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THE SITUATION ROOM
Fifty-Eight Million in Path of "Life-Threatening" Storm; Forecasters: Monster Storm is 'Life-Threatening'; Boston Snow Emergency: Roads & Schools Closing; NYC to Suspend Subway & Bus Service; New Jersey Transit Shutting Down Soon
Aired January 26, 2015 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news -- life- threatening storm. Tens of millions of people bracing for a blizzard of epic scale, an historic storm striking now. Major cities facing up to three feet of snow. Shutting down -- streets and highways are about to close to private vehicles.
Our correspondents are out in the middle of all of this as the storm hits.
Near hurricane winds -- the storm brings whiteout conditions, frigid temperatures and the certainty of widespread power outages. What you need to do to stay safe.
And White House drone crash -- a shocking penetration of security by an unmanned quad copter, apparently flying over the White House residence before triggering an alert and a lockdown.
Could the next one carry explosives?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news. A monster winter storm bearing down on the Northeast right now. The National Weather Service calling it "historic and life-threatening." It may be as bad as it gets.
Close to 60 million people could be affected and more than 20 million of them are bracing for a blizzard of epic scale. New York and Boston, they are shutting down, with up to three feet of snow expected. Along with the snow, whiteout conditions, winds approaching hurricane strength and coastal flooding.
Throughout the region, mass transit will soon grind to a halt. Streets and highways are closing, and tens -- and thousands, I should say, thousands of flights already have been canceled.
Our correspondents and analysts and newsmakers, they're all standing by throughout the emergency zone. Let's begin, though, with Brian Todd.
He has been making his way toward the center of the target area -- Brian, first of all, tell us where you are and what's going on?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. And it is getting much more violent tonight, this storm.
You mentioned the phrase "life-threatening." We've also heard the phrase "crippling" to describe this storm.
We are feeling it in earnest right now here in Point Pleasant. You can see the tide behind me on the ocean. It's getting more violent. The wind is really hitting us hard here.
It's this wind that's creating these whiteout conditions. The snow right now is falling almost horizontally, not vertically, because the wind is so strong. These wind conditions, the horizontal snowfall and the sheer volume of snow right now hitting this area, Wolf, make this a storm system unlike any we've seen in this region in many, many years.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Get off the roads, get off the streets, as -- get off the sidewalks as this emergency deepens.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, New York City is shutting down the streets at 11:00 p.m., as the city braces for what could be a blizzard of historic proportions. Up to three feet of snow is predicted to blanket parts of the East Coast between now and Tuesday.
DE BLASIO: This will most likely be one of the largest blizzards in the history of New York City. I'm asking everyone to understand that and to prepare accordingly.
TODD: States of emergency have been declared. Blizzard and winter storm warnings have been issued from Maryland through Maine and into Canada.
The weather system is taking aim at the Northeast. Nearly 60 million people could be affected. Crews are ready to salt roads and highways across the region.
New Jersey's governor is asking residents to stay off the roads.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This is going to be a significant storm with snowfall today and into tomorrow that will create really hazardous conditions, including dangerous conditions on our roadways. So I have declared a state of emergency in New Jersey.
TODD: New York City's subway system will have a limited service starting Monday evening. And if the forecast gets worse, it could be shut down completely.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: This is not a storm to take lightly. And we're taking what we believe are prudent measures.
TODD: In Massachusetts, there's also concern about road conditions.
GOV. CHARLES BAKER (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Whiteout conditions and treacherous roads will make driving anywhere extremely dangerous starting around midnight tonight and extending through most of Tuesday.
TODD: Connecticut's governor already signed a statewide travel ban that begins at 9:00 p.m. tonight.
GOV. DANIEL MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: Please prepare a plan to get home this evening safely and find a place to stay through the duration of the storm.
TODD: The storm could also bring power outages and coastal flooding. Some residents are boarding up ahead of the storm.
GEORGE SIMMONS, NEW JERSEY RESIDENT: What we want to do is we want to have protection against not only the water coming over the wall and hitting the house, but all the little stones and pebbles that oftentimes come with it.
TODD: The system is also disrupting air travel. Flight Aware says thousands of flights were canceled for Monday and Tuesday. Officials say up to 70 percent of flights were canceled at New York area airports and even more are likely on Tuesday.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: We have to point out, this is an area that was hit very hard by Hurricane Sandy just a little over two years ago. Some of these houses kind of still boarded up and still in bad shape. There's one right there still in bad shape from Hurricane Sandy.
And, as again, we're seeing the New Jersey state officials, from the police to the governor, everyone telling people stay off the roads, and if you have to go on the road and you somehow get stuck, do not leave your car on the side of the road. It's going to get towed. And it also makes it very difficult for the plows and the spreaders to do their job. It creates this cascading effect where everybody gets clogged up and stuck on these roads -- Wolf.
That's what they're worried about tonight.
BLITZER: And with these near hurricane winds, these 60 mile an hour, 70 mile an hour winds on the coast where you are there over there, Brian, there's going to be a lot of flooding, isn't there?
TODD: That's what they're worried about, the tidal surge coming in, possible flooding from all of this, because we don't know if this is a surge right now or if it's really just strong waves in the Atlantic. It looks to be just strong waves as some of these come in here.
But, yes, this is -- look at how close it is to some of these houses. And you can see the tidal surge is going to be an issue. Flooding could be an issue all along the Atlantic Seaboard, especially here in these coastal areas of New Jersey -- Wolf.
But again, I can't tell you how violent this wind is getting right now. It is very, very strong. This is what's going to create the whiteout conditions later on tonight.
BLITZER: Yes. Hundreds of thousands of people could lose their power very quickly, as well.
We're going to have much more on this coming up.
Brian, be careful over there.
We'll get back to you.
New York City is moving very quickly into emergency mode right now. Private cars will be banned from the streets later tonight. Mass transit is being cut back significantly. The mayor is warning that this blizzard is about to hit very hard and very fast and may go down as one of the largest snowstorms in the city's history.
Let's go to New York right now.
CNN's Miguel Marquez is standing by -- all right, Miguel, tell us where you are.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're on the West Side of Manhattan, Wolf. And if those predictions are right, by tomorrow, the snow may be right up here to my waist.
Down there, that's downtown Manhattan. You cannot see a thing. It's literally whiteout conditions as you look downtown. There is 1,776 foot building down there that you cannot see. It is incredible how much snow and how hard it is coming down. It's been doing this for several hours.
I want to show you the West Side Highway here. It is getting heavier, the traffic getting lighter, the snow getting heavier and the slush on this -- on these streets getting much heavier, as well, despite the many, many snow plows that we have seen coming out of the sanitation department here on the West Side of Manhattan.
And these snow plows don't just go in ones and twos. We saw six in a row driving all the way up, down and then back up the West Side Highway here. Tens of thousands of pounds of salt in this one facility. Hundreds of thousands of tons of salt around the city, trying to keep this city clear.
The mayor telling residents that it is time to stay home, do not go out in this. When that wind kicks up, as it is starting to kick up here, it is going to get worse out here. And the snow is only going to get heavier -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to get back to you, as well, Miguel.
Thanks very much. The storm is wreaking havoc with transportation. More than 6,500 flights already have been canceled and thousands more will be canceled tomorrow.
Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is over at LaGuardia Airport in New York.
What's it like over there -- Rene?
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, Wolf, if you're trying to travel by air today, you really had bad luck. It was a rough go.
I think this image just says it all. It's 5:00 p.m., just after 5:00 p.m.. And you can see the gates are down at the TSA checkpoint. That's a sign of how things are going here at LaGuardia Airport.
I mean take a look at the signs for yourself, the boards here, the arrivals and departures, almost all red. And the red means cancellations here.
The major airlines, we know they are now suspending or in the process of suspending the vast majority of their flights in and out of New York area, as well as Boston airports. The airports that are really hit hard just happen to be some of the country's busiest airports. We're talking about LaGuardia, Philadelphia, JFK, as well as Newark.
There's one company out there, Wolf, by the name of Mass Flight. They tabulate. They have lots of statistics on airlines. They say so far, all of these cancellations costing passengers -- get this -- more than $100 million.
So it's expensive and it's frustrating.
BLITZER: It certainly is -- Rene, what are you hearing about rail conditions?
MARSH: Well, we know as far as the trains go, when it comes to mass transit here in New York City, as well as in New Jersey, things are significantly slowing down. However, there are certain lines like New Jersey Transit trains and buses, they are completely stopping operations.
Amtrak -- by the way, that's how I got here. We didn't have any problems early this morning. However, we are now checking with Amtrak and we see later on in the evening, we are starting to see cancellations for people who are heading northbound. So and that makes a lot of sense because that's where the storm is really hitting -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's certainly better to be safe than sorry, especially with these kinds of conditions.
All right, Rene, thank you.
Let's learn more about this very, very dangerous storm. Joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM is the director of the National Weather Service, Louis Uccellini.
Mr. Uccellini, thanks very much for coming in.
LOUIS UCCELLINI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE: Thanks for having me back.
BLITZER: All right, so what are you -- what's your major concern right now?
Because the way I see it, it looks like a quadruple threat. You know, obviously, two or three feet of snow within a matter of a few hours, near hurricane force winds, a lot of flooding, potentially. And hundreds of thousands of people are going to inevitably lose power, including elderly. They're going to have to be rescued.
What's your greatest fear right now?
UCCELLINI: Well, from a meteorological point of view, the whole storm system is now coming together. So there's -- we are going to get this storm. We're going to have very strong winds, heavy snowfall, colder temperatures. The cold air is firmly in place.
So this is a storm that has to be reckoned with. And I think people are taking the prudent actions not only to prepare, but to protect.
And I have to say that the actions that are being taken will help them recover faster, too. So some of these economic impacts will be mitigated.
BLITZER: So the cold...
BLITZER: -- the cold weather is obviously very bad.
When you have two or three feet or more of snow coupled with 60 or even 70 mile an hour winds, that's pretty extraordinary, isn't it?
UCCELLINI: Yes. And what we're seeing is that we expect heavy snow from New Jersey up to New England, with the heaviest snow on Long Island, Southeast New England, into Boston. And there could be several feet of snow, with even more than several feet if these bands...
BLITZER: What does that mean, several feet?
UCCELLINI: One to two feet of snow. And then what we're saying is that where these bands form, if they become stationary and stay stationary, you can get much heavier snows. And, of course, Chad...
BLITZER: You can get three or four feet, is that what you're saying?
UCCELLINI: No, no. Two -- one to two feet and then maybe to 30 inches, that type of range. And then you get the convective snow that's associated with this. And that's something else that we're looking for during the night as the storm develops. And where those bands set up is where you get the heavier snow.
For example, we've had a band sitting over Long Island and New York City all day. And that's why they're getting the heavy snows there now. We expect this to get worse after 9:00 tonight.
BLITZER: After 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight?
BLITZER: So how long will this last?
UCCELLINI: Well, we expect the snow in the New York City/Boston area to last all day tomorrow. But we expect the heaviest snow in the city and Long Island to be over in the noonish, nine-ish to noonish time frame. And then that will progress up toward -- or that back end will progress up toward Boston during the day tomorrow.
BLITZER: So it might end around noon or 1:00 in New York. But then Boston, it will be later.
BLITZER: The rest of New England even later than that.
UCCELLINI: That's right.
BLITZER: And so your big fear is, right now, that people aren't prepared for this?
BLITZER: Is that what you're saying?
UCCELLINI: No, I think our forecasters have done a great job, with all the models they have to work with, in getting this forecast out and working with the emergency management community, the state, local, federal emergency management community.
You see what's happening here on your news. It's -- people are prepared. The agencies are prepared. And we haven't seen this type of preparation in storms 15, 20 years ago. And it takes so much longer then -- not only are people at greater risk during the storm, but then it takes longer to recover.
I think what the states are doing is actually remarkable.
BLITZER: Whether it's New Jersey or Pennsylvania...
BLITZER: -- New York or Massachusetts...
BLITZER: -- Connecticut, all of these states. They're working around the clock to protect people.
Give me a little perspective. You've been in this business for a long time. I heard from the head of the emergency management service in Massachusetts earlier today they were bracing for one of the top five worst snowstorms to hit the Boston area ever.
UCCELLINI: The storm has the potential to do that for the Boston area, be in the top five. For New York City, it depends on where that back edge sets up. But, you know, the worst case scenario, they will be in the top five with this storm, as well. But...
BLITZER: The top five worst for New York ever?
UCCELLINI: Yes. But if it sets up that way. I'd say that Long Island up to Southeast New England and Boston is the prime spot for the heaviest snowfall for this storm.
BLITZER: And the advice you have for people -- and there are maybe 60 million people in the path of this storm -- the best advice you have is what?
UCCELLINI: Well, pay attention to your local officials, because they're out there to try to protect you and make the prudent decisions that will help you work through this storm and then to recover faster.
BLITZER: The fact that it's going to hit overnight, that it's going to really start blasting away 8:00, 9:00, 10:00 tonight and go through the night, then into the early morning hours, what's the impact of that, because it's happening overnight?
UCCELLINI: Well, that's an amazing plus for being able to recover from this storm. Most of the people, obviously, are off the roads, so it gives the road crews a big head start in recovering, cleaning up after the storm. If this would have happened during the day and people were caught at work, you know, you get people stuck on the roads. Like what happened two years ago on Long Island. People trying to get back in the evening rush hour, got stuck in the very heavy snows, and it took days to recover. So this will really facilitate the recovery from this snow event.
BLITZER: Mr. Chillini (ph) of the National Weather Service, I'd like you to stand by. We have more to discuss. This is a critically, potentially extremely dangerous storm. It's a quadruple threat, as I just mentioned, and a lot of people, hundreds of thousands of people, are getting ready to lose power. We're going to have much more on this part of the story and a whole lot more right after this.
BLITZER: This is an extremely dangerous storm out there right now and it's being taken very seriously by authorities all along the coast.
Let's get the latest forecast now from our meteorologist and severe weather expert, Chad Myers, who is joining us. Everybody is saying this is of historic proportions, potentially, out there, Chad.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it is going to get into the warm water of the Gulf Stream and warm is a relative term. Not warm to you and me but 47 degrees, and this storm is going to get significantly stronger as we go into the night. By that storm, which is right there, moving into the warm water and up along there, Cape Cod.
Because it's in the warm water, it's like a hurricane that moves into 85-degree water. A hurricane like that is going to get bigger; it's going to get stronger; it's going to use that power of the water, that energy, that latent heat in the water, to make the wind. That wind is going to be in this direction. That's why it's called a nor'easter, because the wind comes in from the northeast. That's not because the low comes in from the northeast. It's actually from the southwest.
But the wind comes this direction. It will also pick up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, from the Gulf Stream, rather, and it will plow it right back onshore. That is the ocean effect or ocean enhancement of what this bomb, coastal bomb nor'easter will be.
So the forecast has changed a lot over the past couple of days. And we were talking about the back edge of the storm because you can see right from here about Springfield, Mass., you're in the 12 to 24, probably somewhere around 18 inches. Not that far east of -- I would call that Schenectady. You're six. So that big difference between here and here, does the water, does the snow get back into New York City? Does it stop here around New Haven? Does it stop somewhere here along the coast of Connecticut, right through there? We do know that there's a guarantee of a big storm system for Boston. Do we know it's going to hit New York City? It's already hitting it. If you get two to three inches of snow per hour for the next six to ten hours, all of a sudden you have a significant snow event on your hands.
This town can handle 12 inches of snow. It's already seen probably four out there right now. But a significant difference between 12 and 24. I know it's only double, but it's the mass of snow that you get when you get to that two-foot range. In Boston, you're guaranteed to that two-foot range, because there's the wind right off the ocean right onshore, all the way up along the coast. Big waves, as well.
But it's the onshore flow. It's that lake effect. That would be Buffalo -- we know this -- Watertown, Buffalo, Wolf, coming in this direction. You get all that snow, coming in this direction, you can get equal amounts of snow. Blizzard warnings all the way up and down the coast.
BLITZER: Yes. It's not just the snow or the cold. It's that near hurricane force winds that are going to be causing so much damage, including power outages all across that area.
Chad, stand by. I'm going to get back to you shortly.
We're also going live to Boston, already under a state of emergency from a blizzard which could dump three feet of snow. I'll speak live with the mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh. And a shocking security breach over at the White House as an unmanned
drone apparently flies over the residence of the White House before crash landing in the complex area on the South Lawn. What if the next one is armed? Stand by. We'll have the latest from the Secret Service.
BLITZER: In Boston, a snow emergency going into effect right at the top of the area. Major roadways will close at 8 p.m. Eastern. Let's go to Boston. Our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray, is right in the middle of what's going on. Set the scene for us, Jennifer.
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Wolf, one of the main reasons they want people off the road at 8 p.m. is because we've already started to see plows ride by. With all these people on the street they can't do their job, and so they are wanting people to get off the streets as soon as possible. In fact, a driving ban goes in effect at midnight.
So people are now leaving the city. They are going home. They are going to get into their home, where it's nice and cozy. They're going to stay there until the storm is over.
Snow is already on the ground. This is from the storm system that happened just a couple of days ago. And look at this: it is packed in, and if we get two to three additional feet on top of this, we could see snow covering this sign. That's how high it's going to be.
Plus, with the winds gusting at 70 miles per hour, we're going to see snow drifts above my head, and that is going to be major trouble across the city. We're also going to be looking at the possibility of more outages. Worst-case scenario, people could be without power for a week. When you talk about historical storms here in Boston, you think of '03 when we had about 27 inches of snow. You think about 1978, where we had almost 28 inches of snow, this storm could rival those, and that's why people are saying do what the mayor, the governor -- the governor is saying and just stay indoors. Get prepared, because this is going to be one that people in Boston could be talking about for decades, Wolf.
BLITZER: It could be a record breaker.
All right, Jennifer, thanks very much. I want to bring in the mayor of Boston right now, Marty Walsh. He's joining us on the phone. How bad do you expect things to get over there, Mayor?
MARTY WALSH, MAYOR OF BOSTON (via phone): Well, we're expecting, you know, 24 to 30 inches that was just reported. We have all the -- all of the precautions in place. We're asking people to get off the roads so that we can do our work and also keep people safe. We're asking people to check on their neighbors and check on their elderly neighbors in particular and anyone who might be disabled to make sure they're OK as the night goes on.
We have crews out there who did some pretreating of the roads. We canceled school for both tomorrow and on Wednesday in case of tomorrow, because of the snow and Wednesday for the clearing of the snow. And we have additional firefighters on, police officers, EMTs, just to be prepared for anything that might arise.
BLITZER: The fear isn't just the snow or the cold. It's also the wind, right? Because some of the areas, maybe not Boston, they're projecting near hurricane-force winds.
WALSH: Yes. What could happen here is we could have snow drifts where one side of a residential street could have very little snow and the other side could have feet -- feet, four or five feet with the snow drifts. So the wind's going to be a problem there.
And also, we have additional crews on to take down any trees that might happen, and we're watching power lines here with the snow and the power lines. So hopefully, we don't have that, but we have -- are preparing for the worst just in case. And I'd rather side on the side of caution and be prepared for the worst, and hopefully, it doesn't happen.
BLITZER: Because I had heard earlier that people, maybe as many as several hundred thousand, could quickly lose power, not just for a few hours but for as long as a week. Are you ready for that, Mr. Mayor?
WALSH: Well, we'll have to. We're playing it by ear right now and taking it a day at a time. I know a lot of the suburban towns outside of Boston were concerned about that. And hopefully, that's not the case in the city of Boston.
And we have our -- when we have our planning meetings, we have the utilities in our meetings with us so we're preparing and keeping the pressure on them as well. So if this happens, that they respond immediately with whatever happens.
Again, you can't -- it's hard to -- you can't fight Mother Nature. And whatever happens throughout the course of the storm, we've just got to do our best to be prepared going into it, which I think we are as it's happening. I think we are, what the aftereffects are, we don't know yet what will happen.
BLITZER: Some of the other areas near the coast are worried about flooding. I take it that's not necessarily going to be a huge concern in Boston. Is that right?
WALSH: Well, there's a couple parts of Boston that we are concerned about flooding. We have some roadways and we have some neighborhoods that would be affected by flooding. Not as much as situated in Cape Cod, but we certainly have waterfront property in the city. And we have roads so we do -- we are watching that, as well, to see what happens, because the effects of the tide rising high and coming in and what that could do to some of our roadways.
BLITZER: Anything special you need right now from the state or the federal government?
WALSH: No. I've been in constant contact with the governor. We have a new governor in the commonwealth. And I've been in contact with him several times today. And the federal government reached out to us, as well. And I've spoken to some of the mayors from around the country who have called and offered support, in particular, Mayor Nutter in Philadelphia. So it was nice to hear that.
So we're kind of preparing, holding down the fort. And we'll see what happens as the time goes by. Literally, this is an hour at a time storm. It started, as was reported, a little while ago; so we've just got to stand here and be ready for anything that comes our way.
BLITZER: Yes. If it gets up to 30 inches, that would be a record for Boston, right?
WALSH: Yes, it would be. And a lot of people are comparing it to the blizzard of '78. And from the sound of the wind and the thunder snow that they're talking about, I'm not sure what to expect here. But we're -- as I said earlier, we're doing our best to be prepared for anything that may come our way.
The best thing we can do, people that are listening and watching from Boston, just stay off the roads. Be smart here. Err on the side of caution. Don't go out and watch the snow. Don't go out and watch the high tide. Stay home where it's safe; watch it on TV.
BLITZER: Mayor, good luck to you. Good luck to all the folks in Boston. Good luck to everyone in this -- the path of this storm. Thanks very much for joining us.
WALSH: Thanks, Wolf. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: All right. Mayor Marty Walsh is the mayor of Boston.
Coming up, motorists making a last-minute dash to get out of the storm's path. We'll go live to our reporters who right now are on the roads.
And later, very scary moments today over at the White House. The lights suddenly go on as a drone -- a drone -- penetrates security and apparently flies over the mansion.
BLITZER: Breaking news. Much of the northeast right now bracing for a blizzard of epic proportions. New York and Boston are shutting down with two to three feet of snow expected, along with gale force winds, whiteout conditions and coastal flooding.
Let's get some more on the travel and the safety concerns in New York right now. The subways and the bus service, they'll be shutting down later tonight.
CNN's Brianna Keilar is monitoring all of this for us. She's joining us from New York right now. So Brianna, what's the latest?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, travel is certainly treacherous here, but some of the things you
associate with New York are shutting down. Broadway has closed its doors for the night. Parks are shutting down at 6 p.m., and that includes Central Park here behind me, which you can almost barely see.
But travel certainly treacherous, and we're not just talking about flying, where you've had 70 percent of flights canceled today, or rail. We're talking about driving and even walking. We have seen people slip in these really icy conditions. That's why crews are working to put salt down, and they're even plowing the sidewalks.
But Governor Cuomo -- this is something of note for the folks here in New York, Governor Cuomo put in place, essentially a curfew for those driving. After 11 p.m., if people are on the road and they're nonessential, they're non-emergency vehicles, they could face misdemeanor because of that, and they could be looking at a fine of up to $300.
Here in New York City, after 11 p.m., only emergency vehicles are supposed to be on the road. It's already difficult enough to drive, and city and state officials want to make sure that those emergency officials have a very clear way.
So other ways of getting around, of course, there is the subway, but that is going to limited service here in New York City around 7 or 8 p.m. And then after that, there won't be as many trains running. And you're also seeing for people taking rail out of the city, whether it's Long Island Railroad or Metro North, those are expected to close tonight at 11 p.m. -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brianna, we're showing our viewers some pictures. These are live pictures on the left part of the screen from Fifth Avenue, not far away from where you are, Brianna, in Manhattan. It looks ugly, and guess what? It's only going to get so much worse in the next few hours. They're bracing for horrible conditions in New York City.
Brianna, stand by.
New Jersey's rail and bus transit systems, which nearly a million people rely on to get around every single day, will be shutting down soon, may not reopen until Thursday. And that leaves highways as the only way the get around, and that will be treacherous.
Let's go back to CNN's Brian Todd. He's in New Jersey right now. So Brian, set the scene there for us.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, getting more dangerous right now in New Jersey. We're on state road -- State Route 18 just outside of Neptune, New Jersey, and what we're told by state police is these are the conditions right now, setting the tone here for the rest of the evening that are really going to start to get dangerous.
The rail system, the bus system, all the transit systems in the state are going to shut down in a little less than three and a half hours, at about 10 p.m. Eastern Time, and what we're told by state officials is starting at about 9 p.m., they believe the snow is going to come down at a rate in some of these regions around here of between one and two inches per hour between 9 p.m. and noon tomorrow. So they could get a couple of feet of snow in this area.
The conditions here, we'll get a switch from my camera to the front of the vehicle here on State Route 18 as we head out toward Asbury Park, New Jersey here.
Our photojournalist, Gorilla Bill (ph), is switching the camera to the front camera here.
Again, the road right now is not too bad, but it is starting to get much worse here. And as we just experienced along the coastline, the winds are starting to get much, much more violent, Wolf. Those are going to create the whiteout conditions that police have told us they are really concerned about -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Just be careful driving over there. Brian Todd moving along. Thanks very much.
Let's bring in our Chris Welch right now. He's driving the streets of New York City. Where are you right now, Chris?
CHRIS WELCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we are in Lower Manhattan right now, essentially on the West Side. Actually, we've got a couple cameras hooked up here in our vehicle, as well, much the same way that Brian Todd's car has been rigged up.
And if you take a look outside our window right now, you see -- there it is -- we are actually just pulling up alongside here this city sanitation truck, a garbage truck, essentially. These trucks have also been outfitted with plows on the front of them. So this truck we actually have been sort of keeping a safe distance behind to follow, you know, just to see.
I have to say, though, so far tonight, this is really nothing that, here in New York, we have not seen before, but of course, we obviously expect that to get much, much worse tonight as the night goes on. We have not so far seen a whole lot of plows out, but of course, they might be saving some of that manpower, some of their energy for when things get bad, when the winds pick up and when this snow really starts to accumulate, Wolf.
So far, road conditions, slippery; and that's, of course, due to the snow that's packed up on the road. It's got to be a little careful, but thankfully, it looks like there are certainly fewer cars on the road tonight.
BLITZER: And in New York, as of 11 p.m. tonight, only emergency vehicles will be allowed on the streets.
Stand by. We have much more coming up. Crews across the northeast, they're working right now to keep ahead of the falling snow, and they're getting ready for strong winds and blizzard conditions.
Up next, a drone breaches security at the White House. Yes, a drone. Apparently, flying over the president's home. How did the Secret Service allow this to happen? Is there anything they can do about it? Stand by.
BLITZER: We'll have much more on breaking news. The epic very dangerous storm now hitting tens of millions of people in the northeast. Standby for that.
And we also want to turn to a disturbing story which has been unfolding all day over at the White House where an unmanned drone, a quad copter as it's called, penetrated massive security, apparently flying over the residence before crashing on to the grounds.
For that, we turn to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.
Barbara, tell us what we know.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was a security nightmare because it underscores the ability to penetrate White House airspace. This incident may have been inadvertent, the Secret Service believes, by a man was is operating this recreational drone, but it doesn't mean their worry isn't quite considerable.
STARR (voice-over): At first light, Secret Service personnel walked the White House lawn. This is the two-foot white drone they found. The Secret Service said an individual called them early Monday to report flying the drone that crashed on the White House grounds.
All indications are the incident occurred as a result of recreational use of the device, authorities said. The president's spokesman was all about calm.
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: A device has been recovered by the Secret Service at the White House. The early indications are that it does not pose any sort of ongoing threat right now to anybody at the White House.
STARR: But there are security issues.
DANIEL BONGINO, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: This is a really big deal. Regardless of what anyone in the arena is saying.
STARR: It was 3:08 a.m. when a uniformed Secret Service officer on the south grounds of the White House complex heard and saw a so-called quad copter device. It was flying at a very low altitude and ultimately crashed on the southeast side of the White House complex.
The White House was immediately placed on lockdown until the device was examined and an all-clear sounded.
This was just the latest security breach. In September, an Army veteran jumped the fence and got into the East Room of the White House before being tackled. In November 2011, a man fired a semi-automatic rifle at the mansion. Drones like these are widely available commercially. But all airborne
traffic over Washington, D.C. is banned unless a flight plan is filed and it's under FAA control. Authorities have been struggling for months on how to integrate drones into U.S. airspace so they don't interfere with commercial air traffic or cause a security threat.
What if it carried explosives? Shooting a drone down, not practical.
BONGINO: You are in a residential and commercial area in downtown D.C. so that eliminates that possibility.
STARR: What about jamming the drone radio signal?
BONGINO: The only way to mitigate the threat from a drone carrying a camera or an explosive is to attack it on the RF side, the radio frequency side, which actually guides the drone.
STARR: And it looks like the person who was operating this drone for some sort of recreational mission was actually someone who worked for the federal government.
Now, you know, it's interesting. CNN has granted permission by the FAA to test cameras on drones for news gathering purposes. But again rules have to be established about all of this. How drones really integrate into American society -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Very scary story potentially.
Barbara, thank you.
Let's get some more on the implications. Joining us is Michael Schmidt of the "New York Times."
Michael, you've been reporting on this story extensively. Tell us what you've heard about this individual that flew this drone over the White House.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, he is standing out in the middle of Washington at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. It's a cold winter night. And he's flying a drone. And he says he loses control of it and it ends up over the White House. He wanted it to go south. It went north. And it -- that's where it ended up.
So the real question is, is that why -- why was he out there? And what was the real reason for this? Was this a real recreational thing at that time of day? I don't know. It just -- that seems pretty odd to us.
BLITZER: It's because they're calling this individual -- correct me if I'm wrong -- a person of interest. Is that right?
SCHMIDT: Yes. Look, he hasn't been charged yet. He's been cooperating with the Secret Service. And Secret Service say so far that they believe his story. What they were doing this afternoon was interviewing people that may have seen him at 3:00 in the morning or people he knows or people he spoke to in the past day to determine whether his story was really true.
BLITZER: Because the suspicion is, the fear is maybe not this individual but someone could be testing the anti-drone capabilities around the White House if they want to plan something that could be really dangerous and sinister, right?
SCHMIDT: Well, I think he showed how easy it is and how little control the Secret Service has there. I don't think the concern is whether someone could take a drone and really damage the actual White House. But what happens when the president is actually outside, when he is getting on to Marine One, when he's giving a statement, when he's in the Rose Garden, when he's walking with Denis McDonough on Friday afternoon as he does?
What kind of risk is he at, at that point and how could they stop a drone -- a very small drone, in this case, just two feet, from entering over the fence?
BLITZER: But even a very small drone like that could have plastic explosives, deadly explosives on it, right?
SCHMIDT: Yes. It could have -- it could have biological agents. It could have all sorts of things. And -- it doesn't really seem to be a way to bring them down. As you guys were pointing out, if you, say, shot one of those things down on Pennsylvania Avenue and it had explosives, there's usually a -- at least a dozen tourists standing there.
BLITZER: It's a very dangerous situation.
Michael Schmidt of the "New York Times," thanks very much for helping us. Appreciate the significance of the story.
Coming up, we're going to have much more on the breaking news. A blizzard of epic scale bearing down on tens of millions of people right now.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Blizzard emergency. A monster storm, a snowstorm is threatening millions of Americans in the northeast. And it's getting more dangerous every minute.
We're getting new information from officials in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island this hour.
Road warriors. New York, Boston and other major cities, they're rolling out thousands of snow fighting vehicles and crews. But the most populated area in the nation is virtually shutting down as this epic storm hits.
Travel crisis. More than 6500 flights already have been canceled. How many more people will be trapped across the snow zone? And for how long? We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the
world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, a life-threatening blizzard now intensifying and will only get worse in the next few hours. Fifty- eight million people or more across the northeast. They are in the path.