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Nor'easter Hits Cape Code; New York Deals with Snow; Long Island Deals with Large Snow Drifts; False "Blackfish" Poll Favors SeaWorld.

Aired January 3, 2014 - 11:30   ET




ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Those pictures of the nor'easter 2014, delightfully nice to look at, not so nice to live. I want to show you something. It just happened at the location I'm at. See these two things? These are chunks of ice that just fell from the building directly above us. New York City's great with all of its towering buildings but dangerous when the ice starts coming off. That's one of the problems that we're facing in this city. We'll talk more about the emergency management in a moment.

First though, a great place to go in the summer is Cape Cod. A horrible place to go during a nor'easter is Cape Cod.

So we sent Laurie Segall to Cape Cod. She joins me now from Chatham to tell me a little about how the conditions have been throughout the night, what it's been like to cover this story.

It looks like it's not quite as bad as it was earlier on today. How are you fairing?

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Doing well. I didn't get that memo that it's not as great in the winter time, Ashleigh.


But you know, things are a lot better than they were. They're a lot better than they were. That being said, still very cold temperatures. Earlier this morning, a huge wind-chill earlier this morning. We had 35, 30 miles per hour winds coming at us. Now things are calming down a little bit. Take a look at our truck. You can see icicles forming on the bottom. We were getting nervous earlier. We should probably move it because we don't want to get stuck here. Things have gotten a little better.

That being said, a lot of folks are waiting for noon. Because you have to remember, as we talked about ocean snow, this is a coastal town. We are on the water. You see the wind is still blowing quite a bit here. And the high tide comes in. That's at 12:00 p.m. That's when the coastal flooding happens. They're saying it might night be as bad here in Chatham but it could be worth west of here. A lot of folks still looking out for that. That being said, we're seeing some more folks on the street. Before, we were only seeing snow piles. But now, more folks are kind of getting out and about -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Speaking of getting out and about, I watched you as you made your progress driving to Cape Cod. You started yesterday, and working throughout the night. Tell me about getting through the storm and what it was like trying to broadcast. I know you're not using the equipment you were sent to use.


SEGALL: No. It's allegation so funny that what happens in these situations. Completely different. We did go through and we were driving here last night and saw the roads just completely empty. We had trouble moving our car through. And our satellite truck, which is traditionally how you go live, in froze, essentially. There were a lot of -- we experienced bad weather there. That was early this morning. We actually have a picture of our satellite truck from this morning. But our photo journalist had a great idea that we could go live using a Wi-Fi card and a laptop, which that's how we're here right now talking to you.

I think he's -- speaking of my photo journalist, I think we have a picture of him taking a short nap, which he's not going to be happy, but sometimes you do that in the field when you can't go to a hotel.

You see the snow here and you get the idea that this place was hit pretty hard. That being said, Ashleigh, you can't break the spirit of the folks around here. Last night, when we finally did get in, all of the locals were gathered at a bar and they were all celebrating the storm. I was thinking to myself, wow. And I asked them why. And they said, it's a New England storm. We can weather this storm any day. And it looks like people are finally coming out and about and weathering the storm.

BANFIELD: And by the way, to your photo journalist, hats off to you. This is the only job where sleeping on the job is required because we go 24 hours when the news breaks. We'll send you back there in the summer and you get that as the consolation prize. You'll be out on the beaches in no time, my friend.

Thanks for your heard work.


SEGALL: I'm holding you to it.


BANFIELD: Poor Laurie. She got the worst assignment of all of us. I feel so bad.

By the way, I got an update, Laurie, while you were reporting.

The flight cancellations across the country, meaning all flights within the country, coming in and leaving the country, they total 2,000 now, they're up and over 2,000 cancellations. I don't know how I can repeat it more, but check before you go anywhere. Call your airline. They're waving a lot of the cancellation fees. But it's going to be a bit of a mess for people trying to travel today.

Speaking of a mess, New York City has to deal with a lot of people and they have to do it real fast when a lot of snow falls.

And joining me live on the telephone is Frank McCarton, who is deputy commissioner of operations for New York City's Office of Emergency Management.

Mr. McCarton, can you hear me OK?


BANFIELD: One first question for you, as we watch some of the ice falling from the building straight above us, is this a big concern in New York City for pedestrians? We have so many skyscrapers in this city and the ice has to be falling elsewhere as well?

MCCARTON: Yes, it is a concern of ours. But we work closely with the real estate board of New York City, including our Department of Buildings in New York City, to communicate these issues. Now as you see the sun coming out, you will continue to get melting, which with the cold weather will create icing conditions. But as we do have these conditions, they are remedied by the building owners.

BANFIELD: So we had a couple of stats given to us throughout the night. I just want to check them with you. 1700 snow plows. 3,000 snow plow routes. 7,000 tons of salt. First question, do I have that right? And second question, holy cow, is it working?

MCCARTON: It's a big city. And I'm happy to report that the majority of the primary roads have been plowed. But that does not mean that people should be going out. If you have to travel in and around New York City, we're asking people to take mass transit. And that will initially allow the plows to continue. It's a very cold and fluffy snow. And when it blows, plows will have to go back down again. People should kind of limit their travel in cars and that will allow our great Department of Sanitation to get into those roadways to continue to plow.

BANFIELD: What about the mass transit, all of the commuter rail travelers that make their way into the city? Everything working pretty much up to speed? All the subways good as well?

MCCARTON: Yes, they are. And we have minor delays. We had disruptions earlier this morning. But the majority of the transit systems are on the ground. And some of those trains were moved by the transit authority last night to underground facilities so they can run today. And we are expensing minor delays but nothing out of the ordinary.

BANFIELD: Passing behind is what looks like a garbage truck with a plow on the front. Mr. McCarton, is that what I'm seeing, a garbage truck with a plow affixed on the front?

MCCARTON: Yep. And that's what's unique. The Department of Sanitation has hundreds of years of experience. What they use is a very uniformed, you know, force of trucks. And they're able to take those trucks that are used as garbage trucks and put plows on them. And they're very diverse system in which they can put plows on top of those sanitation trucks.

BANFIELD: OK, and this is the question from the kid from Canada who grew up in Winnipeg and had to watch as the snow collection got dumped into every mall parking lot so there sledding in every mall parking lot. In New York City, where do you put the snow here in New York City?

MCCARTON: We move it to the sides. When we don't have room to move it to the sides, we work very closely -- the Sanitation Department has some snow-melters. And the snow-melters are brought in to melt the snow in certain portions of the city. I don't believe we're at that spot right now. But that's a way in which we can get rid of it.

BANFIELD: By the way, I'm not sure if you know the answer to this. The Long Island Expressway was closed this morning. Did all the commuters get back on the road and are everybody, if they are driving, are they able to get on every roadway?

MCCARTON: Yes. The roads were re-opened shortly after 8:00 a.m. And they are slippery. We tell people to stay home. It gave those areas an ability to plow them. They're re-opened but they are very snowy still.

BANFIELD: I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us on the phone, Frank McCarton, with the New York City Office of Emergency Management.

Stay at home and keep your eyes peeled above you for falling ice. That is happening. It's happening around us and around the city as well.

Coming up, it's quite something when you see snow falling and drifting taller than your colleagues. We'll take you out to Long Island sound where it's taller than my colleagues. We'll show you that in a moment.


BANFIELD: Beautiful pictures. But when you get six to 12 inches of snow in New York City, it starts to get tough to get around. It's been busy this morning with all of those 5,000 sanitation workers out trying to clear the snow away. And yet a wind storm warning is still in effect across five of the boroughs of this city. That's supposed to be until 1:00 p.m. eastern time. The wind-chills have taken us down below 10. It was pretty chilly out here this morning. When I woke up, I think it was 2 degrees in Connecticut. I don't know how cold it was in the wind-chills. I just ran as fast as I could to the car. Fish-tailed it into work as well. So all of those emergency room warnings to stay at home and not brave the freeways and highways, great advice, unless you're an emergency worker, stay home.

One of the places where they were not supposed to be driving was the Long Island Expressway. There was a ban on driving throughout the night. It opened back up around 8:00 a.m. Commuters were able to get back on the road. But it was a very rough night out there. A lot of snow dropped and a lot of snow drifted.

And if you need proof of that, Brian, my colleague here at CNN, was sent out to the center of Long Island. And he scaled the peaks, the new peaks that have been made to show us how much has been drifted.

Is that drifted or plowed snow you're standing on there, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is plowed snow. That's an important distinction because it's dangerous to be going out into the drifts. I kind of love this, because it's taller than I am, and it kind of shows how much snow piled up once people came out and were able to dig out.

I'm going to try not to become a television news stereotype as I come down from this pile of snow. But you did mentioned drifts. You can see them right in front of me here. That's really the -- the dramatic part of the story now is, because of these wind gusts, which are come up to 30 and 40 miles per hour sometimes, we're seeing the snow recover all of the areas that have been plowed all morning, and also seeing all this ice that's going to be with us for a while, given the temperatures that we have here know and in the coming days.

It's about 16 degrees here right now, but it feels like negative 5 because of the wind-chill. I suppose, instead of reporter, it should say human pop sickle at the bottom of the screen.

BANFIELD: I can see the wind blowing your pant leg. It looks like that wind-chill would be spectacular. I understand wind-chills. I remember minus 22 wind-chills when I grew up. It can freeze exposed skin literally in seconds.

Brian, would you mind telling us a little bit about trying to get the coverage. Like I said, the Long Island Expressway was closed. It's not easy for crews to be able to do this kind of work and to set up in these kinds of temperatures.

TODD: The emergency room officials came and checked on us a couple of times during the night since we were out there. They wanted to make sure we were OK. And we wanted to make sure they were OK. We'll pan the camera around and I'll show you the satellite truck that we have set up here. You can see the snow that's partly covered it up. It's hunkered in pretty well. But our engineer was out there morning with a shovel trying to clear a path, and camera man as well. The photo journalists out here have the hardest jobs of all because they're behind the camera, even longer than the correspondents and producers are in front of the camera.

But you can see, you know, we're kind of stuck here for the time being. We're going to stay around for the rest of the day. We don't need to clear it off quite yet -- Ashleigh? BANFIELD: Sorry, Brian, I lost you for a second there. But those are good shots to show just how much snow as accumulated. Some of those behind the scenes details are important. The crews bringing these stories to you have been out all night and not able to go in at all.


TODD: It's worth pointing out that a lot of viewers only see one or two live shots. The reason why we do dozens of these is because different viewers are watching all day. A lot of people only see one or two every day and that's why we're out here for hours at a time.

BANFIELD: I'm going to give a shout out to Doug and Rob working here the cameras where I'm at. They've been all night long outside without any breaks right into the morning and not one complaint with either of them. They're delightful to work with and are stellar at their jobs as well. And they're blushing. Or they're cold. I can't tell.

Coming up after -- oh, look, we got a picture. Look at that.

Guys, you're on TV. How about that?

They weren't expecting that. These guys are working hard. They continue to work through.

We've got a couple of more things to tell you after the break. And the winter storm advisory continues. Behind me, that beautiful Central Park in the sun, six inches of snow in there. Imagine the fun the kids can have. There's 1.1 million kids off school today. We're back after the break.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to New York City, where it is a balmy 14 degrees without the wind-chill. Wind-chills have been down below zero all over the New York area. We're continuing on the weather story throughout the day. Don't leave CNN. We will keep you updated. 10 million people in the path of the nor'easter. Flights canceled across the country, over 2,000 of them, at last count. More coming on that in just a moment.

First, I want to update you on a story CNN has been following very carefully. You may well have seen the documentary called "Blackfish," outlining very controversial issues with regard to SeaWorld and the treatment of the orca whales at SeaWorld. There's been a poll conducted as to how many people felt affected by it, whether it changed their opinion of SeaWorld or did not. The results of the poll are surprising. I'll let you be the judge of it. But the results of the poll were that 99 percent of respondents said that it would not change their perception of SeaWorld. It would not, that they would continue to have a positive perception of SeaWorld. 99 percent. Usually, when you say 99 percent that sounds like hyperbole. So a newspaper decided to check into the numbers and they found out, "Something's a little bit fishy" -- that's their quote.

Martin Savidge has been watching the story, as well. Can you tell me what exactly it was that led to those numbers and whether they're legitimate?

MARTINS SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, sure thing, Ashleigh. It went like this. "The Orlando Business Journal," on December 31st, did this online poll and asked, "Has CNN's "Blackfish" documentary changed your perception of SeaWorld." By midday, January 2nd, the results, as you say, very one-sided. It was pretty much well above 90 percent of the respondents said there had been non-impact. It was very much in favor of SeaWorld. So the journal, deciding it should do due diligence, wanted to makes sure there was no robo-voting going on. They checked the I.P. addresses of those casting ballots. They found over 54 percent of the votes came from one I.P. address that was listed to SeaWorld.

BANFIELD: That's a little surprising. Has SeaWorld responded? Have they given any kind of comment as to how they feel about that information?

SAVIDGE: They have, indeed. First and foremost, SeaWorld is allowed to participate. And certainly, if their employees wanted to participate, they can. It's their right. So they did. And in fact, SeaWorld is now saying, yes, their people did actually take part and they are unabashed about it, saying, quote, "Our team members have strong feelings about their park and company and we encourage them to make their opinions known."

I guess the question, did they do it voluntarily or was there some sort of edict put out by SeaWorld. SeaWorld said their employees love the place and voted in SeaWorld's favor.

BANFIELD: What about going forward? Are they going to leave it at that? Will there be further addressing of this issue? Are the employees allowed to speak or are they saying that their statement stands for itself, that their statement is all they'll be releasing on that?

SAVIDGE: That's the way they've always spoken. It's always been through statements. We've requested again to talk to them, and all we get back is the statement referred to now in publication.

We should point out the polling has changed dramatically. No doubt because of all the publicity drawn to it. It is now running very much against SeaWorld. But you know, you really can't trust it now because, of course, people who support one cause or another are naturally going to vote believing that this is the way they demonstrate their support.

BANFIELD: Perhaps not scientific but interesting nonetheless.

Thank you, Martin Savidge, reporting from Atlanta.

I want to bring in Peter Shankman, who is a branding and social media expert on this issue.

We have had conversations about SeaWorld and this issue adds to the controversy and discussion. Is this the kind of statement you would have expected in SeaWorld?

PETER SHANKMAN, BRAND AND SOCIAL MEDIA CONSULTANT: It's the statement I would have expected. Technically, I don't necessarily think anything was done wrong. This kind of a poll is branded towards SeaWorld. Someone at SeaWorld probably sent out a memo and said, this is here, if you would like to comment, you're welcome to.


BANFIELD: They're not saying they directed employees.

SHANKMAN: No, because it was so centered to SeaWorld. Of course, the employees that make a living there, they care about SeaWorld, they are going to comment. This wasn't a poll that went out to the rest of the world so you're going to have a lopsided vote like that. It's not wrong. It's not wrong or unethical. But it's something -- if I were SeaWorld I would have said, stay away from it, just to avoid -- they already have a bunch of controversy.

BANFIELD: It's a fascinating topic and it's worthy of discussion. It's probably a good thing we're discussing it again.

Peter Shankman, thank you.

By the way, be careful of falling ice there.

SHANKMAN: Be careful of falling ice there.


BANFIELD: I'm always worried about the folks who join us and our crews, as well.

Thank you for that.

As I mentioned earlier, and mention it again very quickly, but we are watching this weather story for you on CNN throughout the day. In fact, my colleagues with AROUND THE WORLD are going to start right after this quick break, stories of the weather and more.

Thanks for being with us. Live from New York City, I'm Ashleigh Banfield.



People who live in snowy parts of the country know it's coming every year but this winter storm hitting is brutal, even for those tough folks out in New England. This was the morning commute in the Boston today. Most people wisely following city leaders' advice to stay home. About 15 inches of snow accumulated in Boston. It was two-feet deep. That was north of the city just overnight.

Got a lot of problems with the big snowstorms, this being a major one. Airline passengers, thousands of them, going nowhere. That's right. New York's LaGuardia Airport broke out the cots, the blankets. A lot of folks are stuck there all night long.

We are all over the east coast. The nor'easter moving on right now but the winter emergency is not going to go away this weekend.

We've got Margaret Conley in Boston. Brian Seltzer (ph) is on Long Island. Poppy Harlow is at LaGuardia. And, of course, watching the big picture on all of this, Alexandra Steele at the --