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Poor Weather Causing Travel Delays; Supreme Court to Hear Case against Obamacare; Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Aired November 27, 2013 - 07:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Did the punishments fit the crime?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Your NEW DAY starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you need to know --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was painful. We could have gone to the Bahamas for a lot less, I think.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the end of the day no one can control Mother Nature.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you just have to see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the wind that could affect those balloons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have to fly. Somebody has to make them fly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.


CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, November 27, 7:00 in the east, the day before Thanksgiving. I hope you have so much to be thankful for. One thing we all don't want to be thankful for is the weather. It's just a mammoth storm walloping the east coast. Rain, snow, everything that makes travel difficult, stretching virtually the entire coast from Maine to Georgia.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And it doesn't matter if you're going by plane, train, or car unfortunately, major airports in the storm's path are already seeing delays including Philadelphia, Boston, and all three New York City airports. Roads aren't much better with ice and freezing rain making for a tough trip along several highways already this morning. We of course have deployed the full resources of CNN to keep you informed and safe this holiday season, with correspondents covering all of the major travel hubs. Let's start with Indra Peterson tracking the storm from the snowy Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. Hey, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. We're definitely talking about snow this morning, not a sight you want to see on the busiest travel day of the year. Take a look behind me, you can see the icy conditions that are out there. Travelers trying to get out ahead of the storm, but unfortunately, we know this storm is only worsening and we're going to be talking about heavy rain and snow and strong winds throughout the day today.


PETERSONS: A massive and powerful nor'easter pummeled the northeast overnight, bringing heavy snow and rain and causing dangerous icy roads. Satellite images from space captured the storm at one point stretching from Florida to Nova Scotia, a storm that is affecting more than 43 million travelers as they brave the elements to be with loved ones this Thanksgiving. On Tuesday, the southeast walloped by heavy rain.

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Atlanta, steady rain is causing some headaches. The roads are wet. They're slick. And they're cause something problems for the afternoon commute.

PETERSONS: Snow has already blanketed parts of the Midwest. In Wisconsin, crews scrambled to keep up with the icing roadways.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a point where there is nothing you can do. Just glare ice and you're a passenger in your own car.

PETERSONS: The nor'easter already blamed for scores of accidents and at least a dozen deaths.

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're here in Irwin, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh. This region could see between five and nine inches of snow. A state transportation official tells me that about 135 crews will be out in force in over 80 trucks trying to battle this downfall.

PETERSONS: In Arkansas, freezing rainfall led to this 12 car pileup.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I get on the highway, the next thing I know, I'm spinning.

PETERSONS: And up to a foot of snow is possible in western parts of New York and northwest Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, winds are expected to intensify over the northeast into Thanksgiving morning, those winds leaving the fate of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloons up in the air.


PETERSONS: It's a toughest time period for all the major hubs and on the roads. We're only expecting strong rain throughout the morning, heavier winds, and even some heavier snows. It's only going to make conditions much harder out there, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Indra, thanks for checking on them for us. We'll be back with you soon. One of the hardest hit areas is western New York. Plenty of snow fell this morning. More is on the way. George Howell is live just outside Buffalo. George, when we came to you before, you weren't that impressed by the snow. What have you seen since?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the snow is not coming down right now. And as I said, putting this perspective for any grizzled snow veteran, these Buffalo residents say is this is nothing. But it is substantial snowfall. Right here especially in the suburbs, you see more of it, anywhere from three to four inches of snow.

We have another camera out here that I want to go to because you can see down the road here, and down the road what we have is a wet heavy snow. And that's slushy on the roads. Obviously the snowplows are out and about, clearing the roads well as they do here in Buffalo.

But another problem, want to come back to our camera because when you look up at the power lines, you see that heavy snow sitting on the power lines. We know several hundred people are out of you power, they are having power restored this morning. But definitely the snow came through fast and left a good coating here in Buffalo.

BOLDUAN: Just looks like a regular Buffalo, but the whole problem is that this is happening the day before Thanksgiving. That's the problem. All right, George, we'll check back in with you.

Mother Nature's timing really couldn't be worse. Today is one of the busiest days of the year for air travel. These are all of the flights we're going to show you in the air over the United States right now, and more than 100 flights have already been canceled today. That number is expected to rise. CNN's Rene Marsh is live at Reagan National Airport outside Washington keeping track of that. Good morning, Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. You know, things are getting busier here as the hour moves on. You can see travelers are lining up. Everyone hoping to get on their flight, but the bad news is not everyone will get on their flight at the time it was scheduled to leave. As you know, lots of delays today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the end of the day, no one can control Mother Nature.

MARSH: The ripple effect of this nasty nor'easter causing problems in to the night for air travelers. The timing and sheer size of the storm could not be worse.

ROB YINGLING, METROPOLITAN AUTHORITY SPOKESMAN: A storm this large throughout the east coast will have some effect on the flight system.

MARSH: With just hours before Thanksgiving, delays and cancellations adding up quickly as the storm pummels some of the nation's busiest airports. On average, one in 10 flights go through New York airports. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With 80 percent of our airplanes touching the congested northeast, we're acutely aware things are go wrong quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those planes are trying to land.

MARSH: Some flights circled airports in the south on Tuesday until they could land, low clouds and heavy rain delaying one in three flights taking off late from Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The weather here delayed our flight.

MARSH: Some air travelers deciding to change their plans in hopes of beating the storm.

HAROLD ROTHMAN, TRAVELER: I was very happy I booked the day I did, because if I booked tomorrow, probably get delayed.

MARSH: The Peterson family planned on driving from north Virginia to Massachusetts, but changed their minds after seeing the forecast. They got a last minute flight instead.

JENNIFER PETERSON, TRAVELER: It was painful. We could have gone to the Bahamas for a lot less, I think.

MARSH: Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate with the great Thanksgiving escape. Once we get through today, forecasters and travelers look ahead to Sunday, the busiest travel day of the year.


MARSH: And back out here live we can tell you that the delays, a lot of them having to do with that wind. You see folks here getting their tickets, they will find out when their flight pops up is it delayed or on time. Let's get you to some specific airports. We know Hartsfield in Atlanta as well as O'Hare and Charlotte, they're really seeing the most amount of delays at this hour. We know at LaGuardia, some arriving flights are being delayed about an hour and 33 minute. And as far as cancellations go, we're seeing the most right now at Logan in Boston as well as Newark and LaGuardia. So we'll be tracking all of it and keep you updated. Back to you.

PEREIRA: Rene, we really appreciate that.

We want to drill down a little deeper because you might be at an airport right now where the sun is shining and it's a beautiful day and you're wondering why your flight is suddenly delayed. Let's say you're flying from Chicago to Phoenix tomorrow, but suddenly your flight is delayed despite good weather. Once you arrive in Phoenix, it won't stay in Phoenix. It's going to make a whole lot of other routes. It will turn on to Kansas City, then to Nashville, then to Pittsburgh, and then back to Chicago, a whole lot of stops. The airlines want to keep all of those trips intact and get everyone to their destination.

So in a storm like today's, the forecast may say parts of the east coast will be getting the worst hit, but you'll see cancellations in all of the airports. That includes that Pittsburgh stop that you talked about -- that you originally were going to see. And then that has a vehicle he will down effect, it messes up every other flight that is going to be seeing the planes make the other stops.

So here's the deal -- when you multiply all of the delays by airlines and by airports, it really can make a mess, and that turns out to be the ripple effect. Here is a piece of advice that I think is really valuable and that we can now use. Use social media. Maybe follow your airline on Twitter and social media. They're quicker at updating sometimes than their websites and you may not be able to get a hold of a person on the phone if you call them. If you can call ahead, if you can check online, use Twitter to your advantage, as well.

BOLDUAN: That's a great point. We learned yesterday that the CEO of the Philadelphia airport said they will be tweeting stuff out, as well. So you can follow the airport as well.

You're getting a live look at New York's Penn Station, one of the east coast's commuter hubs that is already jam-packed with travelers on this getaway day. They could have their hands full with the brunt of the storm bearing down. We're going to be keeping an eye on this for you. And if you're stuck at the airport or on the road, tell us about it. We'll bring your stories to air. Go to Hopefully your travels are OK, but let us know how it's going.

CUOMO: We hope there isn't much to report, but you know how to reach us, and please do.

Coming up on NEW DAY, the highest court in the land agrees to hear one of the biggest challenges to Obamacare yet. Should companies be required to provide coverage for contraception and the morning after pill? At least two companies say no. Will the court side with them? We'll take you through it.

BOLDUAN: Plus traveling on this day before Thanksgiving is usually a challenge. Throw in a major storm and you've got some real issues that we've been talking about this morning. Our Pamela Brown is just outside New York City heading to I-95. Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, we've been out on the roads all morning, and let me tell you, if you're hoping to beat the holiday travel rush by hitting the roads earlier today, that may not be your best bet. We've been tracking the conditions and we will bring you the latest in just about half an hour from now.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Obamacare is going back to the Supreme Court. The justices agreed Tuesday to review two cases where employers are required to provide insurance coverage for contraception without a copay. That's part of the law. The companies at the center of this issue argue the law's mandate goes against their religious beliefs. Here to break it all down is CNN's political analyst and executive editor of "The Daily Beast" John Avlon, and in Washington Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University. Good morning to both of you.

Jonathan, I want to start with you. Politically, we'll get into the politics of this because this is a very politically charged issue, but legally the constitutional issues at hand are fascinating. What are the justices going to consider?

JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, this could really have gigantic impact, and not just for Obama care, but how we read the religion clauses, particularly the free exercise clause.

At issue is a split in the circuits. One circuit, the tenth circuit, said that corporations are persons, and they built that on the rather controversial 2010 decision in Citizens United. And what the court said if they have speech rights, they also have religious rights.

Another court, the third circuit, ruled that had they don't. Both of those cases have now been accepted. Not only would the success of this case out of the tenth circuit deliver a blow to Obamacare, but it would radically expand the right of people to make religious objections, not just to Obamacare, but also to perhaps some non discrimination laws that we're seeing popping up in conflicts around the country.

CUOMO: That's interesting. There's another legal point that I want to come to with you in a second, Professor, about how Justice Scalia, who has had very definite ideas about issues like contraception and reproductive rights may be on the other side of this because what he said in the past 1990, the peyote case. But we'll get to that in a second.

Politically, this could be a win for people who don't like Obamacare. The law could go that way in the courts because of the split we just heard from Professor Turley. What does this mean if it happens?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I mean, Chris, politically this is very charged, and both sides have something to lose and something to gain. For Republicans, this gives them a chance to relitigate Obamacare, to fire up their base and to really take the case for religious liberty. This is an animated principle for many conservatives.

On the other side is individual liberty questions and the increasing role of suburban swing voters to really resent when government starts getting involved on social issues, particularly contraception. So Democrats can play their war on women card going into a midterm election, which has been very effective in the past. So both sides of the political fault lines line up very clearly here straight to the Supreme Court in a congressional election year.

BOLDUAN: What's the Obama administration saying about this so far? Clearly they support the law; they defend the law. But are they -- do you think they should be concerned about the political fallout?

AVLON: The Obama administration says they're confident that the law will be upheld as it has been in the past. Remember, they already created an exemption for nonprofits that didn't want to participate in this aspect of the law.

BOLDUAN: That was a political fight to get to that point.

AVLON: That was a major political fight and a concession on the part of the Obama administration. So at heart here, really, comes corporations. Can your boss deny you contraception? That is a loaded emotional issue with political, cultural and legal implications.

CUOMO: All right, so let me get back to you for a second, Professor, on this. And here's why, 1990, Justice Scalia says that smoking peyote, OK -- that he was against it legally, because what he said was, 'You can't use your religion to excuse compliance with otherwise good law.' Do you think that might handcuff the justice in deciding this case?

TURLEY: You'd be amazed at how these people can escape handcuffs. You know, in 2010, the decision of Citizens United was like watching an episode of "The Borgias" --


-- when Chief Justice Roberts switched at the last minute and saved the act. These people are quite nimble in those types of maneuvers. What's interesting here is that you have a for-profit corporation. And here the owner of Hobby Lobby does not object to giving contraception services --


TURLEY: -- but only part of those, the morning after pill. And I think the administration is going to be able to use that to say, 'Look, if you allow every to develop these very specific objections, not only will you not have uniformity, but women will be in the position of having to find out from every potential employer what is it that you like and don't like for religious purposes.'

BOLDUAN: And this may have been a greater question when we were talking about the individual mandate because that was the core of the law when this was fought the first time around. But when you look at this element, should there be concern? Or what do you think about the slippery slope argument? Kinda like a Jenga game, you pull out this part, or this is seen to go too far, then the whole law is open to be battled.

AVLON: I don't think this aspect is a Jenga game that collapses the whole law, even though advocates -- against Obamacare will say that it is and fund raise off it to that effect. What this really does get to is profound questions about religious liberty, about corporations, about personal conscious.

And while I love that Chris loves to have good opportunity to talk about peyote early in the morning --

BOLUDAN: Any opportunity!

(LAUGHTER) AVLON: -- you know, there absolutely is this potential for contradiction. Because socially conservative justices can be opposed to illegal drugs. Here they really have that religious liberty impulse plus the political level. And the fact of the matter is on a political level, the court has become so politicized in recent years, it really does distort their judgment and shake people's confidence. So you're gonna see this being a front in the midterm elections like it or not.

CUOMO: It also raises the question at what point do you stop challenging the law? At what point do you accept that this was passed, it was tested by the Supreme Court? You talk about good standing law. It was already vetted by the Supreme Court, and that you just leave it alone and figure out its implementation. To me, it's a growing distraction from dealing with the problems of Obamacare.

AVLON: We're not at that point yet, that's for sure. We've got at least one more round in the Supreme Court.

BOLDUAN: And Jonathan, real quick, timing wise, likely to be argued in March, decided by the end of June? Is that what you're hearing?

TURLEY: Right, this is gonna be a spring argument. And we're gonna see very clearly not just how the justices feel about this provision of Obamacare, but how far they're willing to go in terms of spreading the -- or expanding the right to claim religious freedom, whether corporations can do that. The third circuit said, 'Look, a corporation can't pray, can't engage in religious practices.' But the tenth circuit said they're persons and this comes with being a person.

BOLDUAN: That's why there is a the highest court in the land. Because when there's a dispute, someone's gotta settle it.

CUOMO: You thought it was complicated before, wait until the law gets involved. They will be arguing about the Religious Freedoms Act that doesn't apply to states, so what does that mean for Obamacare on the federal level versus the states? It's gonna get really complicated.

BOLDUAN: Are corporations people? There's your headline.

CUOMO: Persons. This is the law. Everything has to sound weird.

BOLDUAN: Apologies. Persons. You're good persons, too.

CUOMO: Happy Thanksgiving to both of you.

TURLEY: You too.

AVLON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

CUOMO: Coming up on "NEW DAY": a beloved holiday tradition in jeopardy. Will the wind ground the balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving day Parade? Say it ain't so. But you have to remember, when those balloons go wrong, it could have deadly consequences. We'll tell you about them.

BOLDUAN: And another blow for Alec Baldwin, his MSNBC talk show pulled after controversial comments that he made off the show. So what is next for the actor? We will discuss.


CUOMO: Welcome back to "NEW DAY". On an ordinary day, all of the rough weather would be a pain. You wouldn't like it. It's an inconvenience. It could be dangerous. But on one of the busiest travel days of the year, it's just simply a nightmare. Remember, 43 million people plan to make their Thanksgiving getaways by plane, car, train, whatever way they can. But the rain, snow, icy roads are gonna have to force many to rethink it.

BOLDUAN: Planes are having trouble taking off on the East coast. Just look at this map. And flights from elsewhere are having trouble landing. Driving conditions are just as bad, unfortunately. We have all the angles on the situation covered for you. Let's start with Indra Peterson in the snowy Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.

INDRA PETERSONS, METEOROLOGIST: We're definitely seeing snow out here. And I'm gonna step it up a notch. Normally traveling also would be bad enough alone, but now traveling combined with all this winter weather, here is the nightmare we were afraid of. And, of course, that's exactly what we're dealing with today, rain, snow, and even strong winds. Nothing good in the air or on the ground.

Let's talk about where the storm is right now. Take a look at the satellite picture. Anywhere from the northeast and still, all the way back down even pretty much through the Carolinas. We're still talking about heavy rain and snow. And we've seen a pretty good amount of snow. Remember, on the front side, it's rain closer to the coast, the back side, the snow.

Yesterday already in Ohio, anywhere from six to eight inches of snow was already seen. We saw snow coming into Pittsburgh. And remember, even if it's not snowing hard -- right now, it's a little bit light -- the visibility is so poor. I mean, just trying to land in Pittsburgh, I didn't even see the runway until literally the wheels touched. That's gonna be a concern today, the visibility getting those aircrafts up and down today.

Also we're gonna be talking about snow anywhere from a foot of snow right around the Great Lakes, of course that lake-effect snow tapering off even back through Kentucky and Tennessee in the morning hours.

The big story as the low continues to make its way to the north, rain increases. Things actually worsen for you out there. Heavier amounts of rain will start falling. Heavier snow will start moving in places like upstate New York, Pennsylvania, even through West Virginia. So that is a concern for these major hubs today. And it's not the only thing.

Of course we talked about two to four inches of rain, maybe a foot of snow the farther north you are. It's also high wind, high wind warnings are out there for New England. We've already seen gusts as high as 45 miles per hour in through New York, in through places like Connecticut, New England. We're talking about gusts as high as 60 miles per hour in these morning hours.

Remember, this is the toughest time period. Things are gonna be strongest in these morning hours. The winds start to taper off again tonight. The rain and snow starts to move out, but for Thanksgiving Day if you're a last minute travelers, we're still gonna have that problem being those winds.

CUOMO: All right, Indra. And strong point last minute travelers. Remember, a lot of people working today, so you have people working, people trying to get to see their families, all this rain. The roads are slick. The temperatures are keeping them icy. It's a dangerous situation. Pamela Brown is on one of the major thoroughfares on the East coast, interstate 95 outside New York City. What are we seeing out there, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, you pointed out last time we talked that my job today is to find traffic. I'm here on 95 north, . Right now, it's smooth sailing going this direction, but we're gonna show you 95 south. We just passed an accident there and the traffic is very backed up, as you can see here and from one of our cameras. This is going all the way down. We've been -- we just passed the accident about three or four minutes ago and the traffic is still backed up, just to give you an idea.

This could be the scene all over today as the weather conditions continue to deteriorate. This morning, the rain is expected to pick up. The temperatures are expected to drop. You could see some black ice on the roads. It's supposed to snow the further west we go. The rain's supposed to pick up the further east we go.

And 39 million Americans are expected to hit the roads today on this busiest travel day of the year according to AAA. So that's just gonna be compounded by these horrible weather conditions, really just a recipe for disaster.

I've been asking people to tweet to me and tell me their travel woes today. One person just tweeted and said that a typical drive from D.C. To Dayton, Ohio is eight hours. It took them 13 hours to get there. So many stories people are sharing. If you have a story, tweet me @pamelabrownCNN.

Back to you guys. We'll keep you updated.

BOLDUAN: And I hone you're also asking people to tweet what you their favorite car games are, because they will need it with that traffic. All right. Thanks so much, Pamela.

CUOMO: What's your favorite car game?

BOLDUAN: My favorite car game is I Spy.

CUOMO: Really?

BOLDUAN: Yeah, you'd be very good at it, .

CUOMO; Mine is Be Quiet.

BOLDUAN: Mine is feed Chris' children candy.


CUOMO: It's tough when you have kids, and a lot of people are gonna be dealing with that, that's for sure.

BOLDUAN: True, let's talk about the winds, though, as Indra was talking about just a little earlier. Nasty weather is now threatening a Thanksgiving tradition. Big winds expected in New York Thursday morning, which could ground Snoopy, Sponge Bob and all of the other Macy's Parade balloons.

CNN's Jason Carroll is on the parade route this morning. Jason, what are seeing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me just say this. What I'm seeing is the barricades have been set up. The bleachers have been set up. Everything so far is proceeding as planned. They're readying the big balloons, but all of that could change first thing tomorrow morning.


CARROLL (voice-over): Up, up and away, maybe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Along the I-95 quarter --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very powerful winds.

UNIDDENTIFED MALE: And this is the wind that could affect those balloons.

CARROLL: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade's giant balloons: will they fly or won't they?