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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo; Interview with Congressman Peter King; Massive Snowstorm Hits East Coast; ISIS Calls for More Attacks on the West
Aired January 26, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking news tonight,, a life- threatening blizzard now intensifying. And it will only get worse in the next few hours; 58 million people or more across the Northeast, they are in the path.
This could be one of the biggest and most crippling winter storms ever to hit the region. It's a dangerous quadruple threat. Up to three feet of snow or more is expected along with near hurricane-force winds, coastal flooding and massive power outages.
States of emergency have been ordered throughout the region. The one in Philadelphia is taking effect right now.
We have a huge team of correspondents across the storm zone. They are getting new information all the time on this weather emergency. Plus, Congressman Peter King of New York, he is standing by as well.
First, let's go to New York.
CNN's Miguel Marquez, he's over there.
A massive snow removal operation, Miguel, I take it, is under way. It's only going to get more significant.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New York City Department of Sanitation are the heroes tonight here, Wolf.
Downtown New York, you should be able to see big buildings down there. You can see tonight. The snow is still coming down very hard here. I'm going to show where we are. We are at the Department of Sanitation. That's tens of thousands of tons of salt that they are pouring on to the streets here as the streets get mushier. The city is on high alert.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): States of emergency issued throughout the Northeast.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: I'm declaring a state of emergency, effective immediately. MARQUEZ: The National Weather Service describing the storm as
life-threatening and historic, officials warning residents, stay home, stay off the roads.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I want our first-responders and our transportation officials to be able to do their work safely, so we want everybody to get home and get off the roads.
MARQUEZ: The massive storm could drop up to three feet of snow on Boston and New York before it's all over. Freezing rain and hurricane-strength winds have caused officials to issue blizzard and winter storm warnings reaching from Maryland all the way up to Canada, with up to 58 million people in its path.
In New York City, it's an all-hands emergency, 2,400 sanitation workers removing snow in 12-hour shifts, thousands of snowplows rolling 24 hours a day, tens of thousands of tons of salt ready to be distributed, schools closed, traffic banned after 11:00 p.m., services across the city halted as people brace. The state of New York has put the National Guard on standby.
BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I'm ordering that at 11:00 tonight, our streets will only be available to emergency vehicles, so all non-emergency vehicles need to be off the streets of New York City by 11:00 p.m. tonight. And we will continue that emergency declaration until the situation is safe.
MARQUEZ: In Connecticut, the governor has ordered a statewide ban on travel starting at 9:00 p.m. and warned that up to 100,000 people could lose power across the state.
GOV. DANNEL MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: We will get through this storm together.
MARQUEZ: In Massachusetts, the governor there has deployed 500 National Guard troops and warns residents, be ready.
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (R), MASSACHUSETTS: This is a top five historic storm. We should treat it as such.
MARQUEZ: Grocery store shelves bare as people make last-minute preparations. Some even boarded up their homes in an effort to save them from the hurricane-strength waves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You 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.
MARQUEZ: Thousands of flights canceled. Even the NBA has canceled two basketball games that were to be played tonight in New York.
MARQUEZ: You're looking at the West Side Highway here. The traffic along the West Side Highway has gotten much thinner throughout the day as the snow has gotten heavier.
And I can tell you why. Because the road conditions out here are getting slushier and more slick. It's about 24 degrees out here. Not only are private vehicles going to be banned after 11:00, but public transportation here shut down. New Jersey Transit will be shut down at 8:00 p.m., public transportation across the city at 11:00 p.m. This storm is massive and the city is bracing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So, there will be no subway service or bus service, is that what you are saying?
MARQUEZ: No subway, no buses after 11:00 p.m. tonight in New York City. They will shut the system down. The New Jersey Transit will shut at 8:00 tonight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Miguel, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Travel in and out of the Northeast is now grinding to a halt.
We just got an update on flight cancellations. It's now more than 6,600 flights canceled. La Guardia Airport has been hardest-hit.
Let's go to our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh. She is on the scene at La Guardia for us.
I guess there are no flights basically coming in and out of New York. And there won't be any tomorrow, I suspect.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's 6:00 p.m. on a weekend evening. Take a look at the ticketing area here at La Guardia, pretty much empty, with the exception of these passengers here.
They are probably trying to get some last-minute rebooking done. But I can tell you they will not be leaving out of La Guardia today, because, as you mentioned, thousands of flights canceled. We are seeing all of the major airlines suspend all operations not only today, but tomorrow as well.
MARSH (voice-over): At La Guardia Airport, Kathy Wick was already rebooked twice, only to hear that dreaded world, canceled again.
(on camera): Three of your flights canceled all within 15 minutes this morning?
KATHY WICK, TRAVELER: As I was at the ticket counter, as we were talking about the flights, she said, that is canceled, that is canceled, that is canceled.
MARSH (voice-over): Some of the busiest airports in the country hit the hardest. Newark, JFK, Philadelphia and La Guardia top the list.
The New York Port Authority says half of the flights at La Guardia were canceled Monday. Tuesday, all flights here are expected to be suspended. Airlines started canceling flights before the storm arrived. And that can actually help.
SETH KAPLAN, "AIRLINE WEEKLY": They don't want us stranded in their terminals any more than we want to be there. Once they realize, look, after a certain time, things are going to get pretty bad, they start to proactively cancel those flights.
MARSH: But it's not just flights. Service on New York City subways, buses and commuter trains will shut down at 11:00 p.m. At a packed New York Penn Station, some Amtrak trains were canceled.
And all of New Jersey Transit's system will stop tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came into work early. I did what I needed to do so I can leave as early as possible.
MARSH: The storm will impact transportation around the country. For travelers like Kathy Wick, it may be days before she gets out.
WICK: At this point, it looks like Wednesday at 2:00 in the afternoon.
MARSH: You are looking live at what we have been looking at as the morning and evening and afternoon wears on, all of these flights canceled.
The TSA checkpoint, the gates are down because there is really no activity going on here at one of the busier airports in the country. MasFlight, which is a company that tabulates all of the airline statistics, estimates that roughly 250,000 passengers have already been impacted.
They are estimating the cost to them, some $150 million. The cost to airlines, the estimate around $10 million. That's just for right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Just getting started with that, too. Rene, thanks very much.
Travel bans have been ordered in the blizzard stone, including in New York City, where officials are getting ready to close roads to all non-emergency vehicles.
Brianna Keilar is in New York for us with more on the paralysis and the danger.
Brianna, what's the latest you are seeing and hearing?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. So much, so many things that you associate with New York City are
shutting down. Broadway is shut down. Central Park behind me is supposed to be shut down as of now. All parks closed because, of course, high winds, heavy snow don't mix with trees in Central Park.
Also, the taxicabs you see behind me, they have been lining up here to pick up people. They will e taking some of the last fares, because here in New York City, after 11:00, if you are not driving an emergency vehicle, Mayor de Blasio says you can't be on the road.
We're also seeing that's the case across New York State as well. The difference there being, there is an up to $300 fine that we heard Governor Cuomo say that people may be assessed if they are caught out driving out and about. Certainly, you can even see the roads behind me. There is so much snow accumulation, even though there are plows coming through New York City, there are 6,000 miles of road that they need to plow.
Mayor de Blasio reminding people today that's the equivalent of driving from New York City to Los Angeles and back. It's a long night ahead for the crews working these streets, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is. And they deserve a lot of credit for what they're doing. Brianna, thank you very much.
The governor of Rhode Island is urging drivers to get off the road well before a travel ban takes affect later tonight.
Governor Gina Raimondo is joining us on the phone right now.
Governor, thanks very much for joining us.
What are you bracing for in Rhode Island?
GOV. GINA RAIMONDO (D), RHODE ISLAND: Good evening, Wolf.
We are bracing for one of the worst storms that we have seen. And I am asking all Rhode Islanders to hunker down. It's an extreme, severe winter weather coming tonight. We're bracing for two to three feet of snow and winds of up top 60 to 70 miles an hour along our coast.
BLITZER: Are people in Rhode Island ready for this?
RAIMONDO: Well, we are ready.
I have been on the television and radio all day today urging people to get prepared. I'm anticipating that we could have people without electricity for days. It's going to take us days to clean this up. I'm asking -- I have asked people, get prepared. Make sure you have what it takes to survive for a few days.
And, most of all, get off the streets. I issued a very stern warning to all Rhode Islanders which I'm doing again now, get off of the road by 8:00 tonight. I have also signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency. And as of midnight this evening, there is an official travel ban. We just -- if we can keep folks inside, they will be safe.
We need Rhode Islanders to be safe and we also need our crews to be able to get out there and do their work.
BLITZER: We are really concerned about the flooding. Two-thirds of your state is, what, seaside from the Atlantic. There could be some major flooding, given the fact that there is going to be, A, a lot of snow, it's going to be very cold, but there could be near- hurricane wind conditions.
We are obviously watching the flooding possibility. At this point, we are more concerned about the snowfall and the wind. We believe that because of the 60- or 70-mile-an-hour winds along the coast, there's going to be widespread power outages.
Of course, it's very cold, Wolf. I'm most worried about Rhode Islanders being without heat for a couple of days, which is why we have to work as fast as we can to -- I have been coordinating all day with National Grid, who is our primary power provider, to make sure that they are going to be ready to get folks back online.
BLITZER: Governor, thanks very much. Good luck to you. Good luck to Everyone in Rhode Island.
RAIMONDO: Thank you.
BLITZER: All right, appreciate it.
Still ahead, an up-to-the-minute forecast on where the blizzard is hitting hardest right now as night falls and the dangers ahead.
And we're going to live to Boston, one of the cities likely to get hammered the hardest. Are emergency officials in Boston, in Massachusetts, in the area prepared for the worst?
BLITZER: Massive power outages are expected as this blizzard gets worse.
The governor of Connecticut says more than 100,000 households could go dark in the coming hours for days.
Joining us on the phone right now is the spokesman for Connecticut's Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Scott Devico.
Scott, thanks very much for joining us.
How much snow are you bracing for?
SCOTT DEVICO, CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY SERVICES AND PUBLIC PROTECTION: Good evening. Good evening, Wolf. We are bracing here in Connecticut for a high-impact storm where
we will see possibly 24 to 36 inches of snow through in Tuesday, and some pockets possibly 40 inches of snow where these heavier snow bands come through the state.
BLITZER: With near hurricane-force winds at the same time and very, very cold.
There's a potential for a lot of people losing power. Especially, I'm really concerned about the elderly if they go without electricity for several days. How are you going to deal with that?
We are asking residents to check on their elderly neighbors. If they feel that they are not prepared, help them to be prepared to possibly be without power for a few days and be able to weather that, weather the storm without power for a few days.
But we have been down this road before, Wolf, in Connecticut. February of 2013, we had record-breaking blizzards here in the state. And Connecticut residents are resilient. And we're ready to deal with this storm and weather this storm.
BLITZER: And the governor has deployed National Guard personnel, right?
DEVICO: Yes, there are National Guard personnel who are prepositioned in the state to be able to assist the state police should we need to deploy them to stranded motorists.
BLITZER: What about roads? What time is the cutoff when people can -- non-emergency vehicles have to be off the road?
DEVICO: Earlier today, Governor Malloy declared a state of emergency and he has instituted a statewide travel ban which will begin at 9:00 p.m. this evening.
If you are planning to be anywhere or get anywhere, we're asking all Connecticut residents to do that before 9:00 p.m. this evening and to stay off the roads after 9:00 p.m.
BLITZER: What are they telling you, Scott, about how long this emergency will continue?
DEVICO: We are preparing for this to go through Tuesday and possibly into Wednesday.
As I said earlier, we are anticipating a high-impact storm for the state of Connecticut.
BLITZER: When you earlier said 40 inches in some areas, have you ever had 40 inches snow in Connecticut?
DEVICO: Close to it. As I said before, the blizzard of 2013, we were in the 30-, 35-, 40-inch range in some places. We will get through this. But the public needs to heed our warnings, stay off the roads so (INAUDIBLE) crews can do their jobs.
BLITZER: And the National Weather Service is warning this could be deadly. Right?
If you attempt to travel after 9:00 p.m. today, you are not only putting yourself in danger, but you are putting first-responders' lives in danger.
BLITZER: Don't travel. Stay indoors. And if you lose power, you're going to deal with that. Obviously, there are emergency personnel who are ready to help. Scott Devico of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection in Connecticut, thanks very much. Good luck to you.
DEVICO: Thank you, Wolf.
As this blizzard intensifies, coastal areas are bracing for more than snow and wind. They are also risking very, very dangerous flooding.
CNN's Ana Cabrera is out on Long Island, wait out in Montauk right now.
Ana, what's it like out there?
ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the eastern tip of Long Island, where they are expecting the brunt of the storm.
And we are seeing conditions deteriorate since we have been here over the last several hours. You can see the wind really picking up, the snow blowing around down the street here. This is Main Street, if you can believe it. Seems like residents are really heeding the warnings here to stay indoors and prepare for the worst.
In fact, we're in front of the one restaurant on Main Street that remains open tonight, a few people staying warm, grabbing a quick bite to eat, but also four cars here on the roadway. They are bracing for two to three feet of snow in the next few hours, 70-mile-per hour wind gusts and coastal flooding.
Of course, just beyond this building is the beach, where we had a chance to go down earlier. We saw the waves already crashing ashore. We are anticipating the tide to come in and be high tide about 2:00 right at the height of the storm. They are expecting the ocean to swell two to four feet above what is typical tide overnight hours, so coastal flooding, beach erosion and then of course blizzard conditions on the roads making for a very dangerous and perhaps damaging situation here, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. I have been talking all day about a quadruple threat that has emerged, Ana, between the snow, the wind, the flooding and the power that is going to be lost. This is a potential nightmare for so many hundreds of thousands -- millions of people out there.
Ana, thanks very much. Be careful out there in Long Island.
Joining us now is Congressman Peter King. He represents a huge chunk of Long Island right now.
Congressman, thanks for coming in.
What are you hearing from your constituents there in Suffolk County and Nassau County, not far away from where Ana was just reporting?
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Yes, I really concur with everything Ana said.
This is going to be brutal. And in many ways, the storm has barely begun. The brunt of it is going to start. It is going to be absolutely horrific. The concern, as you said, is not just snow. That can be taken care of. But the power outages and the flooding along the South Shore of Long Island, I can tell that Nassau County, Suffolk County, Town of Hempstead, Oyster Bay (INAUDIBLE) all of them have all of their highway crews ready to go.
But, again, it's going to be a rough 36, 48 hours ahead.
BLITZER: Yes, because you think of hurricanes, you don't think of this time of the year there's going to be a hurricane. But if there are 60- or 70-mile-an-hour winds coming in off the Atlantic, that could be devastating, coupled with the let's say two or three feet of snow.
KING: I was just talking to my daughter in Wantagh. She said the snow is extremely wet. And that's bad, because that means it will stick to the branches. They can come down, cause the power lines to come down, cause severe power outages.
But, again, one thing I'm very confident about, the towns, whether Democrat, Republican, Nassau or Suffolk, the county executives, they are ready to go. They have their troops all ready to be deployed. Same with Mayor de Blasio in the city. Everyone is coming together on this.
BLITZER: And you think the governor, Governor Cuomo, is doing a good job right now?
KING: Right now, he's doing an excellent job. Yes.
And all of us should really stand together on this. But everything the governor says, especially about getting off the roads -- anyone who goes out on the roads tonight is crazy. And it's bad enough to them. I almost don't care what happens to them, but what it can cause for others and the dangers it can cause.
BLITZER: I know you represent your district here in Washington, D.C. Is there anything you need from the federal government right now that is not being made available?
KING: No, right now, I think federal government is doing all it can do.
Obviously, if there's damage afterwards, I would expect the federal government to step in and give us the help and relief that we need. But right now, we have enough troubles and it's to get the job done, get the snow off the ground and get the power lines back up if and when they go down, which they probably will.
BLITZER: And at some point, they are going to have to assess the financial damage that all of this is going to cause.
At some point, somebody is going to have to help pay for this, right?
KING: Well, we had a bad experience during Sandy. I hope we don't have that again. I hope the federal government comes forward, steps forward, does what has to be done.
And, again, that flooding along the South Shore of Long Island, that can be devastating. We're very concerned about that.
BLITZER: I remember how hard you worked to get that money from Sandy. You had some serious problems, not only with a few Democrats, but a bunch of Republicans didn't want to come through with the cash either. Right?
KING: That was rough. Hopefully, everyone learned their lesson from that. We're one country. We're one. When something like this happens, we have to stand together.
Let me quickly pick your brain on this drone that flew over the White House residence at 3:00 a.m. this morning and then sort of crash-landed, if it did crash-land, near the South Lawn of the White House, not very far away.
You are on the Homeland Security Committee, the Intelligence Committee. This is very worrisome to the Secret Service.
KING: Yes, not just the Secret Service, Wolf. This could replicate itself in sports arenas, stadiums, outdoor facilities throughout the country.
There are countermeasures. I can't go into whether or not they were used here or not, whether or not they were broken. The fact is though this is something that requires and is getting tremendous attention from the Secret Service, Homeland Security, branches of government.
But this is really in many ways like the modest version or the latest version of the car bomb, because it's going to be difficult and they could strike anywhere. We have to make sure that we're fully ready for it.
BLITZER: These drones, they are very available. If you put a plastic bomb on it or some sort of anthrax or whatever, that could be devastating.
KING: It certainly could.
Again, as I mentioned, obviously, the White House or the president is having an event on the South Lawn with foreign leaders, that's number one. But just again, a football game, baseball game, any type of athletic event, outdoors, so there is real concern. There are -- there's a lot research going on, a lot of work happening. But, again, it has to be done. This is a new weapon that could be utilized against us.
BLITZER: Because there are all sorts of capabilities, anti- aircraft missiles and surface-to-air missiles, stuff like that around Washington, D.C., but you can't use that with a small two- or three- foot drone.
KING: Wolf, as you and I were discussing before, the Iron Dome wouldn't work here. This is something that is going to -- has to be done. And, again, it's getting a lot of effort, a lot of research. But we still have a ways to go.
BLITZER: I have spoken with some officials who are really worried that -- let's say this is nothing, this is just some individual at 3:00 in the morning deciding to go ahead and fly a drone out there and he got carried away for whatever reason. Let's say there is nothing sinister out there. But it does give -- this is what officials have said to me -- sinister ideas to terrorists or sympathizers or others.
And they're deeply concerned about that.
KING: That's it.
Now that it's out there, this is a concern we have had. But now that it has actually happened at the White House and it was probably a harmless event, we hope, but the fact is others are going to see it now. This could incentivize people. There's lone wolves we worry about or just the average nut who is out there can feel incentivized to act.
BLITZER: Is there new legislation, based on everything -- you have studied this now for a while -- that's needed to deal with this potential problem out there, the easy availability of commercial drones?
KING: We're going to have to look at this. Yes, we have to have restrictions in place, because, again, the danger is there. Yes, I'm saying yes and I can tell you, Homeland Security Committee, others are looking at this and also the FBI, Homeland Security are very, very concerned.
BLITZER: It's a very worrisome development.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
KING: It is. Thank you. BLITZER: Peter King of New York.
We are tracking this monster blizzard as it intensifies. We're going to have new details of where the storm is hitting now. And we're also going to check in on the Jersey Shore still recovering from Superstorm Sandy and now, get this, now facing potentially disastrous flooding once again.
BLITZER: All right. Take a look at this. We have some pictures of the George Washington Bridge right now. As of 11 p.m. tonight, it will be closed, closed to traffic. The Lincoln and Holland tunnels will be closed, as well, for all practical purposes. Driving in and out of New York is going to become virtually impossible as a result of this blizzard.
This is a blizzard of potentially historic proportions, threatening nearly 60 million people in the northeast. Three feet of snow possible, maybe more, along with winds near hurricane strength.
States of emergency are in effect across the region right now as this monster storm intensifies. And officials in state after state, they're sending the same message right now to everyone in the storm's path. You're risking your life -- you're risking your life if you don't stay home.
Massachusetts is implementing a state-wide travel ban at midnight. Our meteorologist Jennifer Gray is in Boston for us.
Jennifer, what are the conditions now and what are they bracing for?
JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, they're using some very strong wording, just like you say. You know, the National Weather Service uses words like "life-threatening," they mean it. Because they don't use it very often.
We are seeing the roads start to quiet down. Not too many people out there. Definitely, much quieter than we saw an hour ago. Boston is seeing a lot of plows. Those salt trucks, even those front-end loaders driving by very frequently. So they are getting ready. They're staging. We have about 800 trucks here in the city of Boston. And they are ready to conquer what is ahead.
We've actually seen a dusting out here. We can pan down and show you the sidewalks. You can see, starting to accumulate just a little bit, not a whole lot. But we already had snow on the ground from a snowstorm just a couple of days ago. And so we are talking about an additional two to three feet of snow. That's about level with my waist. Wolf, you see the sign behind me. That could be completely covered tomorrow.
We're also going to be looking at incredible snow drifts. And you get 50 and 60 mile-per-hour winds. The snow just blows all around. There will be whiteout conditions. Those snow drifts could be above my head.
The other thing we're worried about in Boston, coastal flooding, a high tide right here in the harbor is about 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. And so we are going to see very strong winds at that time. So we could see some coastal flooding right here in Boston.
Power outages also a concern. People are talking about this storm. They're comparing it to the 1978 storm. They're also comparing it to the President's Day storm in '03. That's when they got roughly 27 inches of snow. This one could possibly rival that one and come close. So everyone is just getting inside, heeding those warnings and trying to stay safe until this is over, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Some of the people are bracing for 30 inches of snow in that area. And in other parts, some places 40 inches of snow. This is going to be awful. Jennifer, thanks very much.
CNN's Alexandra Field is also on the streets of Boston. She's joining us now with more.
I take it driving is going to be impossible. First of all, they're going to make it impossible, because anybody who's in a non- emergency vehicle will be stopped.
FIELD: Yes, physically, it's basically impossible. You have no visibility. It would be way too dangerous and too treacherous to be out on the road.
But also, of course, you want to make room and make space for any emergency responders. And then as soon as that snow begins to let up, of course, you want the roads to be accessible to those snow removal vehicles. They don't want people out there crowding the streets.
We're driving around downtown Boston right now. We're still seeing people sort of hustling home at this point. Because this storm hasn't quite come together and really hit here with the full force that we'll see developing over the next few hours. But we are seeing a lot of snow removal equipment already out on the street. A lot of those salters and sand spreaders, they've been out here with this.
And so we are starting to see some empty buses. Because Wolf, frankly, this city is preparing to shut down in just a few hours. Starting at midnight, you will no longer see any buses on the road. Buses will stay closed tomorrow. The T (ph) is also being shut down. That's because at midnight the driving ban goes into effect.
The other issue here in Boston is parking. We know that the city has declared a snow emergency which will start at 6 p.m. this evening. They're asking anyone with their cars on a major thoroughfare to remove...
BLITZER: I think we just lost audio connection with Alexandra. We'll check back with her.
Meanwhile, New Jersey is also under a state of emergency. We're also learning that the New Jersey transit systems will be shutting down at 8 p.m. tonight, less than 90 minutes or so from now.
CNN's Brian Todd is in Asbury Park for us along the Atlantic shore. What's the latest over there, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you just mentioned transportation. They're shutting it down in a little over an hour. They were going to shut down at 10 p.m. But you can see the conditions here in Asbury Park.
The wind is really the telling factor now. That's what's going to cause the whiteout conditions. I'm along the boardwalk here in Asbury Park. You mentioned transportation. State officials shutting it down. Light rail, bus and train service is going to shut down in just a short time.
Now, in these areas, these coastal areas near where I am, check out the tide right now. Tide is not high now. But at 12:55, we're told that's when high tide is coming in here in Asbury Park. That's when the danger of flooding may occur. And that's also going to be the time of the evening when we're really going to be getting slammed here with the snow.
The CNN weather folks just told me this place could get up to 18, possibly even 24 inches of snow. And it's about to hit here in the next couple of hours.
The wind, you can see it here the way it's hitting. It's blowing north to south, right into my face. That's what's causing the whiteout conditions later on tonight. That's what officials here in New Jersey are worried about, the whiteout conditions. They are saying, just as everybody is saying, all up and down the Eastern Seaboard, Wolf, if you don't have to go out tonight, do not go out. It is simply too dangerous.
State police officials were telling me earlier, they get frustrated when people are leaving their vehicles, either on the road or just to the side. They say you've got to try to get completely off the road, completely off the interstate, if you think you're going to get stuck, because that's going to create a cascading affect for these plows, the tow trucks, the spreaders to try to do their job and try to get some of the stuff cleared by the morning, Wolf.
BLITZER: And it wasn't that long ago that the same area along Jersey Shore, they suffered from Superstorm Sandy. Now once again, near hurricane-force winds, 20 inches of snow or whatever, cold temperatures, power outages. These people are going to have to endure something like this.
TODD: That's right. They're going to endure it again, just a little over two years after Hurricane Sandy. A lot of these places are still recovering from that. You can see this place is completely abandoned now for good reason. It's just miserable out here.
And yes, they are getting the double whammy when some of them still just have not recovered from Hurricane Sandy. We're going to talk to some of those folks in the coming hours and into tomorrow about how they're coping with this, Wolf. But this is just something we don't need right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Be careful over there, Brian. Brian Todd in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
In New York, meanwhile, the governor, Governor Cuomo, has just announced a travel ban starting at 11 p.m. later tonight. All roads in the city and beyond will be closed. The MTA, the Port Authority will shut down a little less than four hours or so from now. A little bit more than four hours, I should say, from now.
CNN's Chris Welch is joining us from New York. He's got more.
Chris, where are you? What are you seeing?
CHRIS WELCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, well, we are currently in midtown Manhattan. We've been driving around midtown for roughly the last hour or so.
Since we spoke to you last hour, we have noticed the snowfall diminished significantly. Of course, everyone still warning folks to stay on alert because the brunt of this storm, obviously, expected to come hours from now.
But take a look at the camera we've got mounted on our dashboard here. Straight ahead of us, you'll see, really, what many people call the crossroads of the world, Times Square. Right there.
Normally at -- what time is it, about 6:40 right now, this is prime rush hour time here in New York here approaching Times Square. And this is usually pretty backed up with cars, with taxis, with traffic.
So it looks like, from the looks of things right now, people are heeding the warping, heeding the warnings from government officials to get home early. Obviously, everyone preparing for a pretty big storm here. We're talking two to three feet. This could be one of the biggest or the biggest in New York's history.
We know that folks are preparing for the worst. And it could, from everything we've talked about, it could beat the record that was set back in 2006 of 26.9 inches. Obviously, if the city -- if New York gets three feet of snow as is potentially predicted to happen, that would certainly be a record breaker -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It would be. Chris, be careful over there. Chris Welch in New York.
We're following the breaking news. We're going to get more on the latest conditions across the northeast as this major blizzard moves in. This is only just the beginning of what will be a very, very long and dangerous night.
We're also going live to Rhode Island under a state of emergency, facing potentially catastrophic flooding.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're following breaking news, the blizzard on the
northeastern part of the United States. It's being called historic. Some areas are expected to be buried under three feet of snow, if not more. Near hurricane-force winds will create drifts higher than that. Officials are warning that millions of people will be without power for days. States of emergency are already in effect across the Northeast, including in Rhode Island. That's where CNN's George Howell is watching this storm gets closer and closer.
What are you seeing, George?
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, let's talk about what we are seeing and not seeing. Right now, we are seeing a light snow. The winds are picking up. Snowplows are out, definitely seeing more of that downtown.
What we're not seeing is what we saw for most of the day. Look on the streets. It's a ghost town here. We're in the center of providence, Rhode Island. People are heeding the officials to get off the roads by 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, by midnight. There is a curfew to keep people off the streets. You could get a ticket.
Outside of Providence, on the coast line, keep in mind that 22 of the 39 seaside communities, they're in low lying area. And they risk flooding due to high tide that will coincide with the worst of the storm overnight. So, officials are about flooding and, Wolf, the other big thing here is the loss of power as trees go down, as power lines go down. That's what officials here are watching for as the storm pushes in.
BLITZER: All right. George Howell, reporting for us. Thank you.
This blizzard isn't just a major weather event, it's also a major social media event. CNN's Tom Foreman is tracking what people are sharing online.
What are you seeing, Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are sharing everything, really on the front edge of the storm. We're really in the front edge of this storm. But look at this -- we have some great pictures coming in. Times Square is as snow comes pushing in there. This is one of the train stations there in Boston. People just packed in there trying to get somewhere over to Hoboken.
Look at the scene there in the courtyard there. This is people trying to buy boots into New York, and then further on, that's Penn Station, also packed, people trying to get out before it gets terribly, terribly bad. And on and on, the images go here, Wolf. One of my favorites here, 5,500 tons of salt in Yonkers ready to be spread out on the roads as the storm comes through. It looks like snow but it's salt.
And, of course, we have this -- lots of people lining up in grocery stores buying all the groceries they can in many cases, leaving the shelves completely empty there. You've heard about people going on social media, trying to line up parties, getting people all lined up for all of this, Wolf. It's really unbelievable how many things are going on out there.
I even thought I would tweet about some of this, but I gave up after the comedian Jim Gaffigan tweeted, "I'm already sick of the Blizzard 15 tweets. Sure, most of them were mine but it's getting ridiculous."
Well, I think we'll have a little bit of people going crazy there, Wolf. Let's hope the power stays on.
BLITZER: Yes, let's hope, because it's going to be a very, very dangerous situation over the next several hours.
Tom, thanks very much.
More breaking news coming up. Our coverage of this historic blizzard will continue.
BLITZER: Take a look at this. These are live pictures coming in from Asbury Park, New Jersey, along the shore. We're following the breaking news.
A blizzard of potentially historic proportions now hitting the northeast part of the United States and it's posing a quadruple threat to the tens of millions of people in its path. Near hurricane-force winds and more than three feet of snow expected in some areas. There's also flooding expected in the coastal areas and officials are warning that millions of people will be without power for days.
We're going to have much more on the breaking news coming up.
But, first, ISIS is now calling for more attacks on the West as it suffers a major defeat on the battlefield.
Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is here. He's got details.
What's the latest, Jim?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the key moment today came when senior Kurds known as the YPG raised their flag on a hillside in eastern Kobani. This is the moment here, this is the same hillside, this is four months ago that ISIS raised its black flag signaling its rapid advance through this northern part of Syria.
Now, Central Command says 90 percent of the town is back in the hands of Syrian Kurds.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Victory celebrations in Kobani after four months of intense fighting on the ground and relentless strikes from the air, the key city on the Syrian/Turkish border is nearly free of ISIS. It's an important coalition wind on the ground in Syria in a town that U.S. officials originally dismissed as not strategically important. Since then, three out of four coalition airstrikes in Syria targeted Kobani. Despite one high-profile defeat in Syria, ISIS is again setting it its sights further afield in the west.
Urging its followers, quote, "In Europe and the disbelieving West and everywhere else, to target the crusaders in their own lands and wherever they are found. A threat may not be an empty one. A similar call in September was followed by a string of attacks in Canada and Australia and an attempted plot in Belgium disrupted just in the nick of time.
U.S. officials say the coalition air campaign has weakened ISIS leadership, eliminating, they claim, half of its senior commanders. But the effect on ISIS' operational capability is not yet clear.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: So, I think the bigger question is, how are we doing in terms of the overall trend? Are more people joining the fight then we're talking up the battlefield. I think plainly, we still have a lot of work to do.
SCIUTTO: Now, Japan who has not challenged ISIS militarily is scrambling to save the lives of one of its hostages, Kenji Goto. A know ISIS supporter posted images Saturday showing Goto holding what appears to be a photo of the headless body of fellow captive Haruna Yukawa. After originally demanding a $200 million ransom, ISIS is now seeing the release of a convicted female jihadi hailed in Jordan. The ISIS release however, has key differences from past hostage videos, raising questions about its authenticity.
SCIUTTO: A Japanese foreign ministry official is now in Jordan just across the border from Syria. He says his sole mission is to bring the remaining hostage, Mr. Goto, home to Japan safely -- Wolf.
BLITZER: On top of all of this, the U.S. is closing, at least temporarily, its embassy in Yemen?
SCIUTTO: Well, they are closing it to the public for most consular services, visas, et cetera. They say they will still be able to carry out limited emergency services, for the many of the Yemenis who have dual citizenship with the U.S. But they're really paring down their functions overtime. To be clear though, there is still a military presence in that embassy there, which is key to the counterterror cooperation with the Yemenis carrying out the airstrikes, with drone strikes for instance against AQAP targets in the south.
BLITZER: All right. Jim Sciutto reporting for us, thanks very much.
That's it for me. Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter. Go ahead and tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNsitroom. Please be sure to join us tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.