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"Affluenza" Teen and Mom Fight Extradition to U.S.; New Year's Holiday Threats Prompt More Security; State of Emergency in Missouri. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 30, 2015 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- jail time that Ethan Couch faces here is minimal. Prosecutors here in Texas say they want to move it into the adult system in case he violates his probation again, he could face much stiffer punishment.
The prosecutors and the law enforcement here in Texas say -- still voicing their displeasure with the sentence that Ethan Couch received back in 2013 for the drunk driving deaths of four people back in 2013 and obviously the case and the defense of affluenza and his attorneys arguing that Ethan Couch had lived a life of wealth and privilege and, because of that, didn't know the consequences and right and wrong and clouded judgment, all of that defense kind of boiling into this situation that has made this such a controversial and hot-button story as the investigators here continue to track and awaiting the arrival of Ethan Couch and his mother back here in Texas -- Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: All right. Thank you, Ed, for that report.
As we reported earlier in the show, CNN has learned that federal and local security officials are tightening security in high-profile locations tied to New Year's celebrations. One threat specifically mentions three cities: Los Angeles; Washington, D.C., and New York.
And with me now to talk about this is Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York's 5th District. He is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Thank you so much, Congressman, for being with us to talk about this very important topic, as everybody is getting ready to revel. They don't want to worry about their safety but obviously it's on their minds after the kind of year that we have had.
Do you know anything more than what we just heard about tightened security in New York and in these other cities?
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), N.Y.: Well, I will tell you that New York is prepared. In fact, on my trek to the studio right now in New York, if you go up and down 5th Avenue, you will see large units of the New York City Police Department and diverting traffic and preparation for New Year's Eve is taking place now.
And it is not only what you see it's what you don't see that is also taking place. So, I think that, you know, any threat, whether it is a threat that has been deemed real or not is taken seriously and, clearly, I believe that people will be safer in New York City, because all kinds of preparations are taking place, as should be.
KEILAR: So you are confident that as people are heading to Times Square, all they need to worry about is ushering in the New Year.
Is there anything that you want to say to them as we have heard they are going through double magnetometers to get in this year, certainly something that should make them feel safer but is there something that you would like to say to them as they consider going out on New Year's Eve?
MEEKS: First, I want to say that welcome to New York City. And New York City knows how to bring in a New Year. Go out and enjoy and have a good time, that you're in good hands with the New York City Police Department and all of those that have been trained there.
Secondly, though, you know, you see something, you say something. You know, don't presume anything that is innocent. You know, if you think something looks suspicious, make sure that you say something to someone, because you are part of this law enforcement team; working collectively together, we can try to make sure that we're all safe.
But I can tell you that the New York City Police Department along with the Homeland Security has been working and sharing information and doing things of the nature to make sure that we are all safe.
As I said, if you walk around the streets of New York City today, you will see a number of police officers but it is not only what you see, it's what you don't see that is also taking place to make sure that everybody will be safe bringing in 2016.
KEILAR: I know that the threat assessment is going beyond the U.S. at this point and I want to ask you about something that you may have been briefed about as a House member.
In Belgium, there were two people arrested yesterday on suspicion of being involved in a plot to attack various sites in the capital there during New Year's celebrations.
Do you know anything more about a possible ISIS connection here?
MEEKS: Well, I think that it's still being investigated and there's still information that's being shared now. I think they're coming out of what took place in Paris, in Europe, the information sharing between different countries, because, as you know, the borders are porous and people go back and forth and between the French government and the Belgians and others and the United States, the information sharing and working collectively together is even stronger than it was before.
And so these kinds of plots that were uncovered will continue to be uncovered. And the kind of investigations that are taking place afterwards to see what are the direct links or indirect links to ISIS or daish or whatever you want to call them, what they are because,, of course, the concern right now is individuals who are radicalized without having to travel to Syria or any places where you have the direct contact with daish.
So there is thorough investigation that is taking place now, thorough communication and working collectively together between countries and law enforcement agencies and they will get to the bottom of whether or not the individual that was arrested in Belgium were part of an --
MEEKS: -- ISIS plot or not.
KEILAR: OK. So basically Belgian authorities at this point are still trying to determine the link to ISIS?
MEEKS: They are. There are still investigations going on to try to find just -- you know, you got to go through all of the computers, you've got to make sure who is linked where and how they were radicalized, because there is various ways that you can be radicalized and I think that that kind of investigation is continuing. And we will know something shortly.
KEILAR: All right. Congressman Meeks, thank you so much and Happy New Year to you, as we look towards 2016, just two days away.
MEEKS: Happy New Year to you and come on to New York, it's a great place to bring in the New Year.
KEILAR: It sure. It sure is. All right, thanks, Congressman.
And up next, we're going to have more from Missouri. I'll be speaking live to a mayor from one of the devastated cities to see how he's handling this emergency, how his community is handling it.
Plus we'll get the forecast to see who else is in flooding danger. Stay with us.
KEILAR: We are following breaking news this hour on this deadly flooding in the Midwest. We have seen homes and businesses underwater, people rescued from their cars and their homes. The rivers there are several feet over flood stage at this point and at least 13 people have already died in the flooding and the rivers still have not crested yet. That's not going to happen until tomorrow night.
Just gives you a sense of what folks in this area are dealing with. This house here in the St. Louis area floated completely off of its foundation and it started moving as the floodwaters suddenly engulfed it. So far, from what we can tell, nobody is inside.
And then this man and his dog made it to the roof, the roof there, their house, this was just in time for rescuers in a boat to grab them and whisk them away to safety. This is just one of hundreds of rescue operations that is going on right now across the flooded Midwest.
Among the cities being hit is Eureka. This is along the banks --
KEILAR: -- of the Meramec River west of St. Louis. And joining me now on the phone we have the Eureka mayor, Kevin Coffey.
Mayor, give us a sense of the situation that's in your city. I know that there are many evacuations in the area.
Are people listening?
Are they taking their safety into consideration?
KEVIN COFFEY, EUREKA MAYOR: Yes, we've -- most people have done very well. We have had a lot of volunteers getting the word out. We have had some rescues. We had to do a rescue on the interstate today with the boats. We had to rescue a 96-year-old individual from his home who didn't want to leave. But we were able to get a hold of him.
We had an older lady with two dogs in a boat that we had to go out to get. We did have an individual in an attic. And we are not sure how that turned out. He didn't want to leave the night before.
The helicopters could show the heat signature in the attic but we don't know what happened since then. So that is possibly our biggest concern at this point, is that he had no way to escape his attic and we don't know if he got some family help or not.
COFFEY: We did send a boat out there and we could not get him to leave initially.
KEILAR: Wow. I know that is one of the biggest challenges that you are facing as you try to convince people to take their safety so seriously. We will certainly follow up with you on that. That's obviously a story that we hope has a good ending.
What are the conditions look like right now in your area?
COFFEY: We believe that we have peaked about eight hours early from the predictions. They recently downgraded us about a half a foot on the peak flooding, which still leaves us three feet over the highest recorded flood in history, which is a very big deal. It puts water places that we have never seen water.
It puts water in some homes. It put water in quite a few of our old business district that is 150 years old. And in the 150 years, they have never seen water in some of these buildings. So it is going to be, the cleanup itself will, I expect to easily hit seven figures in the old town area.
Our biggest problem is over the next four days, we are going to be hitting temperatures in the teens at night. And so as water recedes, we are going to have power out. We are going to have gas service out and we are going to have a difficult cleanup.
KEILAR: How do you prepare, Mayor, for people who are going to be dealing with, even people who maybe as the water is receding and their homes are not in great condition but if they are then facing freezing temperatures and power outages, how do you take care of those people?
COFFEY: I believe people are going to have to either stay with friends or in shelters. I know our Baptist Church offered to shelter quite a few people. I don't know if they have any up there or not or if most people were able to go to family. We are a pretty tight community and a lot of people know each other and they are willing to help out.
So I expect that most people are just staying with friends and family that are currently displaced. So they will be displaced, I believe, longer than they expected at this point, because of the difficulty with the cold.
KEILAR: Certainly does seem that way, as we are looking at these conditions. And as you said, you are expecting temperatures in the teens.
Mayor Kevin Coffey, thank you so much for talking with us and we will follow up on you, especially on the story that you told us about the man who refused to leave his house, who seemed to have made it to the attic. We certainly hope that rescuers are able to reach him. Thanks so much, Mayor, for being with us.
Now as many as 13 million people in nine states -- this is just huge. They are under a flood warning. I want to bring in now CNN meteorologist Tom Sater in the CNN Severe Weather Center in Atlanta.
But this is your hometown. You're very familiar with this area, Tom.
What are you keeping your eye on now?
TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I tell you, you're right. I fished and paddled these rivers. I just got off the phone with an aunt and uncle that live in Eureka. They are completely cut off. That community is cut off from society.
A cousin of mine on the Meramec, the lights are flickering. They're filling their bathtubs with water. Now we have seen an improvement when it comes to the flood warnings for a good amount of agricultural land from Illinois in toward Missouri and that includes the city but it's all the rivers.
We have problems near the Ozarks, Southern Missouri; Branson, Missouri, is flooding but also on the Arkansas River.
Let's break this down and there's some -- we should clarify a few things. Some records --
SATER: -- from 1993 are going to hold and some records are going to break but that is south of St. Louis.
Back in '93, we had massive snow melt to the north. This is the Missouri and Mississippi River Valley. Everything slides to the south. The Meramec River did not have the snow melt problem in '93 and that is why the records are going back to '82 and that's why they are breaking them now.
So when you see the Arkansas River, where Little Rock is going to have moderate flooding but towns to the north and the south are going to have major flooding.
Governor Jindal in Louisiana is now putting out a state of emergency for the Mississippi as well. We are looking at the crest in St. Louis to stay below the record tomorrow.
Now, if you notice now, Paducah, Kentucky; across the river is Cape Girardeau, all-time record since '93 will be broken and we will follow that down to Memphis, all the way down, maybe Vicksburg and possible into New Orleans.
One more note here. Again, records on the Missouri River are staying put; along the Mississippi, from St. Louis northward, yes, there was flooding out the Missouri River, St. Charles toward St. Peters. They closed down I-70 but now west of Pacific, they have shut down I- 44 and now extended it all the way to 270. That is a major throughway and a major disappointment. The Meramec River curves up and kind of snakes around. Where it snakes north is where the town of Eureka is and that is why they are completely cut off.
Not only one treatment plant but two water waste treatment plants have now been overtopped and should be submerged, one in High Ridge and on in the Fenton area.
Past Fenton on the Meramec, it is going to be hitting Arnold, which is already flooding as well. But then we're going to watch the record crest south of St. Louis, when you get to Chester, historic Ste. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Here is the record right now for the Mississippi River at St. Louis, the record of 49.5 is going to hold true. They're going to get up forecast of 42. But on the Meramec, this is unprecedented, Brianna, we have never seen this before. That is why the river forecast office and the hydrologists are having a tough time deciding where the crest is and what the forecast is going to be, because they have never seen water this high and it's fanning out over the banks.
So many times, when you have a forecast for a crest, it constantly gets pushed back. First it was Wednesday night into Thursday morning then Thursday morning, Thursday night now Friday.
We are down in the warnings for the eastern U.S. from 433 down to 388. But I think the worst is yet to come when we get to the Mississippi again, south of St. Louis, following it all of the way down to the Delta in Mississippi.
KEILAR: And we are looking now at some live pictures that we just got in.
Are these live? Are these brand new that are -- ?
OK. These are live pictures coming in to us from near St. Louis.
So, Tom, you talked to the your relatives in Eureka and basically, they are isolated between a shutoff highway and the Meramec River, right?
SATER: Yes, that is exactly the case. In fact, many other roads, such as Highway 109 which is in Eureka, that is already submerged with water in many places.
Now, as mentioned, power is going on and off at times; they are filling their bathtubs, trying to prepare. The forecast is good news, though. I mean, we're looking at dry conditions in St. Louis for maybe the next seven to 10 days. The rain that was causing flooding today was in parts of Alabama and Georgia and the Carolinas.
But this is an interesting stat here, when we talk about the number of deaths in Missouri alone, when it comes to flood fatalities, 66 percent is due to those driving through the water.
But even those that are out taking pictures now, Brianna, when you have those that fell in or playing around or just walking and checking it out, you are talking about another 22 percent or 23 percent more.
So it is dangerous; at least the dry conditions will prevail and that's very good news for the residents there. So we will wait and see right now along the Meramec.
One other note I should mention, there is a river just north of the Meramec. It's called the River Des Peres. It's the border between St. Louis City and St. Louis County. They called emergency sandbaggers to come out Monday night.
If that floods, it'll flood historic areas of South City and hopefully that will not be the case as well.
KEILAR: Yes, let's hope not.
All right, Tom Sater, keeping an eye on things for us there around St. Louis, thank you.
Just ahead, Donald Trump said that he had no choice but to go after Hillary Clinton.
She started it.
He also said going after Bill Clinton is fair game but so are his own past indiscretions. We will discuss it all with our panel next.
KEILAR: Breaking news. We are watching these live pictures coming to us from near St. Louis. You can see just how bad the flooding is. Some of these, on the higher ground, towards the railroad tracks, you can see some cars above ground. But mostly you cannot.
In fact, as you look there into the distance, what looks like single- story homes are actually two-story homes, the water reaching above the first story. So this is just tremendous impact that this area near St. Louis, north of St. Louis, west of St. Louis, people there dealing with all of this water as they have some dry conditions but some really cold conditions approaching.
And what we understand from authorities is that the worst is still yet to come. Some rivers in the area have crested. But a lot have not. And so there is more water to come and the hope obviously is that some people are really taking the evacuation warnings seriously.
I want to bring back Tom Sater, our meteorologist, who is not only monitoring this from the Weather Center but this is also his hometown area.
And Tom, we're looking -- I mean, these pictures are stunning and I was just talking to one mayor who said, he was dealing with one guy in his community and an elderly gentlemen who refused to leave his house.
And then when, you know, when we see some helicopters here, obviously monitoring the scene, a helicopter went back over and could catch a heat signature out of the guy's attic. But they don't even know how that was resolved.
I mean, if that's one case, there must be other cases of people who are refusing to leave their homes. These are big concerns for authorities there.
SATER: Brianna, there are some areas of St. Louis that are prone to flooding. The problem is here that since some have lived through some flooding before, they will think, well, we can do it again. But this is unprecedented flooding along the Meramec.
Now this just says "near St. Louis." That doesn't tell me a whole lot. Now we know north of St. Louis, West Alton is in between the Missouri and the Mississippi. It is a flood-prone area. But people do live there and there are businesses there and that was the first area that reported flooding.
The city of Alton is across the Mississippi into Illinois. They're fairly safe. There are some roads near the river that are going to flood but the city of Alton, which is much bigger, will be OK. This could be South County. That is when you're getting closer to the Meramec River.
We talked about the towns of Fenton and Valley Park, High Ridge, where the waste treatment plant is now overflowing. But this could also be Arnold. That's the next stop as you travel west to east along the Meramec River, making its way to the Mississippi.
SATER: So it makes sense that we're starting to see now some of the homes here. I wish KMOB, our affiliate there in St. Louis could maybe give us a better indication of where their chopper is flying here because near St. Louis could mean north, it could mean south, it could be east. There are some areas that are flooding on the eastern side of the Mississippi River.
Bellville is a town there, they'll be pretty much safe. There may be some flooding in a town of Cahokia but, again, there is a lot of farmland, there's some industrial areas as well. But this definitely looks residential. My guess this is South County. There's a road, a main road that comes off of 272, 55 and 55 is Telegraph Road, a major throughway.
One area of Telegraph --
KEILAR: Tom, this is Pacific. This is Pacific, Missouri.
SATER: OK. Excellent. Then that gives us a better idea of what we are looking at.
To the map, then, to give you an idea of where Pacific is. We have talked about this, remember the first flooding after West Alton up to the north here, we had reports in the flooding out of Union. That is along -- after you go out 44, it's Highway 50.
But then you get into the Meramec River. The next town is Pacific. What's confusing here -- and, Brianna, we just mentioned moments ago, the forecast, to try to gather a crest so you could track it down the river, is extremely difficult because it is spreading out now and it's hard to find it. It is so much easier to forecast a crest if you have the river banks.
So what we are seeing is even though Union has started to see a recession, now we're seeing this here in Pacific.
Now the question remains, has it been like this in Pacific or has this happened in the last, say, 12 to 16 hours? That would tell us the crest is reaching now areas of Pacific. So that's a question mark.
We know flooding, however, continues through Pacific to Eureka and then to Fenton, Valley Park where our Jennifer Gray is, where I-141 goes underneath 44, that's been submerged.
We mentioned last night they were going to close down 44 and they did last night. But now they've extended it all the way to 270.
I cannot explain enough what a major artery this is for the St. Louis area, not just for those that live in the region but for trucking. I mean, you get over 150,000 vehicles here. They closed down 70 over the weekend.
That seems to be much better. Again, the problem is not so much Missouri and Mississippi, although there is flooding, second highest levels. It is Meramec and areas south of the Mississippi.
KEILAR: And you have relatives in the next town over of Eureka. And looking geographically at this area, it seems like they are facing sort of the same conditions that your relatives are facing, which is they are squeezed between this highway that's closed because of flooding.
SATER: Right, 109.
KEILAR: And between the Meramec River.
SATER: Correct. But again, this is one region, heavily populated areas. I mean, we're talking tens of thousands, of course, there from Union to Pacific and Eureka. But the flooding is already occurring eastward on the Meramec.
My mother is about a mile and a half, two miles from Arnold, where the flooding is already occurring and expected to get worse. Now many areas are on higher ground. But what's interesting is this is unprecedented.
They were told a month ago in some of these areas that they would not flood. That was the statement by a state and local authorities that they were going to be OK.
To take you back to '93, when we had the massive flooding from the snow melt and this was in March, it's the spring event of '93, many areas west of St. Louis, St. Charles, historic St. Charles, St. Peters, Mid Rivers area, those areas flooded, tremendous flooding.
Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were flooded. But then the Army Corps of Engineers spent a lot of money and a lot of time bolstering the defenses of the levees out west, helping the defenses on dams and areas of the Mississippi and even downtown.
They have been able to make it through this. But, again, this is not a snow melt and heavy rain event. This is just rain.
KEILAR: Yes. And what's -- you know, so this is Pacific, Missouri, next door to Eureka, Missouri, where I just spoke to the mayor not too long ago.
And just like you said, you said folks say that they thought maybe this area wouldn't flood. And he told us that they are expecting the river to crest at 4 feet above the record level. So really just tremendous. All right. Tom Sater, thank you so much. I do want to recap what we
are seeing here. This is west-southwest of St. Louis. And you can just see houses, businesses underwater. This is a community, Pacific, Missouri, that is being squeezed between the Meramec River and a highway that cannot be traversed, that has been shut down, population of 7,000 people. Many people evacuated.
But we're also hearing stories from officials in the area that some people have refused to go. So we, as we monitor the situation there, are going to see what is happening with those individuals. This river still waiting to crest. We will continue to follow this. That's it for me. I'll be back on 5:00 Eastern on "THE SITUATION ROOM." For our international viewers, "AMANPOUR" is next. And for our viewers in North America, "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.