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CNN NEWSROOM

Travel Delays; Holiday Trip Turns Deadly; Personnel Change; Waiting For Help; Tips For Your Trip; Gerri's Top Tips

Aired November 19, 2007 - 10:00   ET

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


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Much of the U.S. today. Mostly because of weather. But the one you're looking at now coming from our affiliate WFAA at DFW is about something else entirely. Apparently some radio communications broke down between the east and west towers at DFW. East tower back up and running. West tower still down. Still only reporting delays of about 30 minutes. But as you can see, it looks like everything is at an absolute stop there. A whole lot of planes just sitting there with nowhere to go. We're going to keep our eye on this one for you, as we have all morning long, to find out what the actual situation is there.
Also, a lot of weather situations to tell you about. It seems like the whole country is kind of fogged in and pretty miserable. Bonnie Schneider is in the CNN severe weather center to tell us more about this.

We've got both the east and the west coast and a whole bunch going on right in the middle.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, Heidi. And I think it's actually going to get worse for Wednesday, the busiest travel day of the year.

But first I want to show you Flight Explorer. What we're doing is we're tracking plane that are leaving the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. You mentioned the power outages and the problems with communications there. Now the planes are slow to leave. A lot of planes were waiting to take off and slowly but surely they are taking off, but it's taking a while.

Come take a walk over here and you'll see what I'm talking about. The delays in Dallas for departures are on the increase. And right now they're coming in at an hour and 15 minutes. That's a long ways away to have to wait, especially if you're already sitting on the runway waiting to take off.

We also have delays in and around Chicago. We have delays in New York City. All the other delays are weather related, with the exception of Dallas. Mostly because of fog, low clouds. And in the case of New York City, we've actually had snow in the area. Not accumulating. It's kind of changed over to rain. But definitely that hampers visibility.

So take a look at some of the other delays. Philadelphia reporting delays. Ground delays in San Francisco. And in addition to all the information I'm giving you here, check to the right side of the screen and just below for the latest on holiday travel. We'll be doing this throughout the holiday travel season, giving you five-day forecasts, current conditions and current airport delays, like the one you see to my right right now. Reporting delays from Dallas' Love Field.

There's a dense fog advisory and that's slowing things down in the Houston area, not only for those that are flying, but for those that are driving. And driving has been a problem in New Jersey. We've had reports of slow downs on certain highways due to snow.

Now it's starting to subside and the snow advisories are starting to come down as well. But look at this. All along I-78 heading east to west, like if you're heading from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, or if you're traveling on I-80, you're going to have snow. And in this part of New Jersey, the snow is sticking. It's not really, you know, going to cause too much of a problem the further south you go, but anytime snow accumulates on the road, it definitely causes a slowdown.

Along the Jersey shore and in and around Philadelphia, we have moderate rain. And I'll tell you, that snow has really piled up since yesterday. Look at these snowfall totals. Some up to 10 inches in parts of Pennsylvania in the Poconos.

So, Heidi, a lot of snow early in the season making for a tough time to travel today in that area.

COLLINS: Yes, boy, no question about that.

All right. Bonnie Schneider, we know that you are watching it closely for us today and thank you for that.

In fact, it feeds right into our next story here, keeping the Thanksgiving dinner warm. You might have to do it because U.S. Airways says it expects about 40 percent of its flights will leave late. That is because of possible winter storms and heavy holiday travel. But officials with the carrier say, even if your plane departs late, it doesn't always mean it will arrive late. Some planes can fly faster and make up time, as I'm sure you've experience, that could be otherwise lost at the gate.

Let's find out more now about this bus crash that we have been telling you about. It happened in South Carolina with some people on their way to a holiday cruise. Sarah Demarco of our affiliate WCIV is joining us now from Dorchester with more.

Sara, good morning to you.

SARAH DEMARCO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi.

Right now I'm off Interstate 26. About 20 miles west of Charleston. The accident happened just a few miles further west from here around 1:00 this morning. A charter bus went off the road, through a wooded area, a heavily wooded area, and into a deep embankment.

By the time the bus stopped, it was still standing upright, but the bus driver did not survive the crash. This morning we've been told by the Dorchester County Coroner's Office George William Thomas (ph), a 58-year-old from Hanahan, South Carolina, was killed in the crash. His autopsy is scheduled for this morning.

Now as for the passengers on board, there were approximately 50 passengers. Thirty of them transported to area hospitals. I'm told by hospital officials this morning one was admitted to intensive care. Another, who was flown from the scene, is in serious condition. The rest, we believe, have been treated. They basically had bruises and scrapes. Surprising, though, when you look at that video from how deep this bus went into that embankment and certainly at the speed they were likely going.

Now the Dorchester County EMS director also spoke with us this morning, Doug Warren. He told us how passengers were responding to things when he arrived on scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG WARREN, DORCHESTER, S.C. EMS DIRECTOR: By the time I got here, most of them were pretty calm, waiting for us to get the scene managed and get them transported.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEMARCO: We also spoke to the owner of the charter company, the bus company, Charlie Hill. This is Five Star Charters. He told us the group was headed to Miami. They were going to board a cruise there. They were just maybe 20 miles or less short of I-95, which likely would have taken them down that way into Florida. Now he described the scene as a freak accident. He says in his 30 years with the company, they have had a clean record and have seen nothing like this.

Back to you, Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Sarah Demarco, we appreciate it, coming to us from our affiliate there, WCIV.

Thank you, Sarah.

Personnel change. President Bush's top terrorism adviser is resigning. Francis Townsend has been one of the president's go-to people on homeland security. We want to go live now to our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, on the telephone for us now with a little bit more information on this.

Suzanne, good morning to you.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Heidi.

I've been speaking with Fran Townsend on the phone this morning. We spoke for about 10 or 15 minutes.

Heidi, can you hear me?

COLLINS: I can hear you, yes.

MALVEAUX: And the one thing that she wanted to make clear is she turned in her letter of resignation to the president November 6th. But she said they've been talking about this for the last six to eight months or so, that this deadline that many people are talking about, Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, to go ahead and leave before Labor Day, said really didn't apply to her because she has a lot of sensitive projects that she had to close up and work on and that it really wouldn't be prudent even for her to tip off exactly when it would be that she's leaving.

But she said she made one thing clear to the president when she turned in that letter of resignation. She said she is not leaving to spend more time with her family. This old Washington cliche goes.

COLLINS: Really?

MALVEAUX: As a matter of fact, she said she told the White House, don't even say that. That none of her friends would believe her because she said she's been in the business of security and -- for two and a half decades and it's time to try something else, and that she is going to be looking to do 20-hour days in the private sector. Something she said she'll be public speaking and writing and board work, but she plans on looking at financial institutions and global risk management.

And this really fits into what she has been doing with the administration. A critical role in going after terrorists, not only trying to track them down and where they are on the military side, but really in the financial side, trying to cut off their funding. That is something that she has really been very instrumental in. But she says that she's going to leave around the start of the new year, and she is actually part of the search committee with the president and his staff to find her replacement.

COLLINS: OK. Interesting. All right. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. We appreciate more context on that because we did initially hear that that was part of the reason why Fran Townsend had resigned at the state, to spend more time with her family. In fact, not the case. Going to be doing some more public speaking and working in the private sector.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux with that information for us.

Also want to let you know that Fran Townsend will be in "The Situation Room" today. That will be coming your way at 4:00 Eastern.

Meanwhile, growing desperation in Bangladesh now. The military there saying more than 3,000 people were killed by the massive cyclone that hit Thursday. That number could be more than double as searchers reach remote villages wiped out by the storm. Many of those villages have been cut off from relief supplies. The U.S. has promised to help. More than $2 million for relief and the Pentagon is also sending two Navy carriers to the area.

A desperate effort under way right now to reach those survivors in Bangladesh. CNN's Cal Perry is in Barisal City for us this morning to give us more of an idea of what's happening there.

Cal, tell us a little bit more about these immediate concerns of the aid agencies that is are trying to help people.

CAL PERRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, this morning we woke up and we accompanied Save the Children down south to one of the most remote areas of this country. A place they had never been. And we witnessed the release of the first batch of aid to people who need it the most.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PERRY, (voice over): Speeding across the biggest delta in the world. A race against time for aid agencies. With each day that passes, the situation grows more dire for people in rural southern Bangladesh. In areas so remote they're only reachable by boat, a massive recovery and aid effort is being mobilized. The aid comes ashore. Just the necessities for search survival.

ROD SNIDER, SAVE THE CHILDREN: Plastic bucket, cooking pots, pans.

PERRY: Some never even got word of the storm. Like Taslima (ph). In the best of times, feeding her children literally a daily hand to mouth existence. She and the children, aging from three to 16, fled for their lives.

"Somebody came and told us to flee our home," she says. "Part of the house had already been destroyed. We ran for cover."

SNIDER: Look at this house, huh.

PERRY: Rod Snider, an emergency response adviser for Save the Children, is used to handling massive disasters. He's been doing it for 15 years all over the world. He knows exactly what to look for, surveying the damage and setting up a distribution center, bringing calm to a chaotic situation.

And, of course, paying special attention to the children, who were in trouble even before the storm breached this low-lying farmland.

What's your immediate concern for the children?

SNIDER: Immediate concern is, one, are they protected, are they with their family, and are they healthy? Right. So that's what we're looking at. And like I was saying earlier to you, that malnutrition is a big concern in this area.

PERRY: So much needs to be done and quickly. Beyond the immediate need for basic supplies and rebuilding, the coming weeks and months could bring more disaster to a people that have already endured so much.

SNIDER: There's stagnant water and it's right against the house here. And so this can present all kinds of problems with malaria. This is where dirty water gets into -- kids will come and play in it and then they will get sick.

PERRY: As Sirmonia (ph) arrives with her young baby, Emika (ph), the aid workers tell us she's stunted, suffering from malnutrition and small for her age. We ask if she's been sick. Not yet, the mother answers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PERRY: And, Heidi, it's that "not yet" that concerns aid workers here the most. As the days continue, the possibility of disease only grows greater.

Heidi.

COLLINS: And, unfortunately, Cal, I think as the days continue, the death toll will continue to change. And we have seen really a lot of different numbers. A big range. Any idea why we're seeing such differences on that?

PERRY: Well, the main reason is that there are vast areas where the government simply has not been. Now aid organizations have been to more areas than the government, so we're hearing that from aid organizations they expect the death toll to rise dramatically.

Now we're talking about two different things here. The first is, of course, one from the storm. And then there's that secondary concern that in the coming weeks disease, like typhoid and cholera and dengue fever could really stricken this country. That's something they're going to have to overcome in the coming weeks.

Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Understood. Thanks so much. Cal Perry reporting to us from Barisal City, Bangladesh.

Thank you, Cal.

Long waits, short tempers. Packing smart for that holiday flight. We'll tell you about it in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Heidi Collins.

Fighting more than fires. Baghdad's firefighters a target for insurgents, even as they try to save lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: The YouTube debate is coming up and one of those Republican presidential candidates want to tell you a little bit about, John McCain. According to CNN's John King, he will be going to Iraq to have Thanksgiving dinner with U.S. troops. We are learning the Arizona senator would be part of a small congressional delegation. No details of the visit are disclosed, obviously, for security reasons. But once again, Senator John McCain will be traveling to Iraq to have Thanksgiving dinner with U.S. troops. This will be his seventh trip to Iraq.

Heading home for Thanksgiving? Well, it is going to cost you. Gas prices are up another 13 cents just in the past two weeks. The average for a gallon of self-regular now $3.09. That's just nine cents from a record. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warns oil prices could soar to $200 a barrel if the U.S. attacks his country or Iran. Chavez speaking at an OPEC summit in Saudi Arabia. The White House says the only people attacking Chavez are Venezuelans who want freedom and democracy.

Well, if you are traveling by air, pack smart. That is a message from the Transportation Security Administration as you get ready to head out for the holidays. CNN's Jeanne Meserve is at Reagan National Airport this morning with more on all of this.

Hi there, Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi.

Look behind me. I have never seen an airport this empty.

COLLINS: Nobody. Nobody's there.

MESERVE: I fly in and out of here all the time. It's always jammed. But today, nobody. Of course it's going to get worse. This is one of the heaviest travel periods of the year. And the Transportation Security Administration is saying, hey, if you want to get through security quickly, you can help. It's put up a public service announcement on its website giving some tips. But we all know it's inevitable, there are going to be some security lines. The TSA a promising, though, if they get too long, they will address them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLEN HOWE, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMIN.: This time of year you can expect 15 to 30 minute waits at checkpoints. If we get any waits longer than 30 minutes, you're going to see senior management attention. You're going to see things happening in that airport to alleviate those lines. We want to get you through. But you've got to expect that you're going to have a little bit longer wait this time of year than other times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: So what are the tips they're giving you? Well, they say pack your carry-on bag in layers. Put a layer of clothes, then put in your electronics, separating them instead of jumbling them all together. That way screeners can look in and see if there's an IED there or not. Otherwise they have to hand search. That will slow you up about three minutes per bag.

Also, there's still the liquid ban in place or liquid -- not ban anymore, but rules, 3-1-1 it's called. You have to have the tiny containers, three ounces or less. Put them in a one quart bag. One per person. Take them out of your bag. Put them in the bin when you're at checkout. Also, they're saying, have out your IDs. Have them ready to show people as you go through security. If you do all that, hopefully you'll move a little quicker. Hopefully the line will move a little quicker.

Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, hopefully. And, I don't know, I like to call myself an experience traveler and constantly I am in a total state of panic as I'm trying to get through that line as fast as possible. I know that -- I think it's the TSA, is it not, who's made sort of a funny video about this that you can watch and be entertained by while you're waiting in these lines?

MESERVE: Well, they have made this video. It's called "Simplifly." A little pun on words. It's a video that's being posted on their website. They have talked to some airports about putting it up here, too, in the airports, in their video screens. It wasn't certain this morning how many airports were going to do that. They've also been talking to airlines about posting it on their web sites. Obviously if you see it at the airport, it might be a little bit too late. They'd like people to take a look at it before they get here so they do that packing that I talked about, that layer approach.

Heidi.

COLLINS: The layered approach.

All right, Jean Meserve, thank you.

MESERVE: You bet.

COLLINS: I hope it will save us minutes, certainly.

Also we told you a few minutes ago about the devastation in Bangladesh following that powerful cyclone that tore through. The death toll right now topping 3,000 and it's likely to rise as rescue and aid workers make their way to some very remote areas.

Here now is your chance to help and to try to take action. You can go to cnn.com to find out how you can help the people in Bangladesh left homeless by that cyclone. You can log on and add your name to the growing number of CNN viewers grabbing the opportunity to "Impact Your World."

Stopping online thieves before they pick your pocket. Tips to make your holiday shopping more secure.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Want to take a look at the big board. Dow Jones Industrial average is down about 96 points, sitting there at 13,080. Nasdaq also down about 18 points. We're going to be following those numbers for you throughout the morning, talking quite a bit about these oil prices and gas prices as you and many other people are out there traveling today. So we'll talk more about that with Susan Lisovicz in just a moment.

Keeping the Grinch away from your credit card. Sounds like a great idea. Our Gerri Willis is here now with online shopping safety tips for the holidays.

And, Gerri, this is always a good topic this time of year. People get a little nervous about using their cards online.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As well they should. You know, you want to make sure your website is safe by looking for a picture of a closed lock in the browser window. If you see a broken lock or key, security is not operating. And when you're on that page where you fill out your credit card info, the web address should say https instead of http. The s is for secure. Other sites will have a security box will pop up. This indicates you're entering a secure area.

COLLINS: All right. You should also know your privacy and know it well.

WILLIS: You know, you ever wonder why you get spam. It's because sellers on the web are allowed to collect your name, address, info on that website, which products you buy and where you ship them. The seller then sells or shares this info with other marketers. they can opt out of this information sharing by going to the site's privacy policy. Check for the privacy policy under legal terms or terms and conditions and you can change that right away.

COLLINS: And what about using your debit card versus your credit card? It seems obvious, stick with the credit card. Isn't that safer?

WILLIS: You're absolutely right. You're better off with the credit card shopping online. Federal law limits your liability to $50. But many cards have a zero liability limit, meaning that you won't be held responsible if there's a fraudulent charge to your card. Some cards even let you create an online ID for one-time purchases. Two good examples here, Bank of America Shops Safecard and Discover Card. Call your credit card issuer and find out if it offers a protection like that.

COLLINS: That sounds good. All right. Well, be wary of e- mails. Some of these e-mails can look like you may have purchased something but really you didn't.

WILLIS: You've heard of fhishing. You know, you may receive an e-mail that looks like an e-mail from the company. It may ask you for personal info in order to verify accounts or clear up errors that have occurred. Remember, legitimate businesses do not ask for Social Security Numbers or bank account numbers. Don't respond to the e mails and don't click on the links they contain. And if you want to check with a company, call them directly to ask your questions.

Of course, if you have any questions for us, send us an e-mail to toptips@cnn.com. We'll answer them right here. We do it every Friday. And we love to hear from you. COLLINS: Sounds terrific.

Gerri, we appreciate it. Thanks so much.

WILLIS: My pleasure.

COLLINS: Time to take a look now at some of the most clicked on videos on cnn.com.

A crane falls and closes a street in Los Angeles, leaving a woman and her infant son with minor injuries.

Also, mine rescue in Australia. All 27 miners freed five hours after a landslide blocked the main entrance.

And Nicole Kidman tells a courtroom she was reduced to tears and feared a car accident after a celebrity photographer chased her two years ago. Kidman told the court, the car ride left her "in tears and distressed."

And getting down and dirty in a wedding dress is the latest trend in bridal photography. Isn't that pretty? Something borrowed, something blue, and something covered in some serious goo.

For more of your favorite video, just go to cnn.com/mostpopular.

And of course, don't forget, you can take us with you anywhere you go on your iPod with the CNN daily podcast. You'll see some of the stories that will have you talking, that's for sure. The CNN NEWSROOM podcast is available 24/7 right on your iPod.

Paradise found. Security lost?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Knock, knock, knock on the door. And there's two big guys in ski masks, darkly clad, paramilitary style clothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: U.S. tourists find danger south of the border.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Police outside Boston call it the worst case of child abuse they have ever seen. A man accused of biting off a toddler's lip. That disturbing story coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.

ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.

COLLINS: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Heidi Collins. Tony Harris has the day off today.

We want to go ahead and get to you the very latest information on the story we've been talking about all morning long. We've seen quite a few traffic delays, travel delays, I should say, at the nation's airports. Mainly because of weather.

But in Dallas -- and there's the shot for you now live from our affiliate, WFAA -- it is for a different reason. And that is that radio communications between the east and the west tower there had broken down. We are understanding that the east tower is apparently back up and running. West tower not quite yet. Joining us to learn more about the ver latest on the situation and how bad those travel delays may be is Ric Loewen. He's an air-traffic controller there at DFW. Rick, if you can hear me, can you tell us the latest and what's going on there? We're looking at a live shot of several planes just sitting on the tarmac.

RIC LOEWEN, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER, DFW AIRPORT: Yes, ma'am. The airport is back up and running. Both sides are accepting aircraft and departing airplanes again, but it's just going to be a while before things clear up. We could very well take most of the day for that to happen just because of the backlog and the fact they are running a reduced rate into and out of the airport because the underlying problem has not yet been fixed.

COLLINS: The underlying problem has not yet been fixed. Can you shed a little more light on that situation?

LOEWEN: Well, what we are aware of is that apparently when our approach controls will be reconfigured, their voice switching system from the midnight to the daytime operations, that something happened in the software causing the towers and the approach control to lose their land lines, which is what controllers use to communicate back and forth to one another, and then also eventually the radios began to fail, and that still is not fixed. We're told there -- they have to bring down a technician from Oklahoma City to work on the software problem, which is kind of staggering to me that the third busiest airport in the country and we're waiting for somebody to fly from Oklahoma City to fix our radios.

COLLINS: Yes that almost sounds like a completely separate story. But Rick if you will, put in perspective for us how dangerous that was when it was going on by way of controlling the traffic in the sky.

LOEWEN: Well, of course, I can only speak to what would happen directly at the airport because that's where I work. And fortunately because of the design of the DFW airport, we land own different runways than we depart. Therefore, there were no aircraft on a runway waiting to depart when an aircraft was going to land on it that the controller could not talk to. There were back up radios that the controllers in the tower were able to use to handle the aircraft that they had at the time, but operations were, I believe, halted for a period of time. I don't know how long that was, while they got the situation under control.

COLLINS: Okay. So what we are looking at now just to verify what you have said is just sort of this backup that is expected after operations ceased, correct?

LOEWEN: Yes. Well, my office is downstairs, and I can see the holding area out toward the east side of the airport for departures there, and those aircraft would ordinarily be departing depending on what type of routes they're on anywhere between a minute and minute and a half to two minutes apart, and I believe now that the tower is running double normal separation between those aircraft just to ensure that our departure controllers are able to handle the aircraft with whatever equipment they have available to them right now. Last time I was upstairs, about 45 minutes ago, they had one frequency that was working in the tower instead of the normal four.

COLLINS: One instead of the normal four. We should point out that Rick is talking to us from the tower there, which is pretty amazing. We did just see a plane land. As you've been saying, slowly trying to get things back up and running at DFW. Really going to put you on the spot, Rick, but any idea, people who are waiting for their loved ones to come in or to possibly be connecting through DFW, any idea how late they may end up being?

LOEWEN: Heidi, I wish I could tell you. When I spoke to people earlier upstairs in the tower they were at approximately a one-hour delay start as far as departures out of here. Delay doesn't start to be counted until they come off the gate. If the airplane was an hour or two late getting in here and doesn't taxi off the gate, as far as we're concerned that's only a one hour delay. And that's all I would know about.

COLLINS: Okay. Understandable.

LOEWEN: And this is a major hub for American Airlines, and as such a significant amount of their flights come through here every day. So an aircraft originating on the east coast coming through here and going to the west coast may have been delayed a significant amount of time getting in here. It's going to get delayed going out of here. Therefore, it's going to be quite late going to Los Angeles and then who knows where the aircraft is going from there.

COLLINS: As long as everybody is going to be in place by, oh, say Thursday? Do you think that might be possible?

LOEWEN: Usually what happens here anyway when we suffer something -- not necessarily an equipment problem, but it could be a weather situation that causes delays like this, it takes most of the day to unwind it.

COLLINS: We've seen it before. Well, we hate to start out this way with the holiday week. We sure do appreciate the inside information coming to us from Ric Loewen. He's with the air-traffic controllers out of DFW.

Bonnie Schneider watching the weather scene with all of these other delays that are not because of radio communications but they are because of weather, Bonnie.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I wanted to show you first some Flight Explorer that right now we have over 5,000 planes in the air across the U.S. that's a lot of planes. 79 of them are coming from the Dallas area, and you can see here on flight explorer, a lot of them are on their way and taking off. That's good news. We have better conditions to report than we did in the last report.

But there are numerous delays across the country and most of them are weather related. Weather has been a slow down due to snow and rain around the New York City area. Atlanta has been reporting a lot of fog. It's been overcast here in Atlanta all morning. So departure delays are already at an hour and on the increase. As we look at other delays in the west coast for example, San Francisco this time yesterday had ground delays. Now we have more of that due to fog. And some low clouds in Philadelphia slowing you down. Low clouds, or clouds on the ground, fog, whatever you want to call it, it's been a problem in Houston for flying and driving.

As we take to you New York City, we still have snow coming down in parts of New Jersey. Take a look at this video from New Jersey. The first snow of the season, and, boy, did it accumulate. We have reports of up to 6 inches in parts of New Jersey, and the snow advisories have now just expired for that region. We had advisories for Warren, Morris, and Sussex counties in northwest New Jersey. Heavy know in the Pocono's.

I want to show you some of the highways. We've had reports of slowdowns along I-78 and I-80. Traffic very slow. A lot of commuters heading to New York City and it took a while because of the snow. We have rain in Atlanta City and Cape May in southern New Jersey. Here are the numbers we're still tabulating because the snow is still falling. Up to 10 inches of snow for the first snowfall of the season. So a lot of snow falling in this area. Also further to the north, but right now it's not sticking as much. It looks a lot worse on the radar picture than it actually is. Mixing with rain towards Kennedy Airport in Queens and as you head off to Nassau County it's an all-rain event. A lot of mixed bad weather into the northeast and numerous airport delays across the country. Heidi.

COLLINS: It's a mess already. All right. Bonnie Schneider, we'll check in a little bit later on. Thank you.

A holiday trip turns deadly this morning in South Carolina. A charter business -- bus crashed just after 1 a.m. on I-26 in Dorchester County. The bus driver was killed. 31 people injured. One person was flow to a hospital in serious condition. The highway patrol says the other 30 people injured were taken to area hospitals. The emergency medical services director says none of the injuries appear to be life threatening. About 60 people were on board the bus. They were headed to Miami for a holiday cruise.

Two teens so infatuated with school shootings, German police say they were planning their own. One had a web page glorifying the 1999 Columbine massacre. They say one of the teens killed himself stepping in front of a street car. Police believe the teens planned to carry out a school attack in Colon tomorrow. That would have coincided with the first anniversary of another German school shooting.

Violence on the streets in Spain. Anger over the death of a teenager sparked this clash with police in Barcelona. Injuries on both sides. This follows the stabbing death of a 16-year-old demonstrating against fascism. He was allegedly killed by a neo-Nazi. It will be a mostly dark Thanksgiving on the great white way. Broadway theater producers have canceled shows through next Sunday because of a stagehand strike. The move comes after a breakdown in talks last night. The strike has brought the curtain down on 27 shows. Eight Broadway productions are under separate union contracts and off Broadway shows continue to run.

Heading back to the bargaining table in Hollywood. Striking writers agree to return to contract talks with producers next Monday. The writers have been on strike for two weeks. The issue, what they're paid when their work ends up on DVDs or the Internet. Since the strike began late night talk shows and some sitcoms have gone to reruns. Scripts are quickly running out on other shows.

Many U.S. tourists returning from Mexico with more than tans and trinkets. CNN's Kara Finnstrom reports on dangers south of the border.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So this is the RV you took down.

PAT WEBER, SURFING INSTRUCTOR: Yes it is.

FINNSTROM: Baja's remote beaches and beacon surfing instructor Pat Weber more than 150 times, often with students in tow. Last October 23rd, what began as one more wave riding adventure ...

WEBER: Knock, knock, knock on the door, and there's two big guys in ski masks. Darkly clad, paramilitary style clothing.

FINNSTROM: It ended in sheer terror.

WEBER: Open up [ muted ] or I shoot, and then blam, first shot comes in.

FINNSTROM: Inside Weber's camper, he and his girlfriend Lori hit the ground with glass raining down.

WEBER: So the bullet came through here and it hit that light fixture right there, knocked the sconce out.

FINNSTROM: This is where it went through.

WEBER: It sure is.

FINNSTROM: Weber says with guns held to both their heads, the men stole more than $10,000 worth of computers, cameras, and other business equipment. But the worst wasn't over. Lori says the men then took turns raping her.

LORI HOFFMAN, CRIME VICTIM: And I'm just thinking, you know what, if I just don't react, you know, maybe they'll just be turned off, and off they go. FINNSTROM: And their story isn't in isolation. Many Americans are returning from Mexico with tales of violence and crime, and the State Department says the dangers aren't just limited to the beaches.

On their website, a list of warnings, like the armed robberies of entire bus loads of passengers at west coast beach resorts. Robberies and assault on taxi passengers in Mexico City, and drug violence in border cities, some directed against U.S. citizens. The State Department's Michelle Bond says anyone traveling to Mexico should check the department's website for information about the cities they're visiting.

MICHELLE BOND, STATE DEPARTMENT: What are American citizens coming in with? What places should you be extra careful in that country? What should you be on the lookout for?

FINNSTROM: The government says it can't accurately track whether there's been an increase in crime against Americans in Mexico because so few victims report them. Weber and his girlfriend did report this crime to Mexican police. CNN tried to contact Mexican authorities to ask about crimes against Americans. Our calls weren'y returned. But the buzz on internet sites and in surf shops is growing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're definitely hearing it on a regular basis.

FINNSTROM: With many surfers thinking about the security lost when you cross the border. Kara Finnstrom for CNN, Carlsbad, California.

COLLINS: Fighting more than fires. Baghdad's firefighters, a target for insurgents. Even as they try to save lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: There are many things to be thankful about this holiday season, but gas prices aren't really one of them. Susan Lisovicz is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with the crude reality for those people hitting the road. Hi there, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi. You know, you can be thankful for this. If you don't have a long commute on Thanksgiving, that would certainly be something to be thankful for because gas prices this Thanksgiving are going to be the highest we've ever seen. $3.09 a gallon. That's a nationwide average for regular. The lowest you would be paying, 13 cents -- well in Tucson, Arizona, $2.91 a gallon. In San Francisco, the most expensive, $3.48 a gallon. Gas prices have gone up 13 cents just in the last two weeks, and you know, there's all sorts of consequences when you see this kind of rise. We already know what's happening with airfares. They're going up. We're seeing it in cruises as well. Just as you get into the height of cruise season. Royal Caribbean is matching Carnival's $5 a day fuel surcharge. That will take effect February 1st. Whether by land or by sea, we're paying more, Heidi. Let's just get used to it. It's going to be a cold winter.

COLLINS: Definitely. So you mentioned the consequences. What about the causes? Everybody wants to know why this is happening.

LISOVICZ: There's a whole lot of reasons. One we should say at the outset, you know as well as I do, that crude prices are very volatile. It's supply and demand. A couple factors I want to mention quickly. The weak dollar. Oil is priced in dollars. When you travel to Europe, you know how little that dollar will get you. Well, it just makes oil more expensive for us. The fact that there's real concern about the nationalization of oil. Hugo Chavez, you were talking earlier in the program about him talking about $200 a barrel for oil if the U.S. attacks Iran. Venezuela is one of these big oil- producing nations that has been nationalizing oil. That is certainly not good if you want to keep the prices of oil down, and Hugo Chavez has not been a friend of the U.S. to say the least.

Also of concern as to this, whether OPEC will hike oil production at its next meeting. Real concerns about that. The front page of the "Wall Street Journal" today talks about within five years oil production could hit a daily ceiling of 100 million barrels. Right now at 85 million, and that would not be keeping up with the worldwide thirst for oil. So a whole lot of factors. We're seeing it play out in the markets, but I should tell you today, Heidi, oil is actually down not by much, but below $94 a barrel.

What is also low is stock prices. More concerns about credit concerns. Citigroup, the nation's largest financial company, is under extreme pressure. Its shares are down 4.5%. That's weighing certainly on the Dow industrials. Goldman Sacchs downgraded saying it's going to take more losses and may have to cut its dividends. And yet another fall out, Lowe's, the big home improvement retailer, talking about its quarterly sales fell more than 10%. Why is that? Of course, weak demand because of the housing market. So you are seeing it play out at the Dow right now. At session lows or close to concession lows. The NASDAQ is it down by 24 points. I will be back in the next hour for you.

COLLINS: Wow. Down 132 points, the Dow Jones.

LISOVICZ: Still up for the year. Up for the year.

COLLINS: There's my positive girl.

LISOVICZ: Up by 5%.

COLLINS: Thanks Susan. We'll check back a little later. I appreciate it.

Also want to get you this sorry now, Rhode Island is where it's happening. Mystic Aquarium, they are responding to the scene of a distressed hump back whale. You can see sort of the shadow of this whale. Apparently it's a 30-foot whale that is entangled in what could be a fishing net. So this is new video coming into us where they are trying to see what they can do about this humpback whale that's apparently tangled up in a fishing net. We're going to continue to watch that one for you off of westerly Rhode Island. We'll get back to it as soon as we learn any more about that situation. Meanwhile, police outside Boston are calling it the worst case of child abuse they have ever seen. A man accused of biting off a toddler's lip.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: On the front lines, fighting fires every day bringing new dangers for firefighters in Iraq. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When the firefighters from the Baghdad fire department roll out, the scene is never hard for them to find. Multiple car bombs have ripped through a busy market. A sight the men have seen many times before. Subhi Zaid has been with the department for over 30 years. Most of the calls he responds to nowadays, he says, come after explosions. "Of course, it still hurts every time," he says. "We are human beings, we have feelings. We cry, especially when it involves women and children." And it often involves pulling the dead from the rubble. Many bodies, mutilated, burned beyond recognition. The human suffering weighs heaviest on them, the men say, while staffing and equipment have improved considerably since the days of Saddam Hussein. Thanks in part from fire departments around the world making donations to their Iraqi colleagues.

This state of the art fire truck is a gift from the country of Japan, and every time the firefighters use it, every time they go out on a mission, they put themselves in grave danger. This hole in the windshield happened when the fire truck was shot at. We've been targeted many times, Zaid says, but this is our duty, our duty is to sacrifice. Beneath the head of Iraq's civil defense service at the fire in an oil distribution plant south of Baghdad. He says the amount of work almost overwhelms Iraq's fire brigade. "We have a huge task at the Civil Defense Institute," he says. "Our work extends all over Iraq from the north to the south." Dozens of firefighters in Iraq have been killed. First responders are often targeting by insurgents. While so many Iraqi firefighters have paid the ultimate price doing their work, the men of this fire station say saving a life is still the ultimate reward. Fredrik Pleitgen again, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Weather and technology added to nationwide flight delays. Airplanes that aren't going anywhere fast today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Well, it seems to be the story of the morning. All of these delays, travel delays that we have been seeing at the nation's airports, most of them because weather. But one of them at DFW in Dallas is specifically because of radio communications. There was a problem early this morning that really sort of set the whole thing off of plan. As you can see now, it looks a little better than last time we checked. This is coming in from our affiliate WFAA looking at the tarmac where we see some planes moving around. Because of failed radio communications between the east and west tower, they had to go to a ground stop. They couldn't let any planes take off or planned. Now we are understanding planes are taking off and landing. Also, obviously, you can imagine the backlog they're having to deal with there. People coming out of Dallas or connecting through Dallas may see some problems there. Not quite sure what the exact delay will be, but that's at least one of the issues out there this holiday week as far as your air travel plans go.

Meanwhile, unbelievably cruel, a toddler's lip bitten off. The man accused is scheduled to be arraigned today. More now from Christa Delcamp of affiliate WHDH in Boston.

CHRISTA DELCAMP, WHDH: Outside the Lowell apartment house, a sign of a celebration past and a child's toy. Inside police say one of the most brutal cases of child abuse they've seen. This neighbor knew something was wrong yesterday. When did you see the police and what were they doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw the ambulance.

DELCAMP: Police still don't know what motivated the attack Saturday morning on a 22 month old boy where authorities say a 26- year-old man bit off the boy's lip.

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