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Storm Slams Eastern U.S.; Storm Forecast; Winter Storm Moves Through South, Up East Coast; "Loud Music" Murder Trial Verdict Watch

Aired February 13, 2014 - 12:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, reporting live in the heart of New York City from Columbus Circle, on the edge of Central Park, where a massive nor'easter hit just after midnight last night and so far has dropped over 9.5 inches of snow where I'm standing here in Central Park. That makes it very difficult in a city this size with this many people and the amount of snow that needs to be moved to places that just don't exist.

Let me tell you what's happened just over the last hour or so. That incredible blizzard that had snowflakes the size of your thumb has turned into a rainstorm. It is now exactly as the forecasters predicted. It has turned into a freezing rainstorm and a slush mess. All of those inches of snow I just mentioned are going to be impacted by it. Ice will now take over in places that were snowy or wet before. It's going to be very difficult for the next several hours and very dangerous as well.

And if that's not bad enough, the bad news just keeps coming because the snow is expected to return later today and into tonight. You can bet that freeways will be a disaster. It may be for that reason that the governors of both New York state and neighboring New Jersey have declared states of emergency. And from governors down to mayors, they are imploring citizens, stay home if you don't have to -- the federal government did so. If you're nonessential, you can work from home, but please don't bear the roads if you don't have to.

If you were trying to travel somewhere, and I don't just mean where I am in the northeast or even in the southeast where it's bad, the flights have been impacted right across this country. Hello, California, it may be beautiful where you are, Florida, it may be lovely, but your planes do come through these major, major hubs. And right now we're talking about flights close to 6,000 not only canceled but an additional 2,000 delayed. So travel, no matter where you are in the CNN broadcast zone, is going to be troublesome.

Here's something that's been a big question in this city. While a lot of people are staying home from work or battling it to get wherever they're going in this mess, the brand new mayor minted in this city in the big apple, Mayor Bill De Blasio, did not cancel school. So that's been a big bone of contention. We'll talk about that a little later on in the program as to whether that was a big -- bad decision, but he's being grilled about it even as we speak. Alison Kosik has been out roaming these streets just to see how bad or how good it might be because we've been through this just a few times so far this year.

Alison, how does it look?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's looking pretty bad. I mean you see how New York City is a walking city, right? And you see how treacherous these streets are. You've got, you know, people trying to cross the streets in the middle of these roads that have not been plowed yet.

You know, just to give you an idea, you know, New York City has gotten snowstorm after snowstorm after snowstorm. So besides this big snowstorm that just came, we had the ice. So you've got this pile-on effect going on. And it makes the roads really difficult, not just to drive through what I'm doing, but also to walk through because, once again, this is a walking city. You know, over here it's plowed pretty well, but then you go to the next street, not plowed very well.

One thing that we can certainly count on is this changeover happening. I see the rain falling. The snow has stopped. And what's now going to happen is the walking's going to become that much more difficult because we're going to see some of this snow melt, we're going to see the water come and it's going to create havoc just to walk in. You think walking in this is hard, just you wait until the rain really comes pouring down, Ashleigh. You know what Batman once said, just you wait, the worst is yet to come, at least for the weather, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: I tell you, I can feel your pain because you may be behind the wheel, but I am out in this now driving rain. I don't think the television cameras can accurately depict what it feels like and what it looks like to be out here. Earlier, I walked out into a blizzard, but the image on television looked fairly clear. So for those of you watching at home, you're just going to have to take my word for it, it is really miserable out here.

One thing I wanted to ask you though that's really critical in a city like New York, just filled with skyscrapers, Alison, there was a worry - there was a risk and a worry about falling ice because there was so much snow that accumulated so fast and then the temperatures started to slide - or rather started to go up, which means the snow and ice can start to slide. Is there any evidence of those scaffolds that go up real quickly to protect all those pedestrians below. And I know you're on a delay, so I apologize.

KOSIK: Yes, yes, I -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, you've got the -


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're supposed to stop.

BANFIELD: I can't hear Alison. I'm not sure if I've lost her - Alison's signal. Yes, I've lost Alison's signal. Do you know what happens in the weather like this, I lost a live shot earlier because of incredibly strong, blowing winds. And Alison is en route and obviously that's tough to keep that signal up.

I do know that I have a signal that's up in White Plains, New York, that's not far from here, about 50 miles sort of up the coast from me. Not far from where I live, in fact. And that's where Maria Santana is standing by.

It just looked like it -- you got dumped on overnight there. I don't know if you got the rain, the driving rain yet that we've got here in New York, but set the scene for me, Maria.

MARIA SANTANA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, we haven't seen the changeover to rain just yet. It is still snow. And it is coming down hard. It is coming down fast still. Indra Petersons was here this morning and she told us that it's coming down at about a rate of one to two inches per hour. So we are really getting close and approaching that foot of snow mark.

But let me show you a little bit of what's happening here behind me. I mean this is a very beautiful view. Everything covered in white here. We haven't seen a lot of people outside. I think most people are heeding the warnings of the authorities, staying indoors. What we've seen is what you see right here behind me, people coming out with their dogs or just playing in the snow, but trying to stay off the roads. That is very important because it is still - this storm is causing major problems on the roads.

Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency for this area specifically, although he said that at this point they have no plans to close the highways. But people, they are telling people to please just, if you do not have to drive, do not use your cars and use mass transit. They are running with delays, of course, the buses and the trains. But you will be much better off if you do that. They have seen a few accidents already on the roads in this area, but fortunately with no serious injuries.

Another problem for the plows, they have a full crew of plows out here, about 75 to 80 trucks, plows and salters coming by very frequently. But the problem is that it's coming down so fast, Ashleigh, that they cannot keep up. The commissioner of public works has said that as soon as a plow comes by, it just piles right back up. So conditions definitely very, very treacherous up here as well, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: I hear you. I mean, that's been the problem all along. I can't believe I drove into the city last night to avoid the impending storm. And but for the snow that was already all over the ground, it was really quite lovely. I just kept watching other people's live shots knowing what was coming here. And sure as, you know, reality hit at 1:00 a.m.


BANFIELD: All right, so, Maria Santana, thank you for that. Stay warm up there, if you well. SANTANA: Yes. Thank you.

BANFIELD: Remember when I mentioned that whole issue about the New York City students going to school. School wasn't canceled. Well, if you actually went to the school FaceBook page here in New York City, it was electrified. You might say enfuego (ph), on fire. People were so angry that they were being asked to send their kids to school, most of them saying, we'll send them, but half the kids won't be there and they'll end up watching a movie anyway and all of us will have to, you know, battle all of this.

Well, the mayor has been taking it on the chin from the press corp. He's been holding a news conference. And they've been grilling him about the decision. Maybe things are going really well with the snowplows, et cetera, but, really, sending the kids to school in this? Have a listen to how he answered.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK: And we always emphasize in making these decisions, when you think about 1.1 million kids, so many families depend on their schools as a place for their kids to be during the day, a safe place, a place where they not only are taught, but they get nutrition and they are safe from the elements. So many families have to go to work. The members of these families have to go to work. They do not have a choice and they need a safe option for their kids.


BANFIELD: Well, I think that probably makes sense to some people, but to others I don't think it does, just judging from the comments that we can read on the Department of Education website, or at least the FaceBook page.

All right, so here's the other conversation that's going on in the big apple. So it was a blizzard this morning, at least near-blizzard conditions, and now it's just a nasty rainstorm. And more snow expected. And that's just New York City. This is a monstrous storm. Jennifer Gray has been tracking this with the radar.

I keep looking at this picture of the East Coast. It just either looks green, red, blue or nasty colored. And I'm wondering how long this is going to last, Jennifer.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, well, the short answer is, it's going to last until later this evening in a lot of areas during the overnight. But you're right, it's snow, it's changing to rain. We could get more snow by the end of the day. So it's just a mixture. And it is going to create an icy mess as this of this refreezes overnight. So tomorrow morning, travel is going to be very dangerous.

Look at these snow totals though. And most of these are just in a couple of hours. We had 15 inches of snow in Virginia, Philly, 13, 11 in D.C., and almost 10 inches in New York. And a lot of these numbers will increase as we go through the next couple of hours. Some areas saw snow coming down at four inches an hour. We saw near- blizzard conditions across upstate New York. We are going to see the snow continue in New York and Boston, a little bit of a changeover though is what we're seeing, especially within the city. So we are seeing the rain start to come on in. And in Boston, we're seeing the same thing. We're going to see that switch to rain and then possibly see more snow before it is all said and done.

So these are the snow totals as we go through today through tomorrow morning. Some areas away from the coast could see a foot of additional snowfall. And then right along the coast, we're looking at say two to four inches of additional snowfall most likely. It's not only the snow, it's the wind as well. We're seeing wind speeds of 30 miles per hour in New York. Those are sustained winds with gusts up to 46. So the snow, the wind and then the rain this afternoon, Ashleigh, it is going to be an awful commute for folks that had to go to work today and they're going to try to get home this afternoon.

BANFIELD: I got one word for people like me who have to work outside, and that's gortex (ph), because it is soaking wet. I don't know if you can see this, Jennifer, but it is absolutely - I got Ziploc bags on my notes and my stats. By the way, one of the stats that's underneath the plastic, I thought this was a typo, Jennifer, I really did. When Chris Christie declared a state of emergency in New Jersey, apparently they've had 32 storms so far this winter. $70 million they've spent clearing the roads because of 32 storms this winter. And we're only in February.

Jennifer Gray, thank you.

GRAY: (INAUDIBLE) seeing the snowiest winters ever.

BANFIELD: I hear you. It's great for O.T., for the crews, though, that's all I can say. That's the silver lining.

GRAY: Exactly.

BANFIELD: So coming up after the break, I'm going to take you down the coast, because this thing has been moving up and dumping its payload all over the major centers up the East Coast. And I know y'all are there sitting inside on a snow day wondering what to do. We'll we're going to let you know exactly what it's like in your community and what it's like not far from you as well. Back after this.


BANFIELD: Welcome back live everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield in New York City. Beautiful New York City.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, Ashleigh, we're going to take you -- this is Third Street. This is the closest street to the Capitol. And Third Street is covered in snow. We just saw the first set of snowplows go by today. We haven't seen them in hours. So no wonder the federal government is closed, the roads are in terrible condition.

Also, Dulles Airport, all the runways are shut down, as is true at National Airport, Reagan Airport. The runways are open at Baltimore- Washington Airport. However, most of the flights are canceled.

As we said the federal government is closed. The Capitol Building, there are supposed to be hearings going on today. Everything is basically on standstill today.

The White House briefing has been canceled too.

Just take a look at how heavy this snow is, kind of dangerous. I'm sure that would hurt, but we do have a lot of people out here today.

The reality is, for as dangerous as the snowstorm is throughout the country, it can be a little bit fun here in Washington, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: I don't know if you can see or hear me. I don't know if you can see or hear me, but we literally just lost power because of all the rain, the snow, and there's frank cleaning off the lens.

We are on an uphill battle in a very flat city. Can you do a quick zoom so people can see the water? Maybe this will show you. It's hard to show you in the rain, but this is what your foul-weather gear looks like.

Look up at the CNN sign. It's 34 degrees. We went from below freezing when we had a massive blizzard-like condition here just an hour and a half ago to what we have right now which is a nasty bunch of water.

Thank you, Erin McPike, for telling me what you went through because we got that, which is amazing.

I want to go now to Brian Todd, who is in Virginia, who's also showing us the roads.

Let me just remind everybody, as Brian gets ready for his report, oftentimes we get excoriated for being the media out on the roads when we're telling people not to be on the roads.

We work with the public safety officials and get the message out for people and so it's helpful and appreciate it. They allow us where traffic bans often can't be.

Brian Todd, tell us what you're seeing. There's a big delay, so I apologize.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, Ashleigh. Well, we're actually on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland.

We were in Virginia earlier this morning where we rescued a stranded motorist who had done a 180 off the road. I'll get to that in a second.

Right now we're in the Hamden neighborhood of Baltimore, showing you signals out the front of the our vehicle as we move along on this road.

As you can see, heavy doses of snow earlier, combining with rain, slush, we were kind of up against it earlier moving through some of this stuff.

Some of these people are now digging out. You can see this vehicle moving up the street here past us.

We're going to actually get out of our vehicle. We have three-camera capability in our vehicle here. Camera on me inside the vehicle, we have a camera out the front of our windshield, and we have a third camera.

I can get out of the vehicle now and kind of show you some of what we're looking at here in the Baltimore area. They got a good foot of snow here earlier, heavy dose of wet snow.

Then it combined with rain and sleet to create some very hazardous conditions, a lot of road closures in the Baltimore area.

And this is what you're up against even when your street's been plowed. We can kind of switch over maybe to our camera now, our photojournalist has that camera capability up now.

Even when your street has been plowed and dealing with the slush, you have berms forming from the plowing. These residents are digging out from these berms.

Very heavy slushy snow below me here sometimes with a sheet of ice underneath it.

We came across two overturned tractor-trailer trucks south of here in Maryland earlier today. Fortunately, the drivers of both those trucks were not hurt seriously.

One didn't suffer any injuries. One suffered minor injuries to his hands. He had to be pulled out by his rescue crews.

Those were dramatic scenes right outside D.C. on the 495 Beltway area.

Also, earlier today in Virginia, we were roving around all these areas. South of D.C. on the I-95 corridor we came across a stranded motorist. He had done a 180 off the road, Edwin Martinez in a small Honda sedan.

We were able to hook up our tow rope and get him out of that jam. Fortunately, he was able to go on his way.

Again, look at some of this, all these cars here even when your street might be plowed a little bit, you've still got a lot of slush, heavy snow and a lot of these big berms to try to clear out from.


BANFIELD: All right, Brian, thank you for that.

The one thing I did want to show you is typically, as a pedestrian city, you see a lot of people walking to and from work or wherever they need to go.

And then you see Hillary Salk (ph), who just happened to be skiing by my camera position.

Did you need to be out or is this a pleasurable experience for you?


BANFIELD: You were in Central Park for a ski.

SALK (PH): Yes, that's it.

BANFIELD: You're soaking wet.

SALK (PH): That doesn't matter. I'm dry inside.

BANFIELD: Can you just tell everyone why you're wearing goggles? I was taking it on the chin for wearing goggles in the storm.

SALK (PH): Well, because you can't see when the snow is coming down. That's obvious.

BANFIELD: Thank you. I appreciate the vote of confidence there.

SALK (PH): I need them now, but I'm just not going to take them off.

BANFIELD: All right. Good luck getting back home. I know you have a couple blocks to go. But brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Nice way to enjoy Central Park.

SALK (PH): Let me tell you something else, I've been skiing in Rhode Island on the beach.


SALK (PH): The surf hasn't hit it yet. And I was able to do it in the last couple of weeks.

BANFIELD: I'll bet it's lovely there. Enjoy your skis. Stay safe and warm. And get the cocoa when you get home, Hillary Salk for us.

I'm on the corner of Central Park. It's a winter wonderland just off to the other side.

David Mattingly is today in North Carolina and they are getting slammed with the storm there.

There are a lot of people who are not being spared any element of this nasty weather pattern that is snaking and batting its way across the eastern portion of the United States.

We are back with a live report right after this.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to New York City. This is beautiful Central Park. I don't recommend going for a run or walk in Central Park, but apparently people are still enjoying it. It's 34 degrees in New York City, which means the blizzard-like conditions with, honestly, snowflakes the size of kittens has now changed into driving rain, this quick, cold, painful and really sort of miserable, all-around.

There are people who had to take their kids to school in this city, because school wasn't canceled, and there are still people going to work.

But we're not the only place that are getting hammered by this snow system and storm system.

David Mattingly drew the very short straw among the CNN colleagues. He's in Charlotte, North Carolina, which typically would be a lovely assignment, but today from what I gather you are really getting hit.

Describe the scene for me, David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, we are getting hit for another round.

I mean, we had snow like this coming down 24 hours ago. It's been snowing very steady, very heavy all morning long.

The streets that were clear when we woke up this morning before dawn got covered again.

This road now relatively clean because we just had a whole platoon of snowplows come through here throwing snow everywhere.

And, you know, it would be such fun to be out here because this is the right kind of packing snow to have all sorts of fun outside.

But this storm has caused so many problems here, the governor coming out talking about how they were dealing with that mess we saw in Raleigh yesterday when so many people tried to leave their offices and try to get home right in the middle of an unexpectedly heavy downpour of snow.

We saw people stranded on the interstate, very slow moving traffic. Those traffic jams, we're told, resolved themselves last night.

But the governor actually made a point of having the National Guard ready to go out and rescue people if they needed it, just in case they got stranded out there.

But they said today that no one spent the night on the interstate, that traffic is moving somewhat slowly today, but no one had to -- was stranded out there in the snowstorm like we saw in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago, so everybody in the state government very proud of that.

Right now they're still bracing for more problems, though, because, like you see here in Charlotte, more snow today.

We got a layer of snow, we got sleet, we had some ice last night because of the dipping temperatures and now we have snow back on top of it.

They're not done yet here, and they're still telling people don't go to work. Schools are closed. Stay home.

Don't be on the roads unless you absolutely have to be for two reasons. One, there's personal safety issues involved of course.

And, second, they want the cars off the roads so that the snowplows and sand and salt trucks can do their jobs.

As you see what they did on this road, they did a really quick pass through here and went all the way down to the pavement.

So, they're able to make some headway if Mother Nature here would just cooperate.


BANFIELD: Isn't that just the story of the -- I was going to say the day then I thought the week and then I really thought 2014, because this winter has been so miserable for so many people so often, storm after storm after storm.

And just when you think you can get over it and clear the snow from one, another one wallops you.

In fact, I think as David Mattingly was just reporting, the governor there has had to deal with about 3,000 DOT employees out trying to clear those streets and get that state safe, I mean literally not just functional, but safe.

We're going to speak with that governor coming up after the break. Pat McCory will join us live to talk about what's happening now and what things will look like for the next few hours.

David Mattingly reports they're getting it again.

There's other news to report as well. For that my colleague Jean Casarez is holding down the fort.

I'm guessing, Jean, it's nice and warm and dry where you are. I'm glad you got that seat.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: While you're experiencing blizzard-like conditions and rain onto the snow, but, Ashleigh, you're right, a jury of CNN and five women are in day two of deliberations in the so-called "Loud Music" murder trial.

Michael Dunn is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis at a gas station parking lot. The alleged motive, prosecutors say, was Davis' loud rap music is what set him off.

Now, you can hear the gunshots on the surveillance video. This morning, the jury went to view additional angles from the 20-minute tape. We will bring you the verdict as soon as we get it in.