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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Blizzards Pounding Northeast; Alabama Church Arsons Continue; Muslim Cleric Speaks on Cartoon Protests

Aired February 12, 2006 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CO-HOST: We have a team of reporters on storm watch, as well. Our chief national correspondent John King is on the Massachusetts Cape, where the storm could be the fiercest, we understand.
TONY HARRIS, CNN CO-HOST: CNN's Chris Huntington is watching the storm in Brooklyn, New York, where blizzard conditions are already raging.

NGUYEN: And from snow-covered Washington, CNN's Gary Nuremberg. We have got a lot to tell you about this morning, so stay with us for that.

HARRIS: All right, let's get it going. In the CNN Center, this is CNN SUNDAY MORNING, February 12, 8:00 a.m. at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta; 7:00 a.m. in Beaverton, Alabama, where yet another congregation has no place to hold a Sunday morning service.

Good morning, everyone, I'm Tony Harris.

NGUYEN: Ten church fires so far -- we'll get to that just a moment.

Good morning, everyone, I'm Betty Nguyen. We want to thank you for being with us. We have got a lot to tell you about in the weather department. Bonnie Schneider and Chad Myers - they are up and running this morning, and they've been very busy.

Bonnie, how is it looking so far?

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, unfortunately, Betty, the situation is getting worse for Massachusetts. The winds are really picking up there, and there's a blizzard warning for Boston and the surrounding suburbs. That goes until 7:00 this evening. The blizzard warning for New York City continues until 4:00.

We're looking at a live picture of Boston right now, courtesy of our affiliate WHDH. This looks like the downtown area. And, as you can see, several inches of snow on the ground. The wind -- that is a major factor with this storm - whipping about, sustained winds in Boston right now, out of the Northeast, about 26, 27 miles per hour. That is going to create a major problem with visibility today if you are going to be traveling. We're already seeing that into New York City, as well. The big picture shows this storm as the cold air wraps in behind it completely, not at all over. It's starting to taper off a little bit for D.C., where we've had lots of snow, as well, into parts of New Jersey -- some very impressive amounts of snow across much of the region for this. We're also looking at a very, unfortunately, bitter windshield factor, where temperatures right now feel like they are nine degrees out over much of the area for that region.

This storm is working its way over the ocean, and Chad Myers joins me now, our severe weather expert.

And, Chad, we're seeing that storm really get fired up and intensifying as it comes in contact with that warm ocean water.

CHAD MYERS, CNN SEVERE WEATHER EXPERT: Yes, Bonnie, for hurricane season, we called you the "loop current queen" because you were in charge of this hot water that was in the Gulf of Mexico and south of the Yucatan, where these hurricanes really exploded in this hot water. Well, the water isn't so hot now. It's 50s and 60s.

But this is now a cold storm getting over the gulf stream. I know you have heard of that. If you are in Florida or if you have swam off the coast of Florida, it's a lot warmer water than the coast of California. The coast of California gets water from the north. The water from the south, from Key West, rolls right up Miami and up the East Coast. As the storm approached and ran into the Atlantic Ocean, it gathered just that little bit of extra warm water, and it exploded in intensity.

Now we're looking at what's called the defermation zone (ph). Just a big long term that means, Philadelphia, you are getting out of this green. When it's all white, you can't tell where the heavy stuff is, but here you can tell now. The heaviest grown snow, the darkest, brightest, bright bands here, east of Philadelphia, right through Trenton, now moving up into New York City. For a while, Manhattan, you were only in moderate snow. Now that green area is sliding right back into the island. I mean, we're talking from Newark right on up to Yonkers, even up into White Plains.

This is the heaviest snow we've seen for the storm so far, coming down at three inches per hour. This is the snow you can go outside in and get stuck in. You need to let this band go by before you go outside. Let the plows catch up because, right now, the plows can't keep up at three inches an hour -- back to you.

NGUYEN: So basically, Chad, you need to enjoy it from the comfort of your home - look out the window; just don't go outside just yet.

MYERS: Yes, it gets to be dangerous at some point, and now, right now, with that heaviest band right over the city. And it's moving into Boston, too, two to three inches per hour. This is when it gets dangerous to be out and about, especially in your car. Walking around is a little bit better, because that's what most Manhattanites (ph) do. But, you know, the whole thing, you are going to be walking through 15 inches of snow before this is done. NGUYEN: It is one thing, two to three inches cumulative, but two to three inches per hour, that's a big storm. We're looking at live pictures of Philly, as you can see. The snow is coming down right now there. Southern New England could get the coldest temperatures, the most snow, and the highest winds of this winter storm.

CNN chief national correspondent John King joins us now from Massachusetts Cape where he has been braving the wind.

And we've been watching you this morning. It's almost painful to watch you, John. How strong are the gusts out there?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're getting pretty powerful, Betty. We're gusting well over 40 miles an hour. Now, they say they could go as high as 60, and you can see out here -- I'm going to turn, and you get the effect of the wind. That is the biggest concern right now. Not much snow accumulation along the coast here, just yet.

But as you turn inland, you are beginning to see the effect of these high winds. One of the biggest concerns to worry about down here is drifting. A couple of inches of snow so far. But, as you can see, you step into the drifts, it gets up a little bit deeper here. Accumulations have picked up. The snow has intensified in the last hour or so.

The wind is the biggest concern right now. I want to take you across and show you the Chatham Light here on Cape Cod. The hardy souls of the Coast Guard just moments ago put up the American flag and the POW-MIA flag at the Chatham Light here on Cape Cod.

And I also want to show you -- last hour, we showed you the gale wind flags, and they have replaced those now with this square flag. That is a storm warning -- the Coast Guard here and the Chatham Light, despite these conditions.

Again, the wind is the major concern right now; the snow beginning to accumulate. They expect, perhaps, 18 inches here; perhaps, a little bit more. Laura Bernardini, our producer, told by Massport that more than 90 percent are expected to go even higher. Of the daily 1,300 flights every day out of Boston's Logan Airport have been canceled.

The ski resorts in northern are going to like this. They haven't had much snow this winter. They will like this. But, certainly, some nasty conditions here. But we want to take you now from Red Sox country down to the south where one of those other teams plays -- I forget the name of that team.

Chris Huntington standing by in Prospect Park in Brooklyn -- Chris.

CHRIS HUNTINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Remember, we have Johnny Damon now, so just keep that in mind.

Here in Prospect Park, I would say right now, John, we're looking at definitely 10 inches in the area where we could get more or less an accurate measure. Chad was just saying, the heavy stuff coming down over the New York City area - I can vouch for that on the ground here for that fact. It's definitely coming down heavily. It feels to have gotten a little bit colder in the last half-an-hour or so.

The winds -- just a bit in the last 10 minutes or so, but this is clearly, clearly building up very, very quickly here. Here, in Prospect Park, of course, this time of day, it's pre-dawn run. That's about the only activity we're seeing around here for right now, other than the vigilant salt spreaders and the New York Sanitation Department out there, trying to plow, but it's a tough road to hoe, as it were, with the wind filling in everything.

We're going to go down now to Washington, D.C., and Gary Nurenberg -- Gary.

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris.

About five to 12 inches of snow in the immediate Washington area. So far, it's a heavy snow. It's coming down on power lines -- on the branches, rather, under the snow, are coming down on power lines. We now have 86,000 customers in the immediate Washington area without power; another 62,000 in the Baltimore area without power because of these heavy limbs, snow-laden limbs, coming down on power lines.

In addition, about 7:00 this morning, authorities at Washington Reagan National Airport closed the airport at 7:00. Their crews had been out dealing with snow coming down about two inches an hour since midnight. They're giving those crews a break. They've closed the airport and anticipate that the crews will go back to work about 10:00 this morning to begin re-clearing the runways, and anticipate that the airport will open again about 11:00 or 12:00 this morning -- so big flight delays at Reagan National.

We're also hearing reports of tree limbs coming down on the Baltimore Washington Parkway, causing traffic problems there; tree limbs coming down on the George Washington Parkway, just outside of Washington that loops Washington into the Beltway that surrounds the city. Traffic problems there, as well; snow emergency in Washington; heavy snow warning until 10:00 this morning.

Tony and Betty, we will keep you up-to-date as the morning progresses.

HARRIS: Good morning, so far. OK, Gary Nuremberg in Washington, D.C. for us - Gary, thank you.

The heavy snow is a traffic nightmare in the making. Weather on the roads or in the air, for the latest, let's check in with air travel expert Rally Caparas.

Rally, good morning. Take your time with this, and walk us through the flight cancellations, the flight delays, and the impact on the air traffic system by this storm this morning.

RALLY CAPARAS, AIR TRAFFIC EXPERT: Well, Tony, it's going to take us quite some time if we do all of that, that's for sure. There are so many cancellations. The FAA's air traffic system, the National Air Space System, they have already canceled somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 flights that are headed to or from the busy Northeast. The Boston Logan Airport, the New York City Metros, and Philadelphia, they've seen somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 to 300 flights per airport already this morning. You can expect that number to grow.

This is affecting airports such Miami International -- 100 flights have been canceled that are headed down to Miami out of the Northeast. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson has seen 100 flights canceled already. Chicago O'Hare has seen 100 flights canceled already. And it's going to grow throughout the rest of the day.

Reagan National, as you heard just moment ago, is closed. They're going to keep it closed. There is no projected reopening time announced. However, we do hear that 11:00 a.m. is the time that they're going to get back to work on clearing the runways out. We should see some flights headed to or from Reagan National sometime after 12:00 noon, Eastern Time.

But the rest of the East Coast basically is going to be paralyzed. We do see some flights headed into and out of those major airport hubs. The reason why all of these major airport hubs have not been shut down is because they basically canceled just about everything that's out. They're going to be landing over the next couple of hours. We do see active flights but just very, very sparingly.

HARRIS: That's tough, Rally - appreciate it. Thank you.

NGUYEN: As you know, you can stay with CNN throughout the day, and we encourage you to for coverage of this quickly developing winter storm as it moves across the Northeast. CNN is your severe weather headquarters.

Well, their anger hasn't died down. Muslims all around the world are still protesting the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed. Coming up: What do Islamic scholars have to say about the recent rioting? Find out on "Faces of Faith."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Well, with this winter storm hitting such a wide area, you can't be in two places at once, but we can, and more than just two. Want you to take a look: Heavy snow has canceled flights, caused power outages. This isn't your average nor'easter. We are going to bring you live coverage from all along the Eastern Seaboard, because CNN is your severe headquarters -- severe weather headquarters, that is.

Speaking of severe weather, we want to see how the situation is in Boston with all the snow there. Let's go now to affiliate WHDH and Janet Wu, who is standing in all that snow that's blowing about.

Good morning, Janet. What's the situation there? JANET WU, WHDH CORRESPONDENT: Good snowy Sunday morning to you, Betty. You were just saying that you can be in many different places at once. Well, I'm not sure you want to be in this place this morning. I hope all the people watching from warm weather places are not gloating too much when they see all of this sideways snow.

You know, these nor'easters tend to build and build and build around the Eastern Seaboard until they really punch Boston. What we're seeing right now is the beginning of that punch. This storm came knocking on our door around 3:00 this morning. The snow has been following at a pretty good clip. Take a look down around my feet right here: You can see how much snow has already fallen, about six inches.

They say that this is going to be an all-day affair, this snowstorm. That is why we are told to expect between a foot to two- feet of snow around Massachusetts and New England. I am standing in front of City Hall Plaza, one of the busiest areas of downtown Boston. You can see behind me, not too many things going on right here. Just a few people walking into the Tea Station and a couple of plows going by, but most everyone else, they are staying home, maybe still under the covers with a cup of coffee, or hot chocolate later to watch this storm. It is the biggest one of the season, and it's going to be pretty fierce from what we can see.

Live from Boston, Janet Wu for CNN.

NGUYEN: I was going to say, Janet, from what we can see of that snow in sideways, that is pretty fierce. Let me ask you about the traveling situation there -- what about Boston Logan Airport? We don't see that it's closed. Are you hearing otherwise?

WU: Well, what we've heard is that it is 90 percent closed. Last evening, long before the snow started, certain airlines just went ahead and canceled all of their flights. So, even though the airport has not been officially closed, we have not seen any flights going in and out of there this morning.

NGUYEN: Makes sense with all this snow on the ground -- thank you Janet Wu with affiliate WHDH.

HARRIS: Well, state and federal agents in Alabama have another church fire to investigate, the tenth church. The Beaverton Free Will Baptist Church went up in flames Saturday in rural Lamar County. That's near the Mississippi state line. And that's where CNN's national correspondent Bob Franken joins us live this morning.

Bob, good morning.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Tony.

It's a remote area of northwest Alabama. As you can see, the church in back of me is really quite gutted. Now, what is interesting about that is that the fire department got here extremely quickly. This uncharacteristically went up in flames about 4:15. The fire department is only about a mile away and got here quickly, but you can see, that it was quite burned out, and investigators have been crawling all over the scene. Last night, members of the task force from the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Agency, FBI officials, state and local officials all looking to see if this would be the 10th arson or suspected arson since February 3rd of Baptist churches.

One thing that's important to point out is the congregation here is predominantly white. Several of the other Baptist churches that have gone down in flames during this period have white congregations. But, also, several have had predominantly African American congregations, which is It's puzzling to investigators who are looking for motives, trying to develop profiles.

They've also gone over a wide area, and some of the people who are looking for evidence and looking for motives say that maybe some of them were in the home area -- the first group of them in the home area of whoever is responsible. But then they spread out. It's, in effect, a decoy. It's something that happens in these serial cases. In any case, it has not been determined yet whether this one was arson but, obviously under the circumstances, there's a high suspicion that it is -- Tony.

HARRIS: CNN's Bob Franken following the Alabama church fires for us -- Bob, thank you.

NGUYEN: Well, if you just started to wake up with us this morning, you want to brace yourself because there's some bad weather to tell you about. The East Coast is being slammed -- and we mean slammed -- with a winter storm. Look at the live pictures from Philly this morning: Those cars don't seem like they're going to be going anywhere any time soon with all that snow on the ground. We are going to give you a forecast ahead with all the Eastern Seaboard states that are dealing with this whiteout.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Try and let's work this out. OK, here we go.

Five-way split there. Betty, we're going to start top left, and work left to right, OK?

NGUYEN: All right, I'm with you.

HARRIS: OK. Boston, Mass.; Washington; the Iwo Jima; Marine Corps Memorial; New York City. Second row here: Rhode Island; Philly.

NGUYEN: You know what? They all look the same. You know why?

HARRIS: Snow, snow, snow, snow - all snow. So go ahead, have yourself a snowball fight if you want, but don't try to do any real traveling today in the Northeast. A fierce winter storm moving from Kentucky to New England, and it is packing so much snow that the weather service is asking people to avoid all kinds of travel.

So let's get you updated with Bonnie Schneider in the CNN Weather Center this morning - good morning, Bonnie.

SCHNEIDER: Good morning.

What we're looking at right now is not only snow, but a lot of strong wind, as well. As we take a look at the radar picture now, you will see the winds are gusting right now -- 32 miles per hour in Atlantic City and New Jersey. The storm is actually moving away from this part of the country, heading further towards the Northeast, where the winds are also picking up, especially in the Boston area.

Our reporter from our affiliate WHDH was talking about how these storms kind of ignite just before they hit Boston, and that's exactly what we're seeing. As the storm moves over, some of the warmer waters of the ocean picks up some of the moisture, pulls down the colder air, and it's a blockbuster of an explosion for some very, very powerful snow.

Here's a look at some of history of snowfall totals from the storm -- as can you see, unbelievable. Columbia, Maryland, 21.3 inches of snow, and we still have snow in the Maryland area. We're also looking at a lot snow from New Jersey, up towards Connecticut, and I'm sure these numbers will be climbing as we work our way throughout the day. The blizzard warning for New York City continues until 4:00 today; for Boston until 7:00 p.m. tonight -- Betty, Tony.

HARRIS: Bonnie, thank you.

NGUYEN: The Islamic cartoon controversy started out as anger at a Danish newspaper that published drawings of the Prophet Mohammed. It has now erupted into worldwide protest. Some say, the cartoon controversy is a matter of free speech. Others say the issue is about sensitivity and that Muslims have been treated less than respectfully than Jews or Christians would have in a similar situation.

Helping us sort all of this through is professor and monk Yahya Hendi. He is the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University, and he joins us by phone this morning because he obviously can't get to the studio with all the snow that's going on there.

We appreciate your time this morning.

IMAN YAHYA HENDI, MUSLIM CHAPLAIN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, thank you for having me. You know, it is not as bad as the snowstorm is.

NGUYEN: I have to first ask you, is there room in Islam for satire, or is it clear that these cartoons went way beyond satire?

HENDI: It seem to me that it went beyond, not only because Mohammed was depicted in the picture or cartoon, but rather because he was depicted as a terrorist, a terrorist full of (ph) bloodshed. Muslims believe that Mohammed is a man of peace, love, and compassion. And when their prophet was accused of being a terrorist, that is, I think, what started all of this.

NGUYEN: All right. On the other hand, though, what does the Koran say about the violence that's erupted because of this? HENDI: No, this violence absolutely unacceptable. I would call it a sin, condemned by the teachings of the Koran. After all, Islam believes in the need to have an intellectual discourse when we have this agreement, and, therefore, I believe what happened in the name of Mohammed would not be accepted by Mohammed himself. You know, Mohammed was assaulted many times in his life, but he was always praying for those who insulted him. But to go out and burn embassies and kill people is absolutely unacceptable.

NGUYEN: Yes, I want to ask you about that because, as we've seen, this is not just a Denmark issue. Protests have spilled over into other areas, like Christian churches in Beirut. Are these cartoons becoming a license to attack other faiths, countries, and political beliefs?

HENDI: You know, if this is seen in the honorable Muslim world as an attack from Christians to Muslims, then it might be used as an attack back. However, I hope that it does not continue to be this way because I do believe that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are brothers and sisters who share a lot in common.

NGUYEN: These cartoons haven't just angered the Muslim communities abroad. They've also angered Muslim communities right here in the U.S. Yet, we're not seeing violent protests here in the U.S. What do you make of that?

HENDI: I think this is because American Muslims seem to believe in the need to engage our neighbors, our fellow citizens, in an intellectual way, in a rationale way. We need our neighbors in America to come out and learn about the life of Mohammed, and that is what Muslims are trying to do in America. We are reaching out to our neighbors, educating them to about who Mohammed is, and that Mohammed is a prophet who instructed us to love our neighbor.

You know, after all, Mohammed said, none of you truly believes until he wishes for his neighbor what he wishes for himself. That is what we are trying to live in America.

NGUYEN: A good way to live. Iman Yahya Hendi, Muslim chaplain at Georgetown university. Stay warm today, would you?

HENDI: I'm trying my best.

NGUYEN: OK, take care. Thank you for your time.

So you are over 30 and don't have a wedding date just yet, but, you know what? You are not alone. More and more Americans are getting married later in life, and at 9:00 a.m. Eastern -- just in time for Valentine's Day -- Joannie (ph) is going to be exploring the state of love in America.

HARRIS: But first: 6,000 of them exist. One in every 10 Americans will be diagnosed with one. Senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a closer look at rare medical disorders and what many of them -- how they don't get much attention, money, or research. "House Call" and today's headlines right after this short break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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