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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

New Winter Storms Take Aim at Northwest, California, Nevada; Southwest Airlines Plans Return to Full Flight Schedule Today; Brazilian Soccer Legend Remembered as More Than An Athlete; The Biggest Entertainment Stories of the Year. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 30, 2022 - 05:00   ET



WHITNEY WILD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm Whitney Wild, in for Christine Romans.

A dangerous new storm system is headed to the West Coast, with heavy rain, mountain snow and strong winds. The Pacific Northwest we'll get it first, California gets it tomorrow, this is right on the heels of that storm that shut down a stretch of I-70 in Colorado for nine hours, leaving drivers stranded.

Meteorologist Chad Myers is live in the weather center.

Chad, these storms had millions of people under alerts right now. There's just no relief. It's been one thing after another.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And there are still two more to the west, still to come onshore for Monday and into Tuesday. So, yeah, the storm that was in Denver yesterday has now taken its energy and focus it down here to Lake Charles. Some of the weather overnight in Houston, and, Beaumont. It's move to the east of you.

But there is the storm system for the west. We have already had 2 to 4 inches of rainfall here, in a lot of snow in high sierra as well, but more snow and more rain is coming, flash flood watches in effect here, or rising rivers in parts of California. And then, of course, when you get into the higher elevations, winter storm warnings are posted.

I'm not kidding. This could bring some spots ten feet of new snow in the next 48 to 72 hours. This is a major event for the high sierra. And this is good news. This is the rain and the snow which will run off into the reservoirs. And last into spring in some spots.

Now, by eight o'clock, the weather moving through into the low parts, into parts of Mississippi and Louisiana, finally spreading off to the east later on to the today. As I move you into tomorrow night, there could be some showers in New York City, and also even into L.A. for maybe ringing in the New Year. If you're going to be standing out there, Times Square, make sure you have a poncho because this is going to be kind of a wet day. They don't allow umbrellas anymore.

Showers across the Northeast for today and tomorrow, and that's still going to be warmer weather than we should be having at this time of year. So tomorrow, take 50 degrees and New York anytime.

WILD: Oh, absolutely. T-shirts, flip-flops, jogging shorts, the whole thing.

All right. Chad Myers --

MYERS: Ponchos.

WILD: Exactly. All right. Chad Myers, thank you.

The death toll from the winter storm in western New York is on now up to 40, almost all of those, 39, where in Erie County. 70 people were found not side, 11 people were found inside, other people were found dead in their cars, as some people died after shoveling snow or because EMS just couldn't get to them in time.

Officials warn that the number of deaths is likely to climb as the medical examiner reviews cases.

CNN's Miguel Marquez has more from Buffalo, New York.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The death toll rising as Buffalo continues digging out. The scope of this disaster still coming into focus.

MARK POLONCARZ, ERIE COUNTRY EXECUTIVE: Unfortunately, there are families in this community who still have not been able to identify where a loved one is. They're missing, and we do have still John Does. And eventually those family members are going to find out the worst news possible.

MARQUEZ: Enock Rushikana lost his nephew, Abdul Sharifu.

So, it's a big Congolese family here. What have you lost?

ENOCK RUSHIKANA, ABDUL SHARIFU'S UNCLE: An angel. We lost an angel in our community. We lost an angel.

MARQUEZ: Sharifu was married last year. His wife due to give birth to their first child next week, a son. He was working two jobs saving up to buy a house. His uncle overcome with grief.

RUSHIKANA: I'm sorry.

MARQUEZ: He says, Sharifu went out in the storm to help another family. His car got stuck. His body found over a mile from it. It appears he was trying to walk home and got disoriented.

RUSHIKANA: Abdul was known as helper in our community.

MARQUEZ: Violeta Quinones' husband died after shoveling snow.

VIOLETA QUINONES, HUSBAND DIED AFTER BLIZZARD: He walked to the bathroom, and at that point he collapsed. MARQUEZ: But emergency crews were not able to immediately help, says

CNN affiliate WKBW.

QUINONES: I call the police. I call National Guard. I call everybody to try me. Nobody show up.

MARQUEZ: In Buffalo neighborhoods where stores were looted --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another two brush. Thank you.

MARQUEZ: The community handing out food, making due until grocery stores can reopen.


PASTOR JAMES GILES, BACK TO BASICS OUTREACH MINISTRY: They cripple the community in doing that. Now the people that could walk around the corner or walk across the street to a store to get services much needed food items and those kind of things, they don't have that anymore. That is the fallout from all of that. Trauma on top of trauma that's taken place in our community.


MARQUEZ (on camera): So, the city of Buffalo is starting to feel like it's getting back to normal, those welfare checks that authorities have been doing are just about done, though they are still trying to identify some of the individuals into the county morgue here, the ban on driving has been lifted across the city, in all areas that were affected by the storm, and the flooding that they were concerned, about the temperature has really gone up and will continue to stay high for the next few days, they are not as concerned about flooding now. They think it will not be as bad as they were unofficially concerned, but this is a storm that is going to haunt this city, for years to come.

Back to you.

WILD: And hopefully it results in some changes moving forward.

Miguel Marquez, thank you.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg promising to get tough on Southwest Airlines. He's threatening penalties if passengers aren't paid back for the money that they lost when Southwest canceled thousands of flights.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: The airline said to me that they were going to go above and beyond what is required of them. I'm looking to make sure that they actually do that, and if they do not, we are in a position to levy tens of thousands of dollars per violation, per passenger in fines.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WILD: So far this morning, Southwest has cancelled only about a few dozen flights and that is a far cry from the 2,300 flights canceled yesterday.

More now from CNN's Nick Valencia in Atlanta.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This has been a crazy time.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Southwest Airlines aiming for a turnaround by Friday, expecting to have normal operations with minimal disruptions on Friday. Airline staffers already informed.

CAPT. MIKE SANTORO, VICE PRESIDENT, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES PILOT ASSOCIATION: Mostly full schedule come Friday. That's what we're hearing.

VALENCIA: And while Southwest has seen more than 2,300 cancellations so far today, another sign the airline is finally recovering after a week of travel nightmares.

This Southwest Airlines customer ecstatic after finding his lost luggage.

PATRICK KEANE, PICKING UP LOST LUGGAGE: I'm just glad to be here, and I'm glad I have my bag and they better give me some compensation for a week.

VALENCIA: Similar scenes playing out in airports across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our luggage has arrived, so we're very excited about that.



VALENCIA: Amid the mess, stories of compassion with Southwest passengers coming together to help one another. Like the three strangers from Wisconsin stuck at the airport in St. Louis who ended up carpooling to Milwaukee.

ALEX TICK, TRAVELER, CARPOOLED WITH STRANGERS: He had seen my packer hat and, you know, nice Wisconsin guy assumed I was going to Milwaukee.

VALENCIA: Or the Denver couple stranded in Minnesota, struggling to rent a car who ended up hitching a ride with a stranger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she jumped right up and she said, if you guys want to join me on going to Denver, I'd be happy to take you guys.

VALENCIA: Sadly for some, the outcome is a little more heartbreaking like it is for this St. Louis bride forced to cancel her wedding in Belize.

KATIE DEMKO, MISSING WEDDING DUE TO SOUTHWEST ISSUES: We were in -- I was in shock. We tried to rebook and there was nothing. Southwest actually booked me on a flight for January 2. My wedding is tomorrow, December 30.

VALENCIA: Wednesday, the airline's chief commercial officer released a video apologizing for the debacle.

RYAN GREEN, SOUTHWEST CCO: My personal apology on behalf of myself and everyone at Southwest Airlines for all of this. You know by now all the flexibility and planning that we put in place to deal with the storm just wasn't enough.


VALENCIA (on camera): This travel nightmare has gone on for more than a week, and Southwest Airline officials are telling their passengers to hold on just a little bit longer, announcing in an email that they expect to return to normal operations with minimal disruptions as early as Friday.

Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.

WILD: Welcome news but hopefully it's not too late for some of those travelers.

While tributes are pouring in for Brazilian soccer player Pele, who died at the age of 82 after a battle with cancer. He's being remembered as a man who transcended the sport, not only as a champion of three World Cups but for giving to the less fortunate, and placing his country in the global spotlight.

So let's go to CNN's Amanda Davies. She's live in London.

He was one of those, once in a generation talent that is just so much more than the sport, and so much more than an athlete, I'm in he was a titan among mere mortal, so let's start there. In what way did he change the way that soccer was viewed across the world? And particularly in America he changed that.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yeah, perhaps you would go forward then once in a generation, an absolute one-off. There's not many people who would sellout the giants stadium for a farewell exhibition match, but that is exactly what Pele did, the final match before the 1st of October, 1977, a game between his two former clubs, New York Cosmos and Santos, attended by the likes of Muhammad Ali, and Bobby Moore.


He was credited with a huge rise of soccer or football in the United States and in the NASL after he joined Cosmos in 1975, he was one of the clubs who played tribute in the last 24 hours saying, O Rei, as Pele was known, he treated fans to numerous legendary moment on the pitch, including scoring a hat trick to win the 1977 and as soccer ball.

During three seasons with the Cosmos, Pele helped transform the domestic landscape of the sport of soccer where once there had been baseball diamonds, now there were also soccer pitches. And as with so many moments in his career, where Pele went so many others followed, absolute legends of the game of football, the likes of France Becker, Bobby Moore and Carlos Alberta.

If you give me, or forgive, me a personal moment. I want you to show you a photo that I've grown up with on the wall at home. A man on the right here is a player called Dennis Tueart. He is the play for Manchester United here in England, and he moved from Manchester to New York, I'm not sure you're really able to see it. But he, there he, is Dennis is on the right. He moved from Manchester city in England, to New York to play alongside Pele. He stood there with his wife, Joan, and my parents, David and Susan.

And when he moved from New York, to New York, he sold his house to my parents in Manchester. And they became very good friends, my mom and dad loved that trip where they were able to meet Pele in New York. And I remember growing up hearing Dennis's stories of the joy of going out, training on the same field as his boyhood idol, the flare, the swagger, his white suits and the gold watches.

And what is so special about, Pele is it's not just people within football playing tribute to him, but others. He transcended other sports, and all aspects of society. We've heard from the likes of Usain Bolt, from Barack Obama, and these tributes suspected to continue over the coming days with the weights set to get underway on one day.

WILD: Amanda, thanks so much for sharing that. You know that the obituaries in the newspapers have this common theme about transcended the sport, but in some ways it was like transcending Earth. There were so many people who said that they would go out onto the pitch and play against, him and try to convince themselves that he was a man just like they were. And they would walk away saying, no, he was born somewhere else in this universe.

Again, someone, talent like that come around so infrequently. And he will be sorely missed, but the legend will live on.

Amanda Davis, thank you so much.

All right. Turning now to Washington. The House Ways and Means Committee will release six years of Trump's tax returns. Trump fought for years to keep them secret. The committee said last week that the IRS failed to audit Trump's taxes as required during his first two years in office.

Just ahead, the invitation that just extended from Russia's Vladimir Putin to China's President Xi Jinping.

Plus, banning TikTok harmless dance videos, or is this a serious security threat? First, hiding in plain sight. Why didn't the lies of George Santos get

in front of the national media? Why didn't they get in front of the national audience? More on that next.



WILD: Reboots, a renaissance, a slap heard around the world, the entertainment industry gave us a lot of good headlines.

Here is CNN's Stephanie Elam with the biggest headlines of 2022.



STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Stranger Things" time travels to the '80s.


ELAM: While Beyonce's "Renaissance" skyrockets to the top.

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: This is your captain speaking.

ELAM: And the triumphant return of blockbuster movies.

Hollywood forged full steam ahead into 2022, and it was a wild ride from start to finish.

Here's a look at the top entertainment stories of the year.

At number 10 --

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Hollywood stars, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, have finally said I do.

ELAM: Second time's the charm for this love story 20 years in the making. The pair met in 2001 on the set of the rom-com, "Gili."

BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR: Hello. Do we know each other?


ELAM: They got engaged a year later, but after a whirlwind romance, they called it quits three years after that.

But the couple found their way back to each other last year and exchanged vows at an intimate ceremony.

At number nine --

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: The one thing they ask of us is to stay here.

ELAM: Drama on the set of "Don't Worry Darling." Harry Styles, Chris Fine, and Florence Pugh.

The all-star cast generated a lot of buzz for its behind-the-scenes gossip. It starred when Shia LeBeouf, the original male lead, left the project and was replaced by Styles, who was reportedly in a relationship with director and co-star, Olivia Wilde.

Then there were tensions between Wilde and lead actress, Florence Pugh.

And video seemed to show Styles spitting on Chris Pine during a press tour, which his spokesperson denies.

But would the very public off-screen chaos hinder it at the box office? Turns out there was nothing to worry about. "Don't Worry Darling" won the box office on opening weekend.

At number eight --

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: See you on the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: On the other side.

ELAM: Small screen hits dominate pop culture. "Stranger Things" took audiences into a time machine, fast forwarding to 1986.

The show's fourth season brought back Kate Bush's "Running Up that Hill," Metallica's "Master of Puppets," and paid homage to '80s trends and styles.

On ABC, critics credited breakout series "Abbott Elementary" for bringing back the TV sitcom.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: These two keys I made must too fit.

ELAM: While "The White Lotus" on HBO traveled to exotic locations and brought home 10 Emmy Awards.

And on Netflix, "The Addams Family's" "Wednesday" proved to be a huge winter hit with audiences logging over one billion hours of screen time.

Number seven belongs to the queen bee herself.


ELAM: Beyonce smashed records with her seventh studio album "Renaissance."

Things got off to a Rocky start when the tracks were leaked online, but her fan base came to her rescue.

The Bey Hive rallied fans on social media to wait for the official release so everyone could enjoy it together. And that they did. "Renaissance" blasted to the top of the charts giving us nods to jams of the past.

Number six --


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Tom Cruise's "Top Gun: Maverick" had the biggest Memorial Day opening weekend of all-time.

ELAM: Blockbuster movies are back.

CRUISE: This is your captain speaking.

ELAM: The summer blockbuster raked in nearly $1.5 billion worldwide.

CRUISE: We're going into combat.

ELAM: And "Black Panther" fans turned out for "Wakanda Forever."

Marvel's iconic superheroes led the charge at the box office.

But another epic release is nipping at its heels, "Avatar: The Way of Water" is setting up for the next big wave.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Footlocker is joining the growing list of companies cutting ties with Kanye West.

ELAM: At number five, Kanye's controversies. After making a series of anti-Semitic remarks and wearing a shirt with the slogan linked to the Ku Klux Klan, Ye's business partnerships ended.

Balenciaga and Gap also pulled the plug. And Adidas ended their longtime flagship deal. Meta and Twitter suspended his accounts. And Ye announced he would acquire Parler, but that deal went bust, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Isn't it possible they're both guilty? Isn't it possible they both said defamatory things?

ELAM: Number four, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's courtroom battle.

UNIDENTIFIED ATTORNEY: Do you find that Mr. Depp that has proven that Ms. Heard acted with actual malice? Answer, yes.

ELAM: Amber Heard stoic as a jury found she did defame Johnny Depp in a 2018 op-ed in "The Washington Post." The jury awarding Depp millions in damages.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As against Amber Heard, we the jury award compensatory damages in the amount of $10 million.


ELAM: As Depp fans cheered outside the courtroom, another $5 million in punitive damages was awarded.

On Heard's counterclaim, Depp was found liable for a statement by his lawyer, claiming Heard set up Depp. The jury awarded her $2 million in damages.

In December, her and Depp reached a settlement on the defamation case. But Heard said this is not an act of concession.

ELAM: Number three, saying good-bye to Hollywood legends.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: Actor and comedian, Bob Saget, has died.

ELAM: It started with the sudden death of one of TV's most beloved stars.


ELAM: And then Olivia Newton-John lost her battle with cancer.

And sadly, the list of entertainers we lost this year grew to include some of our favorites.


ELAM: Number two -- Taylor Swift's Ticketmaster fiasco. A concert for the eras. Millions of fans queued up to buy tickets for Swift's highly anticipated worldwide tour.

As soon as Ticketmaster's pre-sale began, the heavy demand snarled Ticketmaster's Web site.

Thousands of Swifties were in line for hours, and many left empty- handed when Ticketmaster suddenly canceled the pre-sale.

Swift blamed Ticketmaster for the snafu, saying it's been excruciating, but nothing stopped her ultra-loyal fans from supporting the pop star.

She became the first artist ever to claim all 10 spots on the Billboard Hot 100, following the release of her latest album "Midnights."

At number one -- the slap to the jaw that had jaws dropping. A showdown on stage at the Oscars as Smith confronted Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife.

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane Two. Can't wait to see it.

Oh, wow. Wow. Will Smith just smacked (EXPLETIVE DELETED) me.

ELAM: The audience inside the Dolby Theater and around the world stunned.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": There are consequences.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I physically felt ill and I'm still a little traumatized by it.

ELAM: Smith resigned from the Academy and was banned from attending any of their events, including the Oscars for the next 10 years.

He apologized to Rock and is trying to move on. He's currently seeking redemption in Apple TV's "Emancipation," already getting some 2023 Oscars buzz.

There are big things to come for our newsmakers on our list. Beyonce says "Renaissance" is act one of three she recorded during the pandemic.

And the cast of "Stranger Things" is poised to start shooting their fifth and final season.

In Los Angeles, I'm Stephanie Elam.


WILD: Stephanie, thank you.

Some quick headlines around the country now. A man suspected of killing a California sheriff deputy on Thursday has himself died in a police shoot out. They shot him on a freeway east of Los Angeles after a massive manhunt.

A recount confirms Democrat Chris Mayes won at the Arizona attorney general election.


Mayes beat Republican Abraham Hamadeh up by a slim 280-vote margin.

Three New Jersey school districts will require masks when classes resume. These three districts are citing a surge in RSV, COVID, and flu cases as the reason for that change.

Coming up, the search for those still missing after a deadly hotel fire and a bold move by a college professor in Afghanistan, live on TV all that next.


WILD: Welcome back to EARLY START.

A meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping just wrapped up. Putin has invited the Chinese president to visit Moscow.

CNN's Nada Bashir joins live in London with the latest.

So, Nada, what can we learn if anything about the timing here and what was the content of this call?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well, China has long been one of the main allies between President Putin and behind Russia over the course of this ten-month invasion of Ukraine. That was certainly a sentiment that we heard from President Putin, his opening remarks ahead of the virtual meeting. He said the relations between the two nations are at their best ever.

And he highlighted the key focus of this meeting, deepening cooperation and relations between two nations when it comes to trade, when it comes to energy cooperation, but crucially, when it comes to military cooperation.

Take a listen.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Private place in the entire complex of Russian-Chinese cooperation in our relations was the held by military and military technical cooperation, which helps ensure our country's security and maintain stability in key regions. We intend to strengthen cooperation between the armed forces of Russia and China.