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AMERICAN MORNING

Ice Storm, Cold Weather Grips Much of the Nation; The Presidential Bunch

Aired January 17, 2007 - 07:00:00   ET

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


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: States of emergency, ice and bitter cold coast-to-coast, north to south. Citrus prices already spiking from California's fruit freeze.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: The presidential bunch: One candidate tips his hand, and how others are suddenly jockeying for their place in what is truly an historic race for the White House.

M. O'BRIEN: Resetting the alarm. Forecasters unveil a new way to warn you about dangerous weather before it strikes.

S. O'BRIEN: And beauty from the storm. We're going to hear from the overjoyed mother of that little guy, the little guy, Baby Noah, nearly washed away by Hurricane Katrina. Those stories and much more on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome back everybody. Wednesday, January 17th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: I'm Miles O'Brien. Glad you are with us.

S. O'BRIEN: Most of America is now below freezing this morning. The bitter cold is devastating places that are just not prepared to hand it. State of emergency now in 10 California counties and at least a half a billion dollars of citrus fruit has been lost. Frozen pipes are bursting in Southern California. There's a run on space heaters there, too. Freezing rain is falling again today in south Texas. We're covering all those stories for you this morning.

Jacqui Jeras is in San Antonio for us. Greg Hunter is at New York's wholesale produce headquarters. And we have Severe Weather Expert Chad Myers with us as well this morning. Let's start with Jacqui, and the ice-covered palm trees in San Antonio, which is just --

That is just sad to see, Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST, AMERICAN MORNING: It really is. Look at this, Soledad. You can see just the drips, the icicles coming off these very tender plants, unfortunately. I don't want to touch them too much for you here, because literally when you touch them, they break off because the actual plant itself isn't frozen. In addition to that quarter of an inch of ice, which on top of it.

It's about 36 hours that we've been dealing with this freezing rain, and it's all but shut down the city. Thousands of people are without power. Dozens of flights have been canceled, and schools and businesses have been closed. And there is very, very little traffic.

There are about 300 miles of Interstate 10, which has been shut down here from San Antonio all the way on out to the west. What's happening here just a taste of what is happening all across the Nation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JERAS (voice over): It could still be days before it's gets warm enough to melt all the ice left behind by a nasty, deadly winter storm that clobbered parts of Texas, the Midwest, and New England. At least 50 people in eight states are dead. Most of them killed on dangerous icy roads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We try to get everybody to slow down, but I have seen people still speeding out here. And they just don't know -- I mean, this slick ice, you just can't see it.

JERAS: The ice also snapping trees like twigs, downing power lines, leaving nearly half a million people without electricity. Officials say it could be next week before power is back in some places, and the mercury is dropping. Some of the coldest temperatures of the season expected in the Northeast tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically we're bundling up. We've got sweatshirts on, dress in layers, trying to stay warm. All staying in one room to keep the heat.

JERAS: In California below freezing temperatures expected for at least a couple of more days; the citrus industry on its knees. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toured an orange grove and spoke with farmers who feared they've lost everything.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R-CA): We may lose up to, as I have just heard, up to 70 percent of our oranges, our lemons, and our grapefruit. That's, of course, really bad news.

JERAS: The bad news also extends to the Pacific Northwest, where snow and slush are making daily life a mess. Many schools are closed down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JERAS: And while the snow and ice has ended across parts of the nation's midsection and the Northeast. Here in central Texas we're looking for a break maybe this afternoon, but more freezing rain and sleet is expected by late tomorrow -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Jacqui Jeras for us this morning in San Antonio. Thank you, Jacqui.

Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: You've seen those signs: Bridges ice before roads, or words to that effect. Well, proof of the pudding right here. Take a look at that tan pickup truck. There it is on the bridge, does a full 270 at least, almost a 360, and that 18-wheeler nearly hitting it. This is in Huntsville, Texas, Houston area.

One more time. Take a look at the truck. Looks like a Ford light pickup there. Hits the bridge. Hits the ice, and just loses it. No control there whatsoever. We invite you to drive safely out there, folks. That ice can be very, very dangerous. You have the proof right there.

Ice and snow making roads dangerous in the Seattle area as well. Warnings up again this morning, and classes delayed for hundreds of thousands of school kids. East of Seattle, a 30-vehicle pile-up closed westbound lanes of I-90 for five hours. Accidents started when a tractor-trailer smashed into a trooper's patrol car. No one was seriously hurt, fortunately.

We'll talk about it -- to Chad about today's bone-chilling forecast coming up. Plus the forecast for prices in the produce section. The wild weather in California may leave a sour taste when you buy some citrus. Price check ahead.

S. O'BRIEN: Happening this morning, the very latest on Fidel Castro's condition. A doctor in Spain talked exclusively to CNN this morning. He is contradicting those reports that Fidel Castro is in grave condition, as he battles an intestinal infection. Dr. Jose Louise Garcia Sabrito is telling our Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman, that, in fact, Fidel Castro, is making progress.

Also this morning, no plans yet for 13-year-old Ben Ownby to return to school. His family says they have not talked about his four- day kidnap ordeal. When the boy was found on Friday, in Kirkwood, Missouri, along with another teenager who had been missing for more than four years.

Now, Ownby did thank Mitchell Holt, that is the teenager who gave the cops the tip about the white truck, the white pickup truck, and that is what eventually led to the rescue of both boys.

National Weather Service says it's going to overhaul the way they warn you about severe storms. Instead of watches and warnings coming to you by county, the Weather Service is going to be more precise, and use highways and other landmarks.

We'll talk to the man behind this move, and this plan, a little bit later this hour.

It's day two of the trial of Louis Scooter Libby in Washington D.C., and potential jurors have been questioned about their politics, and their knowledge of the trial's participants. They were saying how one woman lasted less than 10 seconds on the stand when she was being interviewed.

Libby, of course, was Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. He is charged with lying to investigators for trying to figure out just who leaked the identify of CIA operative Valerie Plame to reporters.

M. O'BRIEN: After only two years in the Senate Barak Obama has his eyes on the White House. He is filing the paperwork to create a presidential exploratory committee, and so it seems is everyone else inside the Beltway. AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken is here to announce his candidacy.

Right, Bob?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING : That's right. You can dial 1-800-EGO-TRIP, and it points out that you, too, can run for presidency. And you don't need a lot of experience.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL): I'll be filing papers today to create a presidential exploratory committee.

FRANKEN (voice over): He may be considered inexperienced, but Barak Obama has already learned how to milk publicity.

OBAMA: On February 10th, at the end of these discussions, and in my home state of Illinois, I'll share my plans with my friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans.

FRANKEN: The nation waits. In the meantime, Republican Sam Brownback will be diving in from the right on Saturday. His campaign slogan? I'm not John McCain.

Take the addition of more troops to Iraq. Not the answer, says Brownback. The answer, argues McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ): I believe it's necessary and I hope we can move forward.

FRANKEN: McCain hasn't officially moved forward with his presidential candidacy, but there are few surer things in this life. That's probably true on the Democratic side of Hillary Rodham Clinton's plans.

Clinton aides are complaining that John Edwards, who is already in the ballgame, has been throwing some hardballs at her; departing from his, we're all in this together mantra.

JOHN EDWARDS, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to do it, all of us together.

FRANKEN: The presidential candidate landscape is already cluttered. Among Democrats? Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Senator Christopher Dodd, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who at least doesn't have to travel far.

Among the big name Republicans in the hunt, there's Giuliani and Romney. Small names include Duncan Hunter, and now GOP Congressman Tom Tancredo, who is hoping his restrictive immigration leadership produces a groundswell on this side of the board.

And in both parties there are literally dozens threatening to run.

RHODES COOK, POLITICAL ANALYST: This is a time to realize the American dream, you know. If you are brought up to believe that anybody can be president, this is the type of election cycle to realize that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: Well, you know, the music goes on and on. John Kerry says he might run. Bill Richardson says he might run. Al Gore says he is not going to run, but, Miles, nobody believes him.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Maybe it's hot air. All right. Thank you very much, Bob Franken.

The Obama-Clinton rivalry shaping up to be a political horse race to watch, at least at this stage of the game. This afternoon, Senator Hillary Clinton will hold a news conference, in fact, on her trip to Iraq. It was scheduled for yesterday, but it was hastily postponed after the Obama statement hit the web. Congressional Correspondent Andrea Koppel live on Capitol Hill with more.

Andrea, good morning.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning, Miles.

You know Senator Clinton's aides say that the decision to postpone her press conference had nothing to do with the Obama announcement, which, in fact, hadn't even been announce as yet, but had more to do with the fact that one of the two other lawmakers who accompanied her to Iraq was suffering from dehydration.

Now, as you know, Senator Clinton's trip to Iraq came immediately on the heels of President Bush's rollout of his plan to send thousands more troops to Iraq. In other words, no sooner had the president made his announcement, Senator Clinton was on a plane headed there. This was her third trip to Iraq.

And certainly considering her frontrunner status, no Democrat is under more pressure to clarify their position on Iraq, unlike Senator Obama who wasn't even in the Senate when Congress voted to authorize the war, back in October of 2002. Senator Clinton was in the Senate. She did vote to authorize the war, and as a result, has come under tremendous pressure from the left wing of her party to repudiate that vote and call for U.S. troops to be withdrawn.

But to do so could open her up to the same kind of criticism we saw about John Kerry back in '04, when he was accused of being a flip- flopper on the war. So when this press conference takes place later this afternoon, Miles, it will be the first opportunity for Senator Clinton to clarify her position. And, of course, respond to the questions on Obama -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: Andrea Koppel, we'll be watching that news conference, for sure.

CNN equals politics and debate. We are teaming up with Manchester's WMUR TV and the "Union Leader" newspaper to host air a pair of debates Wednesday April 4th and Thursday, April 5th. One for the Republican presidential hopefuls, the other for the Democrats. CNN's Wolf Blitzer will moderate -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Prepare yourselves, the harsh cold is back in the Northeast. Ice is still a big problem across the country. Severe Weather Expert Chad Myers has a frozen forecast for us straight ahead this morning.

And new technology tested for passenger planes to shoot down an incoming missile. We'll explain straight ahead.

Plus, take a look at this picture. OK, it's a heart. This is an actual heart. Do you think it's my heart? Is it Miles' heart? We'll tell you whose heart it is.

M. O'BRIEN: I hope so. Looks pretty good. Looks like it's pretty healthy.

S. O'BRIEN: It looks pretty healthy.

M. O'BRIEN: Yeah.

S. O'BRIEN: We'll tell you why we're taking a look at it as well. That's straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back. Some of the stories we're watching for you, on the show that brings you the most news in the morning. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; she's in Germany after talks with Middle East leaders. Secretary Rice is trying to shore up support for the president's new Iraq strategy.

And this morning we're also monitoring a news conference that's happening right now in Iraq. U.S. commanders are outlining their plans for the bolstering the ranks of the Iraqi security forces.

It is time to take a look at what Chad is watching for us this morning.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: A lot of airline security experts would tell you it is one of the biggest holes in our defense against terrorists. U.S. airliners are not equipped with any sort of defense against surface- to-air missiles. That could be changing, however. CNN's Jacki Schechner tells us how a new system being tested works.

Good morning, Jacki. JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning. This is right up your alley, Miles.

An MD-10 cargo jet that was equipped with an anti-missile system took off from LAX yesterday. And this is the first time we've seen one of these systems put on a commercial cargo plane.

The system is designed to protect planes from shoulder-fired missiles, and this is especially on takeoff and landing. It's called The Guardian, and it works completely by itself. Here's how this works. It detects a heat source coming at the plane, and within seconds it will determine whether or not it's a missile. If it thinks it's a missile, it will shoot a laser at the head of the missile and redirect the missile away from the plane so the pilot doesn't have to do a thing.

Now, my big question was, what happens to the missile once it's redirect. They say it will eventually time out, that gravity takes over, the missile will just fall down. The whole system adds about 300 to 500 pounds to the cargo. The heaviness of the plane, which is equivalent to two passengers and their luggage. I say it's the equivalent of me and then a couple weeks worth of stuff.

M. O'BRIEN: Which adds up to some real money for the airlines.

We're talking about heat-seeking missiles, by the way.

SCHECHNER: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: That explains why the laser would kind of spoof it. We just reported the airlines are finally turning around after 9/11, posting a profit. They don't have a lot of extra cash to put in these systems, and they're expensive. How soon will we see them on real commercial airlines?

SCHECHNER: Well, they say they're going to test them out on these cargo airliners for about a year. And then they're hoping that they can put them on passenger planes after that year. We should mention that they have been on military planes since about 1998, so they do know that the system works, but they're going to test it out on commercial cargo planes, before they actually put it on your passenger plane.

M. O'BRIEN: Big money, though.

SCHECHNER: Is it? I don't know the price tag, actually. I haven't found out how much that price tag is.

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

SCHECHNER: A bit hefty.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

Coming up, oil prices dropping to a 19-month low; bouncing back slightly this morning. What's it going to mean at the pump for you? Ali Velshi, "Minding Your Business".

An update on a story we brought to you on Tuesday. Meet the smallest survivor of Hurricane Katrina, aptly named, Noah. Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: The most news in the morning: On the radar right now, day two of jury selection in the trial of Lewis Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Cheney, accused of lying to investigators looking into who leaked the name of a CIA operative to reporters.

And the National Weather Service is changing how it warns people about dangerous weather. It will soon issue alerts for specific areas, not entire counties.

S. O'BRIEN: And update now on one of the more unusual rescues from Katrina's great flood; a frozen embryo is now a healthy baby boy. Here's his proud mom in her own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REBEKAH MARKHAM, MOTHER: I like to introduce the world to Noah Benton Markham, and this is his big brother Wit Markham, of course. Little Noah here just happened to be stowed away for two and a half years.

It's scary to think that, you know, he was in the storm, and he survived the storm, and I was so far away. And he was there, and people went in, and risked so many different things and orchestrated it so precisely. And everything worked. I mean, it's just a miracle. I'm so blessed.

We were having a little trouble coming up with names, and I prayed about it because, you know, we wanted something special. When his sister saw the newspaper article, she thought of Noah, and when she told me, it sounded so good.

GLEN MARKHAM, FATHER: The name we did, too -- you know, I think it fit perfect. But no, Katrina was out.

R. MARKHAM: He is going to be studying Katrina in school, and knowing it's a huge part of history, and I'm going to be able to explain to him that he survived it before he was even born.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: Which is quite a story to tell. We'll be talking to Baby -- we'll meet Baby Noah.

(LAUGHTER)

M. O'BRIEN: Way above average baby, there.

(LAUGHTER) S. O'BRIEN: We'll be talking to his parents.

M. O'BRIEN: It's very nice to have been born yesterday, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: We'll be talking, Mr. Sarcasm, to his parents, Rebekah and Glen Markham, that's at 8:40 a.m. Eastern Time.

M. O'BRIEN: I love the choice of names. Noah is perfect.

S. O'BRIEN: Noah, is a great name.

M. O'BRIEN: For flood survivors everywhere, it should be Noah.

S. O'BRIEN: These were some of the other options they were thinking about, that the joking father was coming up with.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, yes. I have to say, though, the picture of the day was the older brother with the baby. Just --

S. O'BRIEN: Oh wasn't he cute, Wit, trying to put the hat on his little baby brother and kissing him.

M. O'BRIEN: But as you were pointing out, let's check in at the household in a month or so, and see.

S. O'BRIEN: At 18 months, when they start pushing each other and biting each other. I know that story. That's cute, though. Good for them.

M. O'BRIEN: Oil prices at levels we haven't seen for a year and a half.

Ali Velshi, you are Mr. Sunshine this morning. Airline profits --

ALI VELSHI, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN MORNING: Airline profits, oil prices down.

M. O'BRIEN: Oil prices down. What else you got?

VELSHI: Oil prices are lower than they were when that baby was born. Oil prices are -- take a look at this chart. In the last month oil prices have dropped from about $64 a barrel to about $51 a barrel, which is where they are right now. Just since the beginning of this year, that's a drop of about $13. Oil prices have dropped about $10 just since the beginning of this year.

Now, how does that translate into gas prices? A month ago they were about $2.30 a gallon for self-serve, unleaded. That's a national average. Yesterday oil -- gas prices were $2.22 a gallon national average, and experts are expecting that over the next 10 days to two weeks you'll see a further slide, maybe 10 cents, or more.

Now we just counted up on GasBuddy, and we found 16 cities -- this is what people self-report, they report on what gas is in their city -- 16 cities where you could get gas for under $2 a gallon across the country.

Now, OPEC has just said it doesn't need more cuts in production. There is a cut going into place on February 1st, half a million barrels a day. OPEC is not fantastic at enforcing these cuts, but they're aiming for half-a-million-barrel cut per day. That will bring the total that OPEC has been cutting over the last year to 1.7 million barrels a day. They still say they'll be 3 million barrels of oil per day extra, more oil than we need.

Now, very interesting, GM's chief, Rick Wagoner, who I spoke to at the Auto Show, a week ago, has come out and said, in a speech, that he is a little concerned. Sure, he likes the fact that gas prices are down. But one of the things that he, that others have said in the past, is that the danger of lower gasoline prices is everybody throws the rules out the window, back when it was $3 a gallon -- everybody was talking about buying more fuel-efficient cars and maybe getting the hybrids and all this kind of stuff -- back at $2 a gallon or lower, we're all going back to our old bad habits, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Boy, we have short memories, don't we?

VELSHI: And you know what, when it gets warm again, we'll forget it was cold.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, pretty much, yes. Thank you very much, Ali.

VELSHI: OK.

M. O'BRIEN: Top stories of the morning are coming up next. Prosecutors build their case in the Missouri kidnap mystery, trying to find out if there are more victims. We'll go live to the courthouse.

Also, the deep freeze ruins hundreds of millions of dollars worth of oranges, lemons, avocados, and more. What will you end up paying at the produce section?

And, later, heart-to-heart, shall we say. We'll tell you whose ticker this is, and why we're talking about it. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Wintry blitz: Frigid air and ice blanketing a huge section of the country. Look at the weather making travel treacherous and crushing California's citrus industry.

S. O'BRIEN: On alert, the National Weather Service is rolling out a brand new plan for warning you about severe weather.

M. O'BRIEN: And a trip into the heart of a man you know very well. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta shows us the remarkable technology spotting heart problems early and in 3d on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Good morning to you, Wednesday, January 17th. I'm Miles O'Brien.

S. O'BRIEN: And I'm Soledad O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.

(NEWSBREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Prosecutors in Missouri are preparing their case against Michael Devlin, the man suspected of kidnapping two boys. While the family of one of the boys is speaking out, AMERICAN MORNING's Chris Lawrence outside the courthouse in Union, Missouri.

Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles.

Just think about it, one week ago Ben Ownby's parents were wondering if they would ever see their son again. And most people had never heard of Michael Devlin. This morning Ben's family is still trying to figure out when he should go back to school, and Devlin is preparing to appear before a judge tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The sheriff's office is concerned about safety, and won't risk walking their prisoner into court, so Michael Devlin will be arraigned through a video camera near his jail cell.

SHERIFF GARY TOELKE, FRANKLIN COUNTY, MISSOURI: It's because of security reasons. The sheriff's office isn't connected to the courthouse. There's about a two-mile distance between the two.

LAWRENCE: In the next 24 hours, the Franklin County prosecutor will be talking to its counterparts in other counties that are involved in the case.

ROBERT PARKS, PROSECUTOR: And we will be pooling all of our evidence and then deciding what charges will come out of what counts.

LAWRENCE: At least one is certain -- Devlin is charged with kidnapping Ben Ownby, who's trying to fit back in after four days away from home.

DORIS OWNBY, BEN OWNBY'S MOTHER: He wanted to go back today. He was ready, but we're not quite ready for him to go back to school yet.

WILLIAM OWNBY, BEN OWNBY'S FATHER: We assured him we'd get him some homework to do, though.

LAWRENCE: The transition could be tougher for Shawn Hornbeck, who was missing for more than four years. He lived with Devlin for some, or possibly all, of that time. Shawn didn't go to school, but he did go out, and he did have friends. One neighbor says she saw a young girl visiting Devlin's apartment over the past few months, and investigators are trying to figure out how many other children may have been there.

TOELKE: That's part of the legwork that needs to be done. Any contacts Shawn may have had, may have had, that's what we're talking about, basically. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: As investigators continue to collect evidence, Devlin's defense attorneys are going to plead not guilty tomorrow. They've also filed a motion to get Devlin out of his orange jumpsuit and shackles. They're afraid that that appearance like that could presently any potential jurors if this case does, indeed, go to trial -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, typically would a suspect of this juncture appear in the prison garb or civilian clothes?

LAWRENCE: Well, I would assume that if he was going to appear in his prison garb and be handcuffed, and they have filed that motion to allow for him to appear in civilian clothes.

M. O'BRIEN: Got you. All right, Chris Lawrence, thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: It is bitterly cold across the country today in lots of places that are just not ready for it. California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is declaring a state of emergency for 10 California counties. And freezing rain, again, is hitting south Texas. The roads are closed. The power is out from the dangerous ice buildup.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: Well, that frigid weather in California may soon be getting you pretty steamed at the supermarket. Expect to pay more, a lot more, for oranges, lemons, strawberries, avocados, carrots and lettuce.

Consumer reporter Greg Hunter joins us from Hunts Point produce market in New York City.

Good morning, Greg.

GREG HUNTER, CONSUMER REPORTER: Hey, good morning.

This is the world's largest produce market. Fruits, vegetables, you name, it's here. Take a look. There are stacks and stacks, boxes of oranges, tomatoes, pears, peaches. You name it. I asked the pros here at Catsman (ph) Produce, one of 50 wholesalers here, hey, are fruits and vegetable prices going up? He said most definitely.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HUNTER (voice-over): These frozen oranges may lead to some chilling prices for consumers this winter. California officials fear that up to three-quarters of the state's citrus crop has been destroyed by this week's cold weather.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: We don't really know exactly what the financial damage is yet, but we know that it is probably close to -- just the citrus industry alone, close to $1 billion.

HUNTER: Some California citrus growers say the market may not recover this year. Richard Pidduck has an 80-acre lemon and avocado farm in Santa Paula (ph). He says the freeze has already cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost crops.

RICHARD PIDDUCK, CITRUS GROWER: This avocado, instead of being guacamole for some nice customer somewhere in the country is going to be on the ground and maybe feed a bear on one of my dogs.

HUNTER: The growers have been using every method they know to save their crops.

A.G. KAWAMURA, CALIF. FOOD & AG. SECY.: Many area that temperature just goes a little too low or the Wind machine, the helicopters, the irrigation systems, and they can't bring that temperature up enough to save the crop.

HUNTER: It's simple supply and demand. With less fruit available, this $1 orange could end up costing you $2.

CESAR HERNANDEZ, ASST. MGR., GARDEN OF EDEN: I expect, like, maybe 50 percent to 100 percent increase.

HUNTER: The last time California was hit by such a deep freeze was in 1998. Prices for navel oranges jumped 40 percent. These days many suppliers get their citrus from other countries, like Brazil, helping to offset high prices caused by such a freeze. But even with high prices, some consumers won't change their produce shopping habits so quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I probably still buy it, but maybe not in the amount that I normally do.

HUNTER: Officials and growers say it's too soon to tell just how bad the damage is, how many crops were lost, and whether the cold has harmed the citrus trees, not just the fruit that grows on them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HUNTER: Plenty of fruits and vegetables here right now, but let me tell you what exactly it's going to mean to you. I've got a couple of examples here. Take a look at this strawberry. This is the big, beautiful strawberries that y'all like to see. This made it out of California before the big freeze. They tell me that you're not going to see many of these, at least for four to six weeks.

And here's another thing that made it out of California, this beautiful navel orange. You know, it's the kind of orange you can peel just about in one shot. These are the kind of oranges that come out of California, you peel and eat. Well, that crop is really, really damaged, and they'll be taking oranges out of Florida and turn them into the peel and eat instead of taking those orange juice, and that means at least citrus prices and orange juice prices will be going up and staying up for a while.

M. O'BRIEN: Greg Hunter, thank you very much -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, changes are brewing for the way that we all get severe weather warnings. The man behind the new plan explains why it's time to change the way you're being informed about incoming storms.

Plus, a little heart to heart with our very own Sanjay Gupta. There he is, look at Sanjay, for once as a patient, not the doctor. We'll tell you about new technology that's helping doctors take a pretty incredible look inside your ticker.

M. O'BRIEN: I thought doctors are supposed to be bad patients.

S. O'BRIEN: We'll ask Sanjay how he did.

That's straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: The National Weather Service is changing the way it issues warnings and watches for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Instead of alerting an entire county to the threat, forecasters will use the latest technology to try to focus their warnings.

The director of the National Weather Service is retired General David Johnson. And we couldn't do a segment like this without our severe weather expert Chad Myers, here as well.

I think the general outranks you, Chad, so we're going to begin with him.

General, I want to give a brief explanatory people on this. I know you can't see what I'm doing here, but I know you are familiar with this graphic. Take a look. This is how the warnings used to be issued. Here what you have right here is a line of what they call convective activity, a lot of thunderstorms, something that might kick out tornado, certainly severe thunderstorms. The way the National Weather Service used to issue warnings was for entire counties, and so that would mean whole huge swathes of counties, wherever that storm might be touching, would be notified of a warning or a watch.

Now look at the new system, using technology and the good forecasting capabilities, they can pinpoint the spots in that line of thunderstorms and severe weather, which are likely to cause the real problems, and then issue watches, which are in these kind of polygon shapes, kind of a little bit like a cone kind of thing, depending on the probabilities, issuing warnings which are much more specific and sort of identified by landmarks. And just to bring home the point one more time, general, I want to make sure people understand, final graphic here.

The way it used to be -- there's actually one more. Let's put this one more graphic up if we could, which shows exactly what we're talking about here, about how broad those warnings used to be. In previous cases, when the bad weather would come in, one, two, three, four, five, six counties would get a warning here, and now what you get is inside that polygon.

General, first of all, how long has this been in the making? Is there new technology behind this, or what's led you to make a more specific forecast?

BRIG. GEN. DAVID JOHNSON, DIR., NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE: Yes, we've been trying to see if we couldn't make that forecast more specific. Instead of alerting the whole county, we wanted do tell you where the storm was and, more importantly, where the storm was going. So we built that box that's far more specific to the threat than alerting the entire county. I think what that'll enable us to do is let citizens know that they are vulnerable and that they need to take action once they're in a warning area.

M. O'BRIEN: I guess the tricky part of this might be when you start issuing -- I don't know. I guess is it going to be latitude and longitude or landmarks? How are you going to let people know if they're inside that danger zone without just saying, hey, if you are in this county, take cover?

JOHNSON: Well, that's the way we've been doing it now, and since about 1960 we've been alerting the whole county, but with the GIS formats, and new PDAs and GPS in your car and those kinds of things, we know that we can describe the area graphically very precisely. We're going to still go ahead and let people in the county know that they are in a watch area, and we're going to use specific landmarks, like the interstate, or a river or a lake, specific community, but we're also going to draw that box so that those who have the capability to look at a graphic like you're showing, Miles, we'll have that increased specificity to the forecast and know what it means.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, let me ask you this, you know, we talked about weather radio, and Chad's going to talk about that in just a moment, which remains county by county. If you couple weather radio with GPS technology -- in other words, if could you put your latitude and longitude in the spot where you are -- could you get a more specific warning on your weather radio as well?

JOHNSON: You certainly could, and That's exactly where we're going. Technology is evolving, as everybody in the information age knows, and that's exactly where we want to go, so that we can empower the private sector and the weather enterprise to be able to take that information on the GIS format and put it on your PDA, put it on the television, put it wherever people need to see it.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, wouldn't that be cool, Chad, if we had attached to our BlackBerry, or our cell phone or our weather radio, so really anywhere we are in the world we get the word that we're in the blanket of the warning, without necessarily watching TV or listening to the radio?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. And, general, I do want you to stress to people that these old same radios are not going out of business. I have been the biggest proponent that I know of people getting these in their homes. They're still going to be used even after the new system goes in, correct?

JOHNSON: You bet, Chad. NOAA weather radio is a great way to get that alert. It'll wake you up in the middle of the night, and it will tell you that your county is in jeopardy, and now what we're doing is we're going to include those specific geographic references that will provide a little bet more specific information. As time goes on, we continue to put new technology into the NOAA weather radio.

Right now you can program it to wake me up for a thunderstorm or a tornado, but don't wake me up for, you know, the river rising because I don't live by the river; I live over here. So you can program it for your county, and you can program it for a specific environmental parameter. We continue to infuse new technology into NOAA weather radio. And as technology increases, we'll continue to do so.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, general, thank you very much. The general getting more specific I guess.

General David Johnson, thanks for being with us. He heads the National Weather Service.

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, are you add risk for heart disease? We sent Sanjay Gupta in for a test. It's a new high-tech way to take a detailed look at your heart. That's Sanjay's heart right there. We'll tell you how he did in his test.

Plus, new word about Fidel Castro's health. Conflicting reports now from a doctor who examined him, says he's not as bad off as was previously reported. We'll update you that situation as well.

Stay with us. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: All morning long we've been showing you some pretty incredible pictures. Take a look at this, pictures of a beating heart. Look at that. Well this, as we mentioned, is Sanjay's heart, and it's a new, high-tech, 3D way to take a look at your heart.

Sanjay Gupta joins us to explain why we're looking at this heart and what it's showing us. It looks healthy to me, Sanjay. I'll give you a thumbs up. What were you hoping to find by scanning your heart like that?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I feel like we're so close now, Soledad. You've actually seen my heart.

S. O'BRIEN: Like I've seen me naked or something. GUPTA: Well, you know, it's interesting, Soledad. We talk a lot about surviving illness. We talk a lot about that, saving your own life, but what about prevention, and when do you put in prevention in the first place? How do you sort of get there? A lot of people may look at themselves and say I look pretty good, I feel pretty good, I feel healthy, men and women alike. But how do you know when you should get screened for heart disease and what's available to you? I decided to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA (voice-over): You may wonder what condition your heart is in. I did. And for the first time ever I got a chance to see my own beating heart. The truth is I'm 37 years old. Pretty healthy, but a strong family history of heart disease makes me worry. So my doctors told me to have two types of testing done. First up, drawing blood, lots of it. More than 10 tubes. Looking for all sorts of things, like genetic markers that might put me at especially high risk for heart disease.

Also, markers of inflammation, like C-reactive protein, too high a number, and your risk of heart disease skyrockets.

And, finally, cholesterol and any other fat that might be accumulating in my arteries. That accumulation clogs up blood vessels, which restricts the blood supply to the heart and could lead to a heart attack.

(on camera): So most people get their bloodwork done, as you saw I did, but another step might be to get my heart looked at, actually looking at the blood vessels that go to my heart. The question is, do I have some disease right now? And the more important question is, is there something that can be done about it? I decided have this done because of my own family history. Let's see what we find.

(voice-over): What I'm about to undergo is called a CT angiogram, using this sophisticated X-ray machine that takes 10 pictures between each heartbeat. The test itself doesn't take very long, just about 10 minutes. But all these X-rays are used to check out different things in my heart.

DR. SZILARD VOROS, FUQUA HEART CTR. OF ATLANTA: What we're looking for, see, is there any calcification in the arteries. So far there's no calcium. And the health of the arteries. This is what the CT angiogram does so well. It provides a 3D image of the heart, without having to use any invasive measures.

GUPTA: When I walk out of here, after everything you've told me, how should I feel?

VOROS: I would be very reassured. There's absolutely no coronary calcium. There's absolutely no soft plaque in the coronary arterial bed. You really have no evidence for heart disease in the arteries at this time.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA: So it's pretty remarkable. We talk a lot about angiograms, and that can be an invasive procedure where you actually have to put a catheter through one of the arteries in the groin, all the way up into the heart. But now you can get the quality images that you've just seen here through what's known as a CT angiogram. These are becoming more common.

My bloodwork is still about a week away in terms of getting the results back, but the angiogram looks good, so it is reassuring -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: That's great news, but a couple quick things. One, it looks really, really expensive. Did your insurance cover it? And, two, let's say they had said actually it's not great news. It looks like you have a genetic marker for heart disease. I mean, what do you do with that information? It's not like have you to lose weight, or eat more healthily or workout more.

GUPTA: Right, right. So with regards to the first question, the insurance issue, it's a tricky issue, and this is something that a lot of people are struggling with right now, and changes are happening. Right now it's not covered by insurance for me because I don't have any particular symptoms, no chest pain or anything that sort of suggests this. But there's a lot of people out there sort of petitioning for this idea that we should be focussing more on preventative tests, instead of waiting until someone actually develops any problems, like chest pain, indicative of heart disease.

Right now it's about $1,000, so it's not cheap, and you have to pay for that out of your own pocket, unless you have any symptoms.

As far as what you can do about it, it's very interesting. So let's say they had found some plaques or something like that. Perhaps I'd be more of a candidate for a lipid-lowering medication, something that actually not only stop plaque from growing, but studies have now shown actually reverse plaques as well.

If I had a genetic marker, maybe it would mean that I need to get tested most frequently so they can keep on top of this and maybe perform an angioplasty or something instead of a heart operation down the road. It's hard to say. It depends on your own individual history. But there is something you can do about it.

And, remember, Soledad, I always say this, but heart disease still remains the No. 1 killer for men and women alike.

S. O'BRIEN: Sanjay, thanks. I like your heart. It looks good.

GUPTA: Thank you. Appreciate that.

S. O'BRIEN: Sure. Anytime.

GUPTA: And since it's healthy it means I'll be coming into work for a few more years.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, yes. No calling in sick any more, man. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to join us in our next hour. He's going to take a look at breast cancer rates in women. Why do more black women die of breast cancer than white women when so many more white women are getting breast cancer?

Miles?

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, a bone-chilling forecast all across this country. Severe weather expert Chad Myers will tell us what to expect.

Plus, Senator Barak Obama's presidential express poised for takeoff. A look at how an Obama candidacy could change the Democratic landscape, to say the least. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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