan and its job is to look at this stuff objectively and advice Congress on how this is going to cost.

BRIGGS: And Tom Price appointed the head of the CBO as well.

ROMANS: Right. It could cut the deficit, you know, $337 billion, in part because if you less funding for Medicaid, billions for Medicaid. And when we look at these numbers, we also see, 50 to 64-year-old working class voters would pay more for their insurance. Those are Trump supporters.

HENICAN: They are. The older you get right up to that 65 ceiling when you go into Medicare, those are the people who suffer the most.

You know, listen, so far, the polls say they are hanging tough and remaining loyal. Will this be the blow that shakes them? That's something to watch.

BRIGGS: But Paul Ryan again makes the point that the point of these number is that there's no mandate, that people can choose whether or not they want insurance. And they can choose plans that better suit their needs.

What about that argument?

HENICAN: I get the attraction of choice. We all do want choice. But in the end, we also want health care, right? If you are going to take 24 million people who under the current system are getting care, and they are no longer going to be able to see a doctor.

ROMANS: Some of those people won't want care. Some of those people are going to say, I don't want to pay care. I'm healthy, forget it.

HENICAN: I understand. In some cases, that might even be a financial rational decision. But you know what? People ought to see the doctor when they have the ability to do it. We want a system I think that allows them to do it.

ROMANS: One of the things that's interesting here is that Donald Trump campaigned on cutting taxes for everyone, but particularly the middle class. If they do this, taxes on the wealthy are cut dramatically. The first tax cuts of this presidency would be for the very richest Americans. Is that a problem for him? HENICAN: You know, it certainly goes against what he said in the

campaign. But the question of the loyalty of Trump supporters is a complex one. One thing we've learned is that one little blow or another doesn't necessarily shake it.

BRIGGS: Remember what he said, he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any voters. He said that. It does bear out.

HENICAN: But, Dave, this is people's health care.

BRIGGS: Yes. Well, Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, will be on "NEW DAY." They will certainly ask him about some of these numbers as well and you'll be back in about a half hour.

ROMANS: Get a cup of coffee. Come back. We'll talk about some more. Thanks.

BRIGGS: All right. Time to put the finishing touches on those NCAA brackets.

ROMANS: I did it yesterday.

BRIGGS: You already did?

ROMANS: I did it, right after the show.

BRIGGS: I'm not halfway through.

The NCAA tournament begins tonight. If you are still deliberating, Dickie V is here to help. Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Good morning, Coy. We'll see you in a minute.


[05:23:52] BRIGGS: A lot to talk about ice and snow, but now, it's time for a little March Madness. The NCAA tournament tips off tonight on Turner truTV.

ROMANS: And Coy Wire joins us now.

And, Coy, you had a chance to talk with a basketball, college basketball legend to get his prediction.

BRIGGS: Dickie V.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I did, Christine and Dave. Good morning.

It was awesome, baby. I've got some bracket being tipped for us from the one and only Dick Vitale, promoting all states bracket challenge. Still more energy than a toddler getting into a pack of M&Ms. You got to love the guy.

I asked the guru who he thinks is going to win. Let's say folks in Chapel Hill are going to really like what he had to say.


DICK VITALE, ESPN COLLEGE BASKETBALL ANALYST: My gut feeling tells me, when it's all said and done, the Zags are going to prove all the naysayers out there, Gonzaga, that they're legit by getting to the final game. But in the final game, they're going to run into a dilemma. They're going to run into the explosive offensive team of North Carolina.

And when it is all said and done, Coy, the Tar Heels are going to cut the nets down and win the national title.


WIRE: He made the hair on the back of my head stand up. I don't have any.

March Madness happening tonight in Turner's truTV at 6:40 Eastern, the first of the two games of the first four from Dayton, Ohio, sixteenth seed Mt. St. Mary's and New Orleans.

[05:25:06] They will get the winner -- the winner there facing number one overall seed Villanova. And then you also have 11th seed Kansas State and Wake Forest playing the night cap for a date with Cincinnati on Friday. It is here.

After going 0-8, the long wait is over for Tim Tebow, hitting his first hit in spring training yesterday with the shot to left field. And how about this? Tebow also making a diving grab robbing a Marlins batter while playing left field. He still got it.

He is expected to play the rest of spring training in the Mets' minor league camp. What a good outing in the third show with the big league there in the Mets.

While tens of millions are under blizzard or winter storm warnings in the Northeast, we're keeping an eye on the impact this could have on the sporting world for you. Both the Knicks and Nets have home games tonight. They are still scheduled to play. But the final decision will be made by the NBA.

In the NHL, the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals, both have home games as of right now. They are still scheduled to drop the puck. Several college basketball teams playing in the NCAA and NIT tournament have already left early ahead of this story, including number one overall Villanova who went up to Buffalo to be ready to play.

BRIGGS: Travel schedules could wreck. Gonzaga wins it all, according to Romans, Coy.

WIRE: I'm slightly disappointed because I do see Iowa State, fifth seed, you are --

ROMANS: Don't tell anybody. I took them for a while, and then. I've got to say, though, me picking a bracket together is like a monkey picking stocks with a dart board.

BRIGGS: I like the bracket. It's a good bracket.

WIRE: Dave, I was looking for the Colorado Buffalos. I didn't see them. I must have missed them.

BRIGGS: Wow, that's a tough shot. We don't often see that.

Well, enjoy the first four, Coy. We appreciate it, man.

ROMANS: Thanks, Coy.

WIRE: All right, guys. Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. Get out your shovels. Winter making a last showing, it's not a quite one. Live reports through the region and the latest snowstorm forecast, next.