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CNN This Morning

Russia Launches Deadly Barrage of Missiles Across Ukraine; Forecasters Say, Heavy Rain, Melting Snow Could Bring More Flooding to California; East Palestine Residents, Businesses Worry Over Uncertain Future. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 07:00   ET





YURI IHNAT, SPOKESMAN, UKRAINE'S AIR FORCE: As you can see, the attack is really large scale, and for the first time, using such different types of missiles.

This is an attack like I don't remember seeing before.

Different types of aircraft were used by strategic, long range, MIG 31. There were 81 missile launches.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. We wake up and we're shocked to hear about it, but folks there in Ukraine are right in the middle of it. And there are people that have died.

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us.

Russian missiles raining down across Ukraine, knocking out power, killing civilians and striking cities, like Kyiv, which are far away from the actual fighting. And we're going to go there live.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Also this morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hospitalized after tripping and following at a Washington, D.C., hotel. We have the latest on his condition.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And no relief for California after deadly blizzards trapped people for more than a week in the snow, as you can see here. The state is bracing for even more heavy snow and dangerous flooding. We have the latest.

CNN This Morning starts right now.

LEMON: We begin this morning, this hour with Russia unleashing a massive barrage of missiles across Ukraine. The strikes killing innocent civilians and knocking out power far away from the frontlines, several major cities including the capital, Kyiv. Once again, it looks like the Russians are targeting the country's power supply to make the Ukrainian people suffer.

Ukrainian officials say Russian missile destroyed homes and killed at least five people in the western city of Lviv which is right on NATO's doorstep.

For some context here, Lviv is more than 600 miles away from the fierce fighting in Bakhmut where Ukraine solders have been holding out against relentless Russian assault.

Well, this photo shows the missiles launching up across the border from Russian soil.

CNN's Ivan Watson live for us on the ground in Kyiv this morning. Ivan, hello to you. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is saying that Putin is once again trying to terrorize civilians.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Don. Well, I mean, this was, in the words of the commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, a massive missile attack on Ukraine's critical infrastructure. And what I'm showing you here is just the impact of just one of the impact points what we're hearing is a part of a missile that came down in a residential neighborhood just next to an enormous apartment block here.

The residents, they woke up around 7:00 this morning to cars on fire and this spraying metal bits around here, shattering windows here. And, again, this is just one of the impact points, because the Ukrainian military says 81 different kinds of missiles and drones were fired at different regions and cities across this country overnight. They also say that the Ukrainian air defenses were able to shoot down at least 34 of the missiles and at least four of the Iranian-made Shahed killer drones that are used in these cases.

The authorities in a number of different cities have said that it was electric power stations that appeared to have been targeted. But look here, I mean, this is a residential neighborhood, there is a children's playground here. And it just shows you how haphazard and deadly and dangerous it can be when Russia fires scores of deadly missiles across a country.

The city of Zhytomyr, it had its power knocked out, about 150,000 people without power. Here in Kyiv, about 15 percent of the city's power has been knocked out. But I have got to tell you, I spoke with a woman and her adult daughter here. They said after this terrifying incident this morning, 7:00 this morning, they still went to work. One of them went to teach. The other went to work at a bank. As they put it, they've kind of been immunized after a year of war to terrifying instances like this. Don?

LEMON: Sadly, they haven't gotten used it to but it's just part of their lives right now.

Ivan, I have to ask you, because this attack feels bigger, it feels more widespread than the shelling we've seen over the last few months. Why now? What's going on? WATSON: Well, I mean, this isn't the first time that Russia targeted Ukrainian cities and the infrastructure with these salvos missile attacks, but it doesn't seem to be able to sustain these attacks all the time.


They seem to take place every couple of weeks or every month. To-date, they have not succeeded in doing what many Russian state television propagandas want to do, which is to just absolutely make life unlivable here during the winter, knock out electricity, make Ukrainians freeze, as I've heard some Russian state propagandas say.

Again, the power is back on. People are going to work. The Ukrainian government will argue that this is an attempt to terrorize Ukrainian civilians, and to some degree, it has. People will not be able to sleep as well, I don't think tonight. They're fixing the windows in their apartments. They want their apartments to be warm tonight. But everybody I have spoken to say they're not going anywhere. And that includes a woman from a seven-month-old baby that I talked to moments. That baby was born in Ukraine during the war and that family is not leaving.

LEMON: Yes. It is believed that some of the places that are closer to Poland, like Lviv, were safe spaces, but no safe spaces when you're at war. Ivan Watson, I appreciate your reporting. Thank you. Be safe.

HARLOW: Well, let's pick up there where Ivan left off with retired Army Major Mike Lyons. Mike, thank you so much for being here. I mean, you just see on the map, right, everything, no place spared really, no part of the country spared. But you're nodding your head at something Ivan said.

MAJ. MIKE LYONS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Yes, the fact that they couldn't sustain these. Even though they come, they come from the sea, they come from the sky, from the air, they're coming from all different places. They come in waves. They attack first with drones to overwhelm the air defense platform. That hits first. And then this Kinzhal missile traveling at mach 12, nothing that Ukraine has can knock that out of the sky right now. But, again, they start this one day and then they don't do it for a few weeks. So, I think --

HARLOW: Russia can't sustain it?

LYONS: I think it's about Bakhmut. It's about trying to forget about what is going on there and focus their energy towards -- they're trying to defend the critical infrastructure.

HARLOW: What we also heard, as we played for people at the top of the show, is that these were different, different range missiles, different weapons used than Russia typically has been using, different airplanes.

LYONS: Right. So, I don't think Russia looks at it like kind of we look at it with regard to different kind of targets systems for different weapons systems. But I think they go just war with whatever is available they use, and I think that's what they're down to. They're out of their inventory on some of them. We know that, for example, that Kinzhal missile, they have not as many as you would think that they should have. So, they have to keep them somewhat in the background. So, I think they're not concerned about what the target is or how they come, they just go war.

HARLOW: Do you agree with the assessment that Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testifying before Congress yesterday said the expectation of the United States is not that Russia can make significant territorial gains but this can be, what we also heard the head of NATO say a few weeks ago, the sustained war of attrition.

LYONS: That's right.

HARLOW: But who can last longer is the question. And does Russia not have the advantage if it's a war of attrition?

LYONS: They do. Right now, that's exactly what's happening. It's stamina on the ground. So, Russia is attacking Ukraine's capability to wage war, not necessarily our ability to wage war. But there are things we can do, and the first thing is a Patriot missile. A Patriot missile can shoot out those hyper sonic missiles that are coming. We have promised them one back in December when the president said. They need three, four or five. Every one of these major cities, critical infrastructure, needs to be protected by that. That's one thing the west can do.

But at the end of the day, because of the west support in Ukraine, it's matching up to what Russia is doing if we go to that war of attrition.

HARLOW: Okay. Mike Lyons, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

We're going to speak with the National Security Council coordinator for strategic coordination, that's John Kirby. He'll be with us in less than an hour. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: As we wait for that, new overnight, more news out of Washington after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was hospitalized after he fell at a hotel in Washington.

I want to bring in our Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox. Lauren, what do we know about his condition now that he is still in the hospital based on the latest update we got from his staff?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, Kaitlan, this is an ongoing issue, and we're trying to get more information this morning on what the top Republican in the U.S. Senate's condition is this morning. But what we know right now is last night at the Waldorf Astoria, he tripped and this happened around a private dinner at that hotel.

I want to read a statement from the office saying, this evening, Leader McConnell tripped at a local hotel during a private dinner. He's been admitted to the hospital where he is receiving treatment. Now, Mitch McConnell is the top Republican in the U.S. Senate, the longest serving Republican leader in that body. But one thing to keep in mind here is this comes as the Senate is narrowly divided between Republicans and Democrats, and as Democrats have two of their members who are not currently in the U.S. Senate because they are receiving their own medical care. That is senator Dianne Feinstein, who is dealing with shingles, as well as Senator John Fetterman, the Pennsylvania Democrat, who has been at Walter Reed Hospital receiving inpatient care for clinical depression.


So, this all comes amidst multiple absences in the U.S. Senate, but we will keep you updated on what more we are learning on McConnell's condition this morning. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely. We're thinking of the Senate minority leader, hoping for a quick recovery there. Lauren Fox, thank you and let us know if there is any update.

LEMON: 34 countries under states of emergency -- 34 counties, I should say, under states of emergency this morning as immense snow banks trap San Bernardino County residents in their homes who fear that they'll run out of food and supplies, and it's going to happen soon. The state is also bracing for another powerful storm. Forecasters say this one could bring more devastating flooding.

I want to turn to CNN's Natasha Chen who joins now live from San Francisco. Good morning to you. Biggest concerns for residents right now, Natasha?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, the biggest concern is going to be flooding, especially in the foothill areas and coastal ranges that have already gotten unusually heavy snow pack this season, the rains really going to start coming into this Northern California region later this evening. And what a winter it's been for Californians, so many storms in a row. Some of them, as you mentioned, trapped, still recovering from the last one, barely catching a break before this next event comes in.


CHEN (voice over): California already reeling from a season of deadly storms is staring down the threat of more extreme weather.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rains are coming. There is nowhere for the rain to go. All I know is the culverts are completely blocked with ice and snow, piled high.

CHEN: More than 100 inches of snow has already fallen in the San Bernardino Mountains where 12 deaths have been reported since February 25th. According to the county sheriff's department, only one death appears to be officially weather related from a traffic accident. Many survivors are trapped in their homes without food. Sheriff's deputies are going door to door to deliver boxes of essentials to those who cannot get out. Now, parts of the state are preparing for a strong string of storms known as an atmospheric river.

LINDA GLENN, FELTON, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: I'm afraid of the wind mostly, because the wind causes trees to just snap.

CHEN: The Weather Prediction Center says heavy torrential rain and all that melting snow could cause major flooding. More than 17 million people across Central and Northern California, including the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento and parts of Nevada are under flood watches ahead of today's storm.

JASON HOPPIN, SPOKESMAN, SANTA CRUZY COUNTY: We have saturated ground still from all the weather that we've seen over the last two months. And then when you add in some strong winds, those will take down trees. The trees will take down wires and that leads to power outages.

CHEN: Some people in Monterey County were told by emergency services to have two weeks of essentials stocked up ahead of the storm. In places like Santa Cruz County, emergency services are telling residents to get ready for any evacuation orders as rivers and creeks are expected to overflow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If there's an evacuation warning, we'll take the cats and go to a friend's house.


CHEN (on camera): I talked to a Caltrans spokesperson about the region northeast of here near the Nevada state line, close to Lake Tahoe. They have had such a challenge keeping Interstate 80 open this winter season with jackknifed big rigs and spinouts. I asked him what are they expecting for this upcoming storm, and he told me chaos. Don?

LEMON: Natasha Chen, thank you very much.

HARLOW: So, why is all of this happening? Let's go to Meteorologist Chad Meyers. He joins us again in the weather center. What on Earth is happening in California? Why does it continue to happen?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The pattern changed. The pattern changed from where we were making a very cold series of storms, making snow all the way down to sea level of the Northern California.

Now, we are in a tropical-like system, as she called it, the atmospheric river, we used to call it pineapple express when I went to school. But here it is, back here all the way from almost Hawaii, where the pineapple express term came from. And now that moisture, that tropical moisture is going to run into California and run on top in warmer air on top of that snow that is already on the ground.

So, if you have feet of snow on your roof, all of a sudden, that's going to get very, very heavy because that snow is going to absorb the rainfall. And then in the higher elevations, it will wash away some of that snowfall. So, rain on snow will begin to fill up parts of the San Joaquin Valley all the way up towards Sacramento where our reporter was.

The snow is all the way down still to about 2,500 feet. The rain will be all the way up to almost 8,000 feet, washing away much of this.

What most people don't understand about California is that all the way up here in this Sierra, all the way back down to the northern coastal range, down to the southern coastal range, all the way down to Bakersfield, that is one big bathtub.


All the water that is in here, whether it washes away in snow or rains, all has to go out through the Golden Gate Bridge, under the Golden Gate. There is only one way out, a giant bathtub with one drain.

Now for the Santa Cruz area all The way down Big Sur, this area is not in this bowl but you will see flash flooding here, you may even see Highway 1 washed away in places. This is going to be a major weather event, seven inches of rain on the higher elevations above 10,000 feet, another five to six feet of snow. I know they needed the rain, but, okay, let's slow down a little.

HARLOW: I mean, from one extreme to the next, no reprieve for California. Chad, thank you.

COLLINS: Also this morning, the University of Alabama basketball player Brandon Miller has broken his silence since having his name involved in that tragic January shooting on campus that killed 23- year-old Jamea Harris. This comes after a police investigator testified that the gun that was brought to the scene in Miller's car.

Miller has not been charged with a crime, we should note. His attorney says that Miller never even touched the gun. But Miller also not sat out any games as Alabama continued to play since the incident. That has received some criticism of how the team and the coach have handled it.


BRANDON MILLER, BASKTEBALL PLAYER, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: I never lose sight of the fact a family lost one of their loved ones that night. This whole situation is just really heartbreaking. But, respectfully, that's all I'm going to be able to say on that.


COLLINS: As reminder, two men including former Alabama basketball player Darius Miles are facing murder charges in this case.

LEMON: New morning, former NBA Star Shawn Kemp is under arrest in Washington State in connection with a drive-by shooting incident. Pierce County Sheriff's Office says the 53-year-old was booked into jail last night, no injuries reported. Kemp is six time NBA all star, played for the Seattle Supersonics for eight years. He also played for the Cavaliers, the Trail Blazers and the Orlando Magic. Business owners near that train derailment in Ohio says that they are get nothing support from the company in the aftermath. We're live in East Palestine.

HARLOW: Wait until you see, hear this. Can A.I. recreate your voice well enough to fool your parents? Can it be used to potentially blackmail your CNN colleagues? Who would ever do that? Donie O'Sullivan puts it to the test.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a real piece of (BLEEP).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is really? That's good.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes. Anderson's is really good because I understand he doesn't have a stupid Irish accent.




HARLOW: Many business owners in East Palestine, Ohio, struggling in the wake of last month's toxic train derailment, and they say they're not getting support, not the support they need from Norfolk Southern. The rail company has come under intense scrutiny as fears grow over contamination to the air, the soil, the there. This morning, the CEO of train giant, Alan Shaw, will testify before Congress.

Our Jason Carroll is back live in East Palestine this morning. You know, lawmakers will ask what they want to ask. The answers really matter for the people there.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Poppy, and there are definitely a lot of questions. And where we are right now pretty much sets the scene for what we're talking about.

If you take a look behind me, you see all these blue containers here, they are located on the property of this factory right next to the derailment site. They're going to be containing some of the hazardous materials collected from the site. The factory's owner says, as you could imagine, his workers are too afraid to come to work. And that's really the bottom line here. This has created an economic crisis for the people East Palestine and they want more specifics about what Norfolk Southern is going to do about it.


CARROLL (voice over): As the cleanup effort continues in East Palestine, Ohio, Mike McKim says he has had enough.

MIKE MCKIM, EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT: Sometimes when the winds blowing the right way, it it's almost unbearable to stay here.

CARROLL: MckIM is one of many residents who is taking Norfolk Southern up on its offer to pay people who live near the derailment site to temporarily relocate for the next two months. The EPA saying in a statement, Norfolk Southern has agreed to provide additional financial assistance. This assistance may include temporary lodging, travel, food, clothing and other necessities.

But McKim's worry is not just for his home, it's also about the future of his business. He and his wife, Ashley, own McKim's Honey Vine and Winery that's located about a block from the tracks.

MCKIM: I want to continue to stay here. I want things to be good here. I want things to go back to the way they were. But a million pounds of toxic wastes were dumped 250 yards away from where we're standing at right now. Well, what's your feelings on it? Probably not good, right?

CARROLL: What about the blue containers?


CARROLL: Edwin Wang has the same concerns. He owns two manufacturing plants in town that make parts for steel mills. The backdoor of one of his factories just feet away from the derailment and steps away from where Norfolk Southern did a controlled burn of toxic chemicals.

CARROLL: So, those tarps that you see over there covering what you believe is contaminated soil on your property?

WANG: I do not know what is going to happen to us in the future. They tried to remove the hazardous chemicals from this land and I'm not sure the impact will last for how long. That's the uncertainty.

CARROLL: Wang says no one from Norfolk Southern has come out to explain exactly what is happening on his property despite his attempts to reach them. In response, Norfolk Southern telling CNN, after initial contact, Mr. Wang retained an attorney who then scheduled a meeting with us before canceling last minute.


We have not been able to reach him since and we, of course, must go through his attorney. Regardless, we continue to be committed to making it right in East Palestine and look forward to following through with Mr. Wang as well.

The rail company and EPA say the cleanup could take up to two months. Wang says Norfolk Southern is temporarily compensating his employees during that time. But with no one to man the machines and fill backorders, he's not sure there will be a business for workers to come back to.

WANG: Right now, we're losing the business. We're also losing the skilled workers. People are scared. They are not willing to come back to work. This is the issue. CARROLL: Do you think it's safe for them to come back to work?

WANG: I don't know.

CARROLL: Wang, like many here, will be watching what happens in Washington Thursday when Norfolk Southern's CEO is set to testify in front of Congress. Business owners such as Jessie Wince also will be listening closely to see if there is talk of a long-term economic plan to address the impact on East Palestine.

JESSIE WINCE, OWNER, CUTTIN' LOOSE FAMILY HAIR SHOP: This has become more of a need than a want-type income.

CARROLL: She owns Cuttin' Loose Hair Shop and says half her business has been wiped out since the accident. Her message to Shaw and to Congress --

WINCE: I think just make it right. I don't want to get emotional. But this is my income. This is how I raise my family. Just help us. I haven't got any help. I don't want Norfolk Southern to win and take this from me.


CARROLL: So, folks like Jessie Wince are really looking for specifics. Are they going to compensate business owners like her? As for some homeowners who live right next to this site, will they be offering them buyouts? I think in addition to safety concerns, folks are really just looking for specifics here.

Guys, back to you.

HARLOW: Real concrete answers. Jason, thank you.

LEMON: Let's bring in now the number three in the Senate leadership, and that is Senator Debbie Stabenow. She's a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which is holding a hearing this morning where Norfolk Southern's CEO Alan Shaw is expect to testify. We're so glad to have you on this morning. Thank you for joining us. We really appreciate it.

So, let's get started here. You just heard those business owners, those residents, they are frustrated with the lack of what they believe southern -- Norfolk Southern is, their support there, they are uncertain about their future, of their businesses, of their livelihoods, of their lives. Will you address that today at the hearing?

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): Absolutely, Don. It's great to be with you. And on one hand breaks my heart and the other hand I have to say it just makes my blood boil what is happening. Because it's not rocket science when you look at the direction this has been going with the lobbyists trying to roll back safety regulations for years. We as Democrats are constantly fighting that. Luckily, President Biden wants stronger safety regulations. But the truth is that they -- railroads, in general, are down 30 percent on their staffing and which directly affects safety.

And this company who so far has said they would give $6.4 million to the community to address what we just heard, but in the last two years, they gave $6.5 billion in stock buybacks. And so these folks, like so many, get the moneys at the top, they cut workers, they cut safety, and now here we are. And I have to say that they've had 20 different rail derailments that affected a chemical spill since 2015. They almost had the 21st in Michigan two weeks after this in Van Buren Township.

LEMON: Let me ask you then, because you said $4 million. This is according to The Wall Street Journal. Norfolk Southern Corp will spend more than $20 million to reimburse residents to clean up the small town there and also they said that they're planning to make changes, and that's what he intends to tell you today. $20 million to reimburse, is that enough?

STABENOW: Well, let me say, if it is 20 and no the $6.4 million that we were told, I'm glad to hear that. But is it enough? No. People need to be made whole. This was their responsibility with the railroad. We need to pass the legislation that our colleagues from Ohio and Pennsylvania that Senator Sherrod Brown is leading with J.D. Vance. The safety improvements need to pass. That will make the railroads accountable for this, that will deal with staffing, that will deal with other safety issues.

So, on the federal end as well as whatever the state needs to do, we need to strengthen those standards.