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First Winter Storm of 2014; NFL Player Released for Advocacy?

Aired January 3, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, that dangerous nor'easter slamming the Northeast. Up to a foot of snow could fall, as blizzard conditions wreak havoc. It's so cold in some places, exposed sking could freeze in fifteen minutes.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Travel nightmare: roads are closed, more than 2,000 flights cancelled from this storm. We have what you need to know to get where you need to be.

ROMANS: Incredible rescue: A man plucked from the ice in Chicago after he fell into Lake Michigan.

Good morning. Welcome to early start this Friday morning. I'm Christine Romans for you, this Friday morning.

CABRERA: And I'm Ana Cabrera. John Berman is hosting NEW DAY. It is brutally cold, it's snowy, it's windy this morning, but hey, at least it's Friday, right? January 3rd, it's now 5 a.m. in the East.

And right off the top, let's get to that breaking news.

A beast of a winter storm battering the Northeast right now -- 100 million people are in its path. Driving snow and fierce winds forcing the governors of New Jersey and New York to declare a state of emergency.

This storm is enormous. Parts of New York state and New England will be digging out from well over a foot of snow later today. In fact, 21 inches already reported in Boxford, Massachusetts. Much of the reason also facing extreme cold with sustained winds of 30 miles an hour or more and windchills below zero. Air travel is a nightmare. Thousands of flights cancelled or delayed. Highways impassible. Many of them shutdown so plows can do their job. And blizzard conditions from the Big Apple all the way up to Maine.

CNN has the first winter storm of 2014 covered like no other network can. And we begin in Boston with Indra Petersons.

Break it down for us, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I'm not sure if you can see how much snow is literally blowing at my face right this second. This is how it has been all night long. And we started yesterday, got one of the last flights into Logan before they cancelled those flights. Thanks of course to these stormy conditions. Now take a look at this snow. I don't know if you could see down the street here. We've already been about a good six inches or so here in just south of Boston. Places north of us has seen almost over a foot and a half already. But here's the thing. It's kind of those mixed blessings. If your car stuck in the snow well, it's not going to be that hard to get it out if you can get out ahead of it. Because just take a look, we have this berm.

Look at how dry the snow is. We can literally just kick it around. We were concerned we wouldn't be able to get over this berm this morning but we're able to quickly just drive right through it. So that's the good news as far as digging your car out of the snow or try to walk kind of walk through these berms or drive through these berms but of course it also means it is blowing around a lot easier.

I'll pick some of this snow up here. Not that I didn't show you, just kicking it around here. Very easy to see in the wind. This guy just quickly blows away. And that's the concern. The visibility down to a quarter mile or less. So that makes for dangerous conditions out here on these roads. Hopefully, no one is trying to drive on them.

The other side of it. The temperatures. Well, you're talking about temperatures this morning. Feels right now like negative 20 degrees. Very dangerous. In these conditions, you talked about the threat for frostbite for any exposed skin in just 10 minutes. So definitely concern as we go throughout the day today.

We already we have blizzard warnings really kind of from Maine all the way down even Long Island, not including Boston. The reason for that? You have these strong winds blowing out of the north, even a good 30, 35 miles per hour. So much so that even in Boston we have the threat for some coastal erosions and beach erosions here and some flooding from those winds, just kind of picking up that water and bringing it onshore.

Of course we have that and the heavy amounts of snow around Essex. You actually have what we call ocean effect snow. So you have all that moisture from this low building off the coastline and now you have those winds pulling it onshore so you have even more enhanced snowfall, even as much as two feet of snow is going to be possible in that region.

Should be tapering off probably later today and of course by early afternoon, this guy kicks out of here but snow like this on the ground as long as those winds are still blowing, you're still going to have those concerns with poor visibility and we talked about those temperatures. No one wants to be shoveling out anything like this when it feels like a negative 20 high today. Still just the teens.

CABRERA: It is brutally cold when you hear that. And the wind of course.

Indra, we certainly appreciate you staying on top of this and sending you and all the people there in Boston warm thoughts this morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And our breaking news coverage of this big winter storm continues now in eastern Massachusetts, expected to get hit hard this morning.

Laurie Segall is live in Chatham, Massachusetts.

And in Cape Cod, they're battling, Laurie, blizzard conditions, winds gusting over 50 miles an hour. And I know earlier it was so cold and so windy we couldn't even get your satellite shot but there you are. There you are. Your wonderful trip to the Cape.

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN MONEY TECH CORRESPONDENT: I am here, lo and behold, I am here. And you see right here I have a wind meter. I've been holding it up. You see that the wind is gusting. We're talking up to 30 miles per hour, sometimes even more. But we're here in Chatham, Massachusetts, which is a seaside town so we're right near the coast.

You can -- you cal feel the factor right near the coast. It's not just wind. It's wind and snow and snow blowing quite a bit. You know, we spoke to the fire department just yesterday. Actually just a couple of hours ago and -- what they said is they're doubling down. You know, they've got six hooks. You've got to remember this is a small town.

They actually now have 12 so, you know, they're prepared in this kind of area for this kind of storm. As you can imagine. But, you know, right now, we're in a blizzard warning until 11:00 a.m. There's coastal flood warnings. Right now it hasn't been so bad with the coastal flood warnings but, you know, they are waiting for the tide to come in around noon to see how bad that will actually be.

And let me just give it to you from our standpoint. You know, we were driving this morning to get to our live shot and we almost got stuck on the road because the roads are in pretty bad condition. You know, the people in the town here are pretty good attitude about this. They were all gathered at a local pub last night kind of waiting the storm.

But when it comes down to it, you guys, it's coming down pretty hard and you can hear and you can see the wind and the gusting and really it's snow essentially blowing in the background here. You see snow plows coming through every so often. You know, we'll wait and see how much damage was done.

You know, so far when I spoke to people, they said not much. People are just staying off the roads and kind of weathering the storm.

ROMANS: Yes. And it's winter. You know? I mean, people, they have been hit by these storms before, they know they've got to kind of hunker down, let the snow plows do their work, don't go to school. We'll have to just -- I don't know. Play part cheesy today, I guess, right?


Well, you're working hard out there. All right. Thanks, Laurie. Nice to see you.

CABRERA: And Christine, since you just mentioned it, New York public schools now just cancelling school today, too, so we now have Boston and New York.

Well, Massachusetts where we've been talking to a lot of folks this morning is among the hardest hit areas by this powerful winter storm.

And joining us now by phone from Cape Cod is Kevin Morley. He is the Barnes Stable County director of Emergency Management.

Kevin, thanks so much. We know you're busy this morning so we appreciate you taking a few minutes with us.

KEVIN MORLEY, CAPE COD PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER: Thanks very much. One quick correction, I'm the public information officer, not the director. That would get me in trouble --


CABRERA: We just gave you a promotion this morning.


Well, OK. Thank you for that. What are the conditions like on the ground where you are there in the Cape Cod area?

MORLEY: Well, of course, your report is out in Chatham and that's about 12 miles from where I am. And we have the blowing snow. We have the gusting winds still, you know, under 40. We have temperatures that will be dropping. We have, you know, the storm is going to continue for us for quite a while with that ocean effect that you had talked about earlier.

CABRERA: And besides just the miserable conditions, are you guys having any problems as far as damages, injuries, accidents, that type of thing popping up?

MORLEY: Thankfully not. It's been a very quiet night. The -- we are worried about some, you know, tidal surge in Sandwich. Fortunately that didn't materialize at the midnight hour but we still have one more tide cycle to go and that's supposed to be the one we should really be worrying about.

The power has stayed on. Ironically, the only power outage we've had reported was caused by a front-end loader, you know, hitting a pole, so the visibility is certainly an issue but the cape is holding on real well right now.

ROMANS: You know, Kevin, what's your advice to folks who are waking up this morning early. They're looking outside. They're going to have to kind of, you know, dig their cars out and figure out if their kids are going to school.

You want people to stay in, I'm assuming, while you guys do your work?

MORLEY: That's right. There's no school today so they don't have to figure things out. I think one look outside will tell people that it's not time to go out and shovel unless you -- you know, for some reason you really have to because this is expected to continue for some time into the day. I guess we haven't really hit the worst yet for Cape Cod.

CABRERA: And as you mentioned, the worse is yet to come, perhaps not just with the snow but there is also a concern about flooding and a storm surge that could come. Is that still top of mind for you guys?

MORLEY: Yes, we're still looking at that. Reports from Sandwich last night -- of course, it's tough, you know, it's nighttime, you can't see. But the usual places were faring OK, but with this continued, you know, north-northeast wind, the tide can't go out all the way at low tide so that's the one we're really worrying about, the noon tide.

CABRERA: All right. Kevin Morley, public information officer in Barnes Stable County, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

ROMANS: Now if you had plans to fly to or from the northeast this morning, well, chances are you're grounded. Well over 2,000 flights have been cancelled between Thursday and today. 8,000 more flights have been delayed and those numbers are going to keep climbing this morning.

Our breaking new coverage of this massive winter storm continues right now with Pamela Brown live from New York's LaGuardia Airport.

Hi there, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Christine. Bottom line, this storm is wrecking havoc for air travelers. Already a lot of people here at LaGuardia Airport waiting for hours. One passenger waiting for at least 14 hours for his flight and that's really going to be the situation for those trying to make flights today.

It's really all about patience. In fact, already at this early hour, 1,359 flights have been cancelled and we're seeing that number continue to tick up by the minute it seems. The bulk of the cancellations here at LaGuardia Airport and at Newark Airport what we're seeing nearly 300 flights already cancelled this morning. Also a lot of cancellations at Chicago O'Hare Airport, as well as Boston Logan Airport.

All the airports remain open but there's just not a lot of flights coming and going. At Boston Airport, they are hoping for flights to resume there at around noon today.

Now the big issue is the visibility. So we are seeing about five inches of snow but the problem is the wind is kicking up the snow. It's that light fluffy kind of snow. So it's really having an impact on the visibility. Only about half a mile of visibility here at LaGuardia Airport according to the local aviation weather report.

Now the Port Authority saying here in New York that they're ready for the storm. They're deploying more than 200 pieces of equipment to deal with the snow and the ice but, again, there's really nothing that can be done about the visibility until the conditions calm down at around 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

Interesting to note. If you look behind me here, there is not a lot of activity behind me. I think a lot of people have probably checked with their airlines and found out their flights were cancelled. A lot of flights were cancelled last night when the conditions pick up at around 8:00 p.m. So that is really the key here. Check with your airline.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. That's absolutely true. Check with your airlines. And so many of us now can get, you know, text alerts and stuff even before we leave for the airport so that's incredibly important.

Thanks so much, Pamela.

CABRERA: Part of the Midwest also triggering those delays after taking a pounding from the first winter storm of 2014. Windchills in Cleveland -- listen to this -- well below zero with a foot of snow on the ground. Driving there clearly treacherous. Thick ice under all that snow triggering spinouts. We've seen accidents all over town.

ROMANS: Chicago has been absolutely battered since Wednesday. Six more inches of snow falling overnight. That's on top of the 12 inches already on the ground. This is the worst storm to hit the Windy City in a couple of years. O'Hare Airport crippled by the winter blast, hundreds of flights cancelled there. Of course that creates -- it's such a huge airport, right? That creates a ripple effect of delays across the northeast.

CABRERA: And look at these pictures of a dramatic rescue also in Chicago. A man had to be pulled from the water after falling through the ice on Lake Michigan. The Coast Guard and the Chicago Fire Department working together here to help that man to safety.

He was unresponsive at first but he did show signs of life after some medical help. He was taken to University of Chicago Hospital in critical condition.


CABRERA: We will stay on top of this story and the storm very closely so make sure you stay with us throughout the morning for any updates. You can tweet us. We welcome those pictures you might have as long as you're able to take them safely. Tweet them to earlystartCNN.

ROMANS: Yes. We want to see what you're seeing out there this morning.

All right. We're following some other headlines for you this morning.

The U.S. State Department has been in contact with an American stopped by Libyan officials in Benghazi. A report Thursday by the Libyan state-run news agency said two U.S. citizens were detained for, quote, "scouting at Benghazi University."

Meanwhile, a British man and New Zealand woman were found dead, apparently and shot to death outside Tripoli. CABRERA: And breaking news out of South Sudan this morning. U.S. embassy personnel ordered to leave the country and all Americans are being urged to get out of the African nation because of flaring violence between rebel forces and government troops. Over 1,000 people have been killed in less than three weeks of the escalating violence.

ROMANS: New this morning. The "Washington Post" reporting the NSA trying to build a super computer capable of breaking nearly all types of encryption. It would be able to crack codes protecting banking, medical business and government records around the world. The paper cites documents released by Edward Snowden. Those documents also imply the NSA still has plenty of work to do on that project.

CABRERA: Happening right now, if you can believe it, an Australian icebreaker carrying the 52 rescued passengers from the stranded ship in Antarctica have been ordered to stop its voyage. It's on standby now because officials on the Chinese vessel involved in the dramatic helicopter rescue Thursday are fearful it may get stuck in the ice again.

Once the Aurora Australis have cleared to resume its journey, it will stop at an Antarctic base for some supplies before the 14-day voyage to Tasmania.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, we're going to follow this nor'easter for you. Slamming into the northeast. It's not over yet.

Plus details of an arrest in the death of a beloved Catholic priest in California. What police say happened there.

CABRERA: Also a taker explodes on an icy Michigan road but the driver is able to walk away. You have to hear this.


ROMANS: Welcome back. Our continuing breaking news coverage of the winter storm slamming the northeast right now. One hundred million people are in its path, feeling the impact here.

Take a look at this live image from Boston. That's how it's coming down. A foot of snow or more burying parts of that city. Drifts two feet or higher being reported. The windchill there this morning makes it feel like it's 20 below.

Long Islanders are looking at a long day of shoveling ahead. Close to a foot of snow falling in New York's eastern suburbs.

And this just in. New York City schools officially closed today. New York officials are urging New Yorkers to exercise caution when going outside.

If you had plans to fly today, check in with your airline before you head to the airport because more than 10,000 flights have already been cancelled or delayed in just the past 24 hours. CABRERA: New this morning. Secretary of State John Kerry in the West Bank meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Kerry arrived in Israeli Thursday to negotiate a Mideast peace deal. Now he says it's not mission impossible. He had dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who says there is growing doubt, though, in Israel that Palestinians want peace.

Harsh words that clouded the start of Kerry's tenth trip to the region.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The time is soon arriving where leaders are going to have to make difficult decisions. We are close to that time, if not at it, and I think we understand the circumstances within which we are working.


CABRERA: Kerry vowing to work to narrow the differences on a framework that addresses core issues including borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

ROMANS: A California man has been arrested for the murder of a beloved Catholic priest. Police say this man Gary Lee Bullock killed Father Eric Freed during a violent struggle inside a church rectory. Freed's body was discovered Wednesday morning by parishioners at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Eureka. Investigators say he died from blunt force trauma. No word yet on a possible motive.

CABRERA: The Supreme Court could take action today on a request to block a key component of the president's health care law. Several religious nonprofits want the requirement to provide birth control and other reproductive coverage thrown out. Now Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary stay on New Year's Eve, putting the provision on hold. The court still has no official deadline to act.

ROMANS: All right. In Utah, its battle over same-sex marriage heads to the Supreme Court. And the high court could act as early today on the state's request to put gay marriages on hold. Now Utah officials appealing to the high court after a district court struck down the state's band saying it violated federal guarantees of equal protection. Ever since that decision came down, Utah clerks offices have been flooded with gay couples looking to get marriage licenses.

CABRERA: Let's take you to Michigan now where a community was rocked by a tanker explosion along the interstate yesterday. The tanker went up on flames. This is on I-69 in Davison Township. The blast was felt for miles forcing evacuations of everyone within a mile of the blast and making for a very rough day for first responders just having to put out the fire in frigid conditions.

This truck was carrying hazardous materials. The driver told officials he just hit a patch of ice leading to the crash and explosion. Amazingly, though, the driver was OK.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you make of that?

WRIGHT: The luckiest man I know today.


CABRERA: That evacuation order, by the way, was lifted after a few hours.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, a top NFL player making some startling accusations about why he was relieved from his team. The Vikings drama and a whole lot more on our "Bleacher Report." That's next.


ROMANS: Welcome back to EARLY START. Breaking news. Brutal winter storm slamming the northeast right now, punishing cold, bone chilling winds, driving snow, all this forcing the governors of New York and New Jersey to declare a state of emergency.

In New York a ban on passenger vehicles on Interstate 87 has been lifted. And on the Long Island Expressway a ban on passenger and commercial vehicles has been extended now to 8:00 a.m. in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

CABRERA: Former NFL punter Chris Kluwe lashing out at his former team, the Minnesota Vikings, saying he was cut from the team because of his advocacy for same-sex marriage.

Now Andy Scholes is joining us with more on this morning's "Bleacher Report."

ROMANS: Good morning.

ANDY SCHOLES, BLEACHER REPORT: Hey, good morning, guys. You know, Chris Kluwe, he wrote a letter to slamming his former team, the Minnesota Vikings. The letter was titled. "I Was an NFL Player Until I was Fired by Two Cowards and a Bigot."

Now Kluwe, who's not gay, says he was on the receiving end of anti-gay remarks from special teams coordinate Mike Priefer. He said he was also asked to tone down his advocacy for gay rights by former head coach Leslie Frazier. Kluwe says he didn't want to come forward sooner because he feared losing his job.

Now Priefer has strongly denied Kluwe's allegations and he maintains Kluwe was cut strictly based on performance. The Vikings say they are taking these accusations seriously and will thoroughly review the matter.

All right. Number one on a lot of section on, today is the shocking upset in last night's Sugar Bowl. Alabama turned the ball over five times in the game. And Oklahoma scored 35 points off of those turnovers. Sooners steal the victory in the fourth quarter, stripping A.J. McCarron and returning the fumble for a touchdown.

Now check out McCarron's girlfriend, Katherine Webb, in the stands, she was stunned. Not the way she or McCarron envisioned his college career coming to an end. The Sooners shocked. The tide 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl.

All right. It is going to be a really cold game Sunday between the Packers and Niners. I mean, like ice cold cold. The low temperature for the game in Green Bay Sunday night is negative 20 degrees with a windchill somewhere around negative 40.

This could actually go down as the coldest game in football history, guys, and that's probably the reason why they are still 3,000 tickets short of a sellout for a game.

And guys, if they don't end up selling those 3,000 tickets by 5:00 Eastern today the game is going to be blacked out on TV for the market. So not only can you not stay in in your warm home, you can't watch the game on your couch. So big dilemma in Green Bay right now.

CABRERA: You've got to think Green Bay has the edge there, given they're used and then San Francisco has to come and put up with that. That's a shock to the system.

SCHOLES: But Green Bay is a passing team and can you imagine how hard that football is going to be in negative 40-degree weather?

ROMANS: I just keep thinking of the fans, the shirtless fans.


SCHOLES: No one is going to be shirtless. Guarantee.


ROMANS: Oh yes. Absolutely.

SCHOLES: There will be someone shirtless and someone in a bikini.

ROMANS: Absolutely.


CABRERA: Thank you.

ROMANS: I love, I love those fans. I love Bears fans a little bit better but they also had not (INAUDIBLE) old. Let's not talk about the -- let's not talk about the Bears. We'll make people sad.

CABRERA: We are getting side-tracked.

ROMANS: It makes me too sad.

OK. Thanks so much.

Breaking coverage of the nor'easter and your top headlines right after the break.


CABRERA: Mother Nature hammering the northeast. A dangerous winter storm is bringing heavy snow and freezing temperatures. We are talking windchills below zero. We have reporters live on the ground all over this story.

ROMANS: Nightmare at the airport. More than 2,000 flights now cancelled. Delays could last for hours. We will tell you which airports are hardest hit.

CABRERA: And another setback for the passengers rescued off that ship in Antarctica. Why their journey home is delayed once again.

ROMANS: They are explorers. This is certainly an adventure, right?

CABRERA: To say the least.

Welcome back to EARLY START" on this Friday. I'm Ana Cabrera.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. John Berman hosting "NEW DAY" this chilly morning on the northeast. It's 30 minutes past the hour and chilly because the big story this morning is this massive winter storm pummeling the northeast.

Blizzard conditions in parts of New York and New England. You got a hundred million people feeling this thing. There's a state of emergency in New York. Major highway shut down. Parts of Long Island facing up to a foot of snow. And if your plans call for air travel today you might have to change them. Got 10,000 flights either cancelled or delayed this morning.

We got breaking news coverage of the first big storm of -- 2014 kicking it off in Boston with meteorologist Indra Petersons.

This thing is still happening, Indra.

PETERSONS: Oh, it's still coming down. Definitely has been continuing to come down since yesterday evening. I want to actually kind of show you here just to my right. You can actually see the snow plows already on the roads, really trying to get ahead of the system. I mean, considering it continues to fall as it has since yesterday evening.