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8 Dead as Tornadoes Rip Through Dallas Area; Trump Escalates War of Words with Clinton. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 27, 2015 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:04] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: All righty. And thank you so much for starting your morning with us.

ERROL BARNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Your NEW DAY continues right now.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very big. Oh, it's massive! Oh my gosh, it's so big!


PAUL: You see it, too. Deadly tornadoes ripping through parts of Texas overnight destroying building, tearing up neighborhoods. We're monitoring the devastating aftermath as the day unfolds there.

BARNETT: This incredible video is from a news crew in the middle of wildfires in southern California. Good news for motorists there this morning as a major highway has now reopened.

PAUL: And Donald Trump versus the Clintons overnight. Trump slams Clinton by citing her husband's history of marital infidelity. We're going to discuss what it means for both campaigns.

Your NEW DAY starts now.

So grateful to have you with us as always. I'm Christi Paul.

BARNETT: Good morning, Christi.

Hey, everyone. I'm Errol Barnett, in for Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: Yes, so good to have you with us here, too. And, boy, so much to talk about while you're here.

Let's talk about Texas. First of all, the Dallas area slammed by tornadoes last night. At least eight people have died. Now this storm hit under the cover of night.

As you can see the only time you can see that funnel cloud is when you see the lightning. If we can drop the banner, I think that will help folks, too. It wasn't just tornadoes here. Hail rained down on drivers. You can hear it at one point hitting the car and the windshield.

Sara Sidner is tracking the storms from New York. Sara used to live in Texas.

So, what have you learned this morning?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, I was checking Periscope this morning to see if the light has risen. Not quite, there's been a half an hour left.

And that's significant because rescue workers decided that they needed to wait until there was light, this being such a dangerous and treacherous situation. This storm at night, you can see there, you can easily find yourself suddenly with a tornado right on top of you. And so, they are going to wait until light to start doing rescue missions.

There are homes torn up. There are buildings that have been leveled from this tornado. And this isn't the only place that's facing dangerous and deadly weather. It's happened in several other states this holiday weekend.


SIDNER (voice-over): A deadly night in north Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I see. It's crossing the highway right there. I can see it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's very big. Oh, it's massive.

SIDNER: Fierce storms and tornado swept through the Dallas area. This video captured the tornado as it moved through the city of Rowlett.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it is. Whoa, that is big, big, big.

SIDNER: At least five deaths were reported in Garland, Texas, after a tornado hit Interstate 30.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually looked at the twist. I was looking at it.

REPORTER: OK, describe it for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just a dark funnel and it was just a big roar. It was really scary. It scared me. I mean, I don't scare that easy but I was scared.

SIDNER: Several homes were destroyed. Lawns littered with debris and cars tossed.

REPORTER: Your daughter's car is in the kitchen here? The back of the kitchen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Amy husband's car was in the driveway. It's out into alley.

SIDNER: When the storm hit, Lafayette Griffin huddled with his family under a mattress and prayed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was terrifying. I was terrified. They were terrified. You know? They didn't know if they were going to make it.

SIDNER: The storms are all a part of a severe weather system that devastated the south this holiday weekend, with deaths in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi.

Residents assess the damage in Glenn Heights. This man lost his home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a grace of God that I'm alive. I'm really grateful. My wife works not that hard from here. If I didn't call her, she would be here right now and my kids would be here too. A lot of faith.

SIDNER: In Sunny Vale, Texas, the front facade was ripped off of this house but Larry Allen is just grateful he and his family weren't home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone calls us, we think your house got a direct hit. Are you all home because we're in your house looking for you?

So, our neighbors came in our house, people around to see if we were in the house and we weren't. So, you know, we waited for the weather to calm down and drove over. And when we came up, our family, our friends, our church were all in the house, cleaning stuff up.

You know, it's amazing how people in this community just take charge.


SIDNER: So you see the devastation there and that's in the dark. We expect to see more as the daylight comes. They do have in some of these areas tornado warning systems but you also have to remember.

A lot of people were going home, right? They were on the road on I-30 which is an important thoroughfare through Dallas into Ft. Worth. Very heavily used.

[08:05:00] I'd used it many times when I lived there. It is, you know, right between the two and all of this is happening right on I- 30. In one case, we talked about there in Garland where five people killed on the road.

I mean, what do you do? Get to a low place. If you don't see it coming and don't know it's there you just deal with the consequences.

It's terrible. Really scary.

PAUL: You brought up something that I thought was really interesting. These videos that we're seeing, those flashes of light not all of them are from, from lightning.

SIDNER: That's right. Oftentimes these come through and they come through cities, of course and there are transformers there. So, those blow up as the tornado twists and turns and rips up that electrical facade there.

So, what you see is that sort of electricity going off each time it hits one of those transformers which by the way has caused power outages. Actually, if you look at that road you can see the lights aren't on. Notice the lights there are not on and that may well be because that tornado is knocking out transformers. There you see the lights on there.

But that other road you're not seeing lights so that could very well be because of the tornado, making it even more dangerous there. It went off right as we were speaking.

PAUL: Wow, that is something else. Thank you for walking us through that. I just cannot imagine what it must be like driving there and you're in darkness and you don't see it until the lightning hits. Something else.

Thank you, Sara, so much.

BARNETT: Especially when the lightning takes out any lights from the roads.

PAUL: Yes.

BARNETT: So, if you're about to hit the road this weekend what your supposed to do because the threat here of severe weather is far from over. We got the holiday weekend nearing a close as well.

Let's bring in our meteorologist Allison Chinchar. She joins us from our CNN weather center as she tracks all of this.

Allison, if I'm in East Texas, for example, I need to hit the road today to get home. What should I do? What's the outlook?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: If you're in east Texas I would head west or perhaps hunker down in that area, because East Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, you're in the bull's eye for today, that same system that brought us tornadoes yesterday is going to push a little bit farther east and we're talking rain stretching from Texas all the way up to the East Coast and we got snow and ice on the back side.

We have that warm humid air coming up from the Gulf Coast, leaving the cold dry air from Canada and when two meet that brings us the necessary ingredients we need for severe weather outbreaks. We're expecting an enhanced risk of tornadoes in the orange areas. So, you can see cities like Houston now under the gun, Shreveport, Louisiana.

But the severe threat will go from San Antonio up to Paducah, Cincinnati and down towards New Orleans. Now, the Storm Prediction Center has expanded this in just the last 15 minutes. So, they have now widened out the area that they are talking for the higher risks. So, now, we're including people we weren't an hour ago.

So, definitely, folks if you have any travel plans you saw in that zone, be careful, be patient and pay close attention to the weather as we go to the day.

We have warm temperatures out ahead of it, 70 right now in Little Rock, 74 in Lake Charles, much colder out west, 20 degrees right now in Amarillo, Texas. When that system pushes through now we'll talk about the winter storm and guys we're talking about 18 inches of snow, a lot of ice also into parts of Oklahoma and this is the same system that will push into the northeast for Monday and Tuesday.

So, folks waiting an extra day or two to go home in the northeast, you're going to be contending with the same system.

BARNETT: This has been one destructive storm, and it isn't finished yet. Allison Chinchar, thank you for that.

We want to bring this video to our viewer's attention now because it's the first time we're getting a glimpse of the snow and cold weather impacting New Mexico right now.

This video is coming to us from Albuquerque. You can see the snow is piled up on the sides of the roads, people trying to make their way throughout town. Also, some footage coming to us from, is it, El Paso, Texas. I think we got some of that footage for you. Here it is. Snow there as well, as Allison was just telling us.

It's 25 degrees in this region of the United States right now. So, some parts of Texas dealing with floods and tornadoes and damage that comes along with that, other areas dealing with this, snow hitting parts of Texas and New Mexico at this hour.

So, we'll be keeping an eye on all of this throughout the morning.

PAUL: What a mess.

All right. Next in politics, as Bill Clinton heads to the campaign trail for his wife Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump unleashes nasty comments about the former president's marital infidelity. What does the feud do to both of these campaigns? We'll talk about that.

Also, remarkable new images of this ranging fire in southern California. You're going to see a news crew in the thick of it.

BARNETT: In the United States, not alone in dealing with parts or dealing with severe weather.

[08:10:00] This is from my home country England, many places there under the state of emergency right now. The worst flooding they've seen in decades. Thousands forced to leave their homes. We'll get you the latest after this short break.


[08:13:28] PAUL: Thirteen minutes past the hour. New this morning race for the White House: Donald Trump not backing

down from this verbal feud with Hillary Clinton and her husbands now, former President Bill Clinton, after a flurry of overnight tweets slamming Clinton by citing her husband's history of marital infidelity.

The Republican front-runner spoke out moments ago on FOX.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): She's playing the woman's card and it's like give me a break. I had so many women come up to me say, you got to keep her out. She's just terrible. She's playing that woman's card left and right, and women are more upset about it than anybody else, including most men.


PAUL: OK. So this started last night when Trump tweeted, quote, "Hillary Clinton has announced that she is letting her husband out the campaign, but he's demonstrated a penchant for sexism, so inappropriate."

The feud between Trump and the Clintons really has been building all last week, starting when Trump made a vulgar swipe about Hillary's failed 2008 presidential run. In response, she told "The Des Moines Register", quote, "It's not the first time he's demonstrated a penchant for sexism", which is that verbiage keeps coming from.

Let's talk about this with CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson, and Democratic strategist and Hillary Clinton supporter, Robert Zimmerman.

Thank you gentlemen both for being with us.


PAUL: Good morning.

Robert, I want to go to you first, the Trump campaign bringing Bill Clinton's past behavior into the spotlight. Hillary is not Bill by any means but is it fair? Is he fair game?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know something when you have Bill Clinton, one of the most respected public figures in the world, one of the most successful presidencies in modern times, you really don't worry about what an Atlantic City lounge act like Donald Trump has to say.

I mean, who is in his corner? Omarosa, Steven Baldwin? You got to Google those names to find out who they are.

So, you don't really waste your time dwelling on that. To the Clinton's campaign's credit, they're not in a feud with Trump. They are focusing on issues, standing up for Planned Parenthood, pay equity for women. And Donald Trump continues to do what he and Ted Cruz and others do -- just engage personal attacks because they really ultimately represent a defeat for conservatism and a defeat for decency in favor of demagoguery. That's what they represent.

PAUL: All right. So, Ben, we've been hearing analysts say from the get-go, you don't want to get into a verbal sparring war with Donald Trump because he's so adroit.


PAUL: He's so good at it. Do you think the Clintons -- that they can toss it right back to him?

FERGUSON: Look, I think it's a dumb move for Hillary Clinton to go after Donald Trump directly, as much as she did in the last debate this early on, because Donald Trump is always going to take you on, whether you like it or not. If you start talking trash and you start going after Donald Trump or his campaign, he's going to come right back at you three or four, five times as hard.

So, look, the Clintons have no one to blame for this feud but themselves. They engaged it. She's the one that started this with Donald Trump, talking about him being a sexist, and she has a big liability in Bill Clinton.

You can say he's respected, but there's also someone named Monica Lewinsky that's in his past. That's part of his resume.

And when you come out here and you attack --


FERGUSON: Hold on, let me finish. I didn't interrupt you, OK?

This is my point: when you're Hillary Clinton you have to look at your vulnerabilities. Her biggest vulnerabilities is Bill Clinton. He's also her biggest asset. But you don't go out there and start a war on sexism after Donald Trump when you have Bill Clinton's liability standing right next to you. It's a bad political move.

ZIMMERMAN: Ben, let's be realistic. Political pundits will dwell on the topics you are bringing up and then there are people with real lives, voters.

FERGUSON: American voters care about this stuff.

ZIMMERMAN: And Bill -- they care about -- they care about issues. You're right about the fact you don't trash talk Donald Trump.

FERGUSON: And morality.

ZIMMERMAN: But where you beat him every time is by taking them on over issues. Look how his ideas resonate with the American people. He consistently loses three to one, two-thirds to one like, his temporary ban on Muslim, 60 percent of the American people oppose. His opposition to Planned Parenthood. His opposition to pay equality for women.

So, the point here is when it comes to this election, it's not about a feud, it's about a debate of ideas and that's where Donald Trump can't compete. That's where Hillary has made her career.

PAUL: You talk about the issues that Trump has and that people don't, don't advocate for them, and you're right about that to some degree. But then you look at the polls. Trump has the latest CNN/ORC poll. Trump has 39 percent, Cruz is 18 percent.

How do you deal with that?

ZIMMERMAN: Because you're talking about polling amongst Republicans.

Let's understand, I'm not surprised that Donald Trump is at 39 percent and Cruz and Ben Carson the three of them represent 60 percent of the Republican electorate, because you got a Republican electorate with 44 percent think the president is a secret Muslim, 54 percent of the Trump voters think that and about 44 percent think that he's not even an American citizen.

So, when you have that kind of extremism and demagoguery, it may work in the Republican Party but doesn't work with the American people at large.

PAUL: All righty. Ben Ferguson and Robert Zimmerman, always so good to hear from both of you. Thank you for being here.

ZIMMERMAN: Thank you. Happy New Year.

FERGUSON: Good to be here.

PAUL: Thank you.

All righty. Ahead, look at these pictures we're getting in. This is that raging fire in southern California. A news crew is in the thick of it or was. We'll show you more straight ahead.


[08:22:07] BARNETT: Welcome back. Twenty-two minutes past the hour.

We've been talking about breaking news out of Texas, tornadoes near Dallas. The city of Garland was especially hit hard.

Five of the reported fatalities happened there. All those victims were in their cars when they were suddenly struck by a very powerful tornado.

Joining us on the phone to talk about this is Garland Emergency Management Public Officer Joe Harn.

Joe, good morning to you. The sun should just be coming up at this hour. Just give us an assessment of what happened there last night.

JOE HARN, GARLAND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT (via telephone): Well, last night at about 6:45 is when the tornado hit. Southeast part of our city. (INAUDIBLE)

BARNETT: All right. It appears as if we have an issue with the signal with Joe Harn. Perhaps we can just quickly hang up and try to reconnect.

But, Joe, this morning as the sunrises is dealing with a place that was hit so hard by one or multiple tornadoes. You're seeing images of the aftermath. People saying these things come out of nowhere while they were on the roads, it knocked the power out, and killed five people, we understand.

I believe you're back with us, Joe. We got you here on the air. Just update us on what happened last night and what you expect to deal with this morning.

HARN: Well, yes. Last night about 6:45 when this tornado hit. We now confirmed that we have eight fatalities from this storm.

We have more storms that are rolling through this morning. So, we're battling the rain. We're going house to house, apartments were involved in this, and trying to check for other people.

Our fear is that our death toll will rise today as the sun comes up and we're able to get in and around all the homes that we need to.

BARNETT: Do you have any guidance or advice for people there who are planning to hit the roads today? Because as you say, these storms are still churning.

HARN: Right now it's rain, it's thunderstorms. They didn't -- they are not calling for any more severe weather. Our roadways are slick. And they need to be careful.

However, that's also hindering our emergency workers trying to go around to each home, each apartment and check for other possible victims.

BARNETT: All right. Joe Harn, the public information officer for Garland Emergency Management updating us there that there have been eight deaths as it reflects this very powerful storm.

Thanks for joining us this morning, Joe. We appreciate that.

HARN: Thank you.

PAUL: Yes, take good care of all those folks there.

[08:25:00] And this. Look at this.


PAUL: You hear that wind.

BARNETT: It's frightening. That wind is what's been fueling this raging wildfire. It is still burning right now in the Solimar Beach area of California this morning. And this video with the embers on the ground. The television crew in the middle of those flames.

PAUL: And all of this caused by a downed power line. It's burned more than 1,200 acres of land near a major highway. The good news is the 101 Freeway is now re-opened and evacuation orders have been lifted. We'll show you more throughout the morning. Do stay close.


PAUL: We've been talking about flooding here in the U.S. But look what it's doing in Northern England. Month's worth of rain has fallen in just days and this is aftermath.

Rivers burst. Severely flooding and damaging several villages as you see there. Hundreds of people have been evacuated. Thousands don't have power. Forecasters say this rain should ease hopefully in the next few days.

BARNETT: And it's the last Sunday of the year, and in Vatican City, Pope Francis is celebrating the feast of the Holy Family a mass devoted the Holy Family -- Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The pope delivered the message about the importance of family and praying together. We'll have a live report from Rome in the next hour.

PAUL: It has been so good to have you here. And we hope you go out and make good memories, too.

BARNETT: It's been great spending the weekend with you. Thanks for being so kind.

PAUL: Thank you.

BARNETT: Thanks for being with us, everyone.