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American Morning

Indianapolis Digs Out; Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia Hit Hard; Wintery Mix Hits Upstate New York; O'Hare Battles Record Snowfall; Captured Soldier Video; Anti-American Cleric Laying Low; Minding Your Business; Storm Closes Federal Offices

Aired February 14, 2007 - 06:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Deadly storms. Snow, ice and whipping winds across a dozen states right now. There are roads that are closed, flights that are canceled and the storm's even shutting down the federal government in Washington.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. Video just surfacing of an American soldier kidnapped months ago in Iraq. We'll have a live report straight ahead.

S. O'BRIEN: And an off-duty police officer interrupts a date with his wife to face down the gunman at the mall. We'll have the hero cop in his words on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome, everybody. It's Wednesday, February 14th. Happy Valentine's Day. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

M. O'BRIEN: And the I'm Miles O'Brien. We're glad you're with us this morning.

S. O'BRIEN: Winter is throwing absolutely everything its got at us today. Heavy snow, freezing rain, there's ice, gusty winds. Blizzard warnings in effect right now. Storm warnings from Illinois to the mid-Atlantic, all across New England too. We've got team coverage for you this morning. Allan Chernoff's in Indianapolis for us. Rob Marciano's in Cleveland. Greg Hunter is in Albany. Bob Franken's in D.C. And severe weather expert, Chad Myers, is watching it all from Atlanta this morning. Let's begin with Allan.

Hey, Allan, good morning.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Happy freezing Valentine's Day to you, Soledad.

The story here is no longer snow falling from the sky, just blowing snow. The wind here today, up to 25 miles an hour. That's creating some pretty big snow drifts. We've got one over here. This is clearly at least about five feet, because I'm standing on a few feet right here of snow. So we certainly do have plenty of snow piled up here in Indianapolis.

The other story, very freezing temperatures. It's 14 degrees here right now. But added the wind in, it's well below zero. The snow totals here in Indianapolis, we got eight to 10 inches. North of the city, as much as 18 inches in towns like Muncie. To the south, one to four inches only, but they got more than half an inch of ice. And that was the big story. It Caused a lot of traffic accidents and also power outages. A lot of power lines pulled down. In fact, this morning, 3,200 customers of Duke Energy are without power, mainly in the south near Bloomington, and that is still a big improvement from yesterday when 13,000 people at one point were without power.


S. O'BRIEN: Allan Chernoff for us this morning.

Thank you, Allan.

Let's turn to Rob Marciano now. He's in Cleveland, Ohio.

Ice a big problem there too, right, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ice and snow, blowing snow. And it's blowing pretty good, Soledad. Winds sustained 30 miles an hour at times, gusting to 40. You see the snow itself is blowing sideways. Temperatures in the teens. Wind chills well below zero. Very close to blizzard criteria.

We are right on the lake. You see behind me, this road has been closed, but drifts are going to be an issue today with this wind. The blowing snow is going to be a huge problem. So road crews are going to have their hands full.

Take a look at this flag up there. You can see the wind just ripping across that fabric and stretching that flag out from the north to the south as winds now have turned northerly, indicating this storm is continuing to barrel off to the east. About two-thirds of the roads here in Cleveland right now are considered to be passable and they'll be battling those roads throughout the day today.

Yesterday it was gridlock. Around 5:00 yesterday afternoon, people trying to get home before the storm hit and you couldn't go two blocks in a half an hour. There were 600 crashes as of last night across Ohio roadways. And over 60 of those were injury-related. At least one fatality.

As far as the airport is concerned, yesterday they cancels 180 flights. Today at least 60 are planned to be canceled. But they're pretty confident about clearing those three runways out there. They've got some new equipment that can clear at about four times the rate of the old stuff. So they don't expect to close the airport, but certainly call ahead. Continental has a hub right here.

Just down the road in Pittsburgh, they had some snow yesterday. Right now, though, freezing rain. A lot of places that have seen snow have changed over to freezing rain. So commute, Pittsburgh, D.C., Chad will tell you all about it, it's just a nightmare this morning.

Speaking of ice, Virginia, last night, on I-64 in Charlottesville, 25- car pileup because of ice there. And at one point, both directions, ice, Interstate 64 was impassable.

A lot of schools are closed today, as you would imagine. We don't expect to see a lot of action in Cleveland. The wind, Soledad, not only is fierce . . .

S. O'BRIEN: All right. It looks like we just lost Rob there right there. Obviously, inclement weather affecting his live shot for us. But did you see that videotape of that van sitting on top of that car smashed up? That was that wreck that he talk about because, of course, the highways obviously really affected.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, if you can stay home, please do this morning in those parts of the world.

From Cleveland, let's go to upstate New York. AMERICAN MORNING's Greg Hunter is live in the New York capital of Albany.

Greg, how's it going there?

GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Miles, it's six degrees. That's not wind chill. Six degrees. And it just started coming down.

If you just take a look here in the light, you can see how it really is starting to come down. And the snow plows are out. You can hear them banging around on the streets. They've been up for hours here. They expect 24 inches in the next 24 hours here in Albany. And it looks like everything is open right now.

The record here was in 1888. It was about almost 47 inches in 1888 here in Albany in upstate, but they won't have a record, but they're still going to have a lot of snow in the next 24 hours. What you're seeing is what you're going to be getting in the next 24 hours.

Back to you, Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Greg Hunter in Albany.

You know, we talk a lot about whether the highways and byways are ready for the snow. What about you? Is your body ready to do some shoveling? Or should you pay that entrepreneurial 13-year-old kid who will no doubt be knocking on your door?

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. We have some tips for injury-free snow removal a little later.

Let's go to the Weather Center now. Chad Myers looking at things for us.

Good morning, Chad.


S. O'BRIEN: Of course, if you want to say to all the people who are going to be passengers today, call ahead if you are planning to fly. Obviously, Chicago O'Hare digging out from a record 8.8 inches of snow. And we sent CNN's Jonathan Freed behind the scenes to show you how O'Hare at least tries too keep up when they're smack in the center of the storm.


JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me put their snow-clearing arsenal into perspective for you. The city of Chicago has about 300 pieces of heavy equipment for just indicated to snow clearing. Here at O'Hare, they have 200 pieces of heavy equipment for the airport alone. And these crews are working 24 hours a day in order to stay on top of a storm like this.

They have some of the most sophisticated snow-clearing equipment in the world here. This one unit plows, brushes and even blows the snow.

Once the snow is scooped up here in the ramp area, which is where the aircraft park, it's being brought and it's being melted here. Why are you melting it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we're melting it because the alternative would be to haul it away in 20 yard (ph) semi trucks, which we would have to use hundreds of semi trucks to do that. Therefore, it would be unsafe. So by doing it this way, we actually melt it right in place.

FREED: The airfield sewer system had to be retrofitted so it could handle all the melted snow.

Jonathan Freed, CNN, Chicago.


S. O'BRIEN: They're fighting the good fight today. Now right now we're hearing it's just 15-minute delays at O'Hare. We're going to, of course, update you during the morning as that storm moves through. Chad will keep tracking that for us as well.


M. O'BRIEN: Some breaking news now. CNN confirming just moments ago that a Shia militant website has posted video of a U.S. soldier who went missing in Iraq last year. CNN's Arwa Damon in Baghdad with the latest on all of this.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, now the group that is claiming responsibility for the kidnapping and saying that they have posted this video is known as the Ahed (ph) Base Brigade. This is a little known Shia militia. The website that the video appeared on that shows specialist Ahmed al-Taie, an Iraqi-American soldier who was kidnapped back on October 23rd. It shows him speaking, however, the video has no audio on it. Now this website the video appeared on is for supporters for the Mehdi militia. That is the militia loyal to radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Now we spoke with al-Taie's uncle, Entifadh Qanbar (ph), who is in D.C. And he said that he is 100 percent certain that the man seen in the video is, in fact, his nephew. CNN, however, could not independently confirm the authenticity of this video. Qanbar, however, say that the family was overjoyed and relieved, saying that al-Taie appeared to be in good health, though he did appeared to have aged.

Now the issue is that there is no date on this video. There is no way to verify when it was filmed. Qanbar saying that now the family would demanding further proof of life from his captors, saying that they had been in contact with this group for quite some time now.


M. O'BRIEN: Are there any demands made on this site?

DAMON: Well, not on the website, Miles. And here's what's interesting. Entifadh Qanbar, al-Taie's uncle, not wanting to go in details about the negotiations that were still ongoing with the captors. However, he did say that the family's first demand was proof of life and that they had not receive any from their captor since the kidnapping that, again, took place on October 23rd.

And then on January 27th, (INAUDIBLE) had an all contact between the family and the captors had seized. In fact, Entifadh Qanbar was not aware of this video that had been posted until CNN brought it to his attention.


M. O'BRIEN: All right. Let's shift gears here slightly. You were talking about this group being linked to the Mehdi army, lead by Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia religious, political and militia leader. Very much anti-American. All kinds of conflicting reports out this morning. Apparently he has vanished. He might be in Iran. He might be in Iraq. What are you hearing?

DAMON: Well, Miles, what we're hearing from his office here, and from a number of politicians who are part of his political block, is that he is in Iraq. He is, in fact, in the holy Shia city of Najaf. The reason why we have not seen him making public appearances is because we are currently in the holy Shia month of Muharam (ph).

The thing is, is that even if Muqtada al-Sadr was in Iran, he has made dozens of trips there in the past for political purposes. He has also made countless, personal trips to that area. It is not really unusual for Muqtada al-Sadr to have traveled to Iran, if, in fact, he is there. If he has fled the country, it could be perhaps because he received specific intelligence that the U.S. military would be targeting him in this crackdown, although it is highly unlikely that Muqtada al-Sadr has fled to Iran. Again, according to his office, he is still in Iraq.

Miles. M. O'BRIEN: Arwa Damon in Baghdad, thank you.

New this morning, a rare terror attack inside the borders of Iran. A car bomb exploding near a bus carrying members of Iran's elite revolutionary guard. At least 11 killed. Apparently the car was stopped in the middle of the road in eastern Iran near Pakistan and Afghanistan. As the bus stopped, terrorists triggered the explosion by remote control. Five arrests reported.


S. O'BRIEN: All right. The big business story for you this morning is an overhaul for DaimlerChrysler that's going to involve thousands of job cuts. Ali Velshi has a look this morning at the company's plans as he "Minds Your Business."

Good morning.


Not a happy Valentine's Day for DaimlerChrysler workers, or at least Chrysler division workers here in the United States. In about two hours from now, we're expecting a major announcement from the company that will be talking about restructuring. That restructuring will be about the closing of at least two plants, maybe a third plant.

They're looking at a plant in Detroit. Another one in Newark, Delaware, and maybe one in Missouri. We are looking at a layoff or some sort of job cuts involving 10,000 blue collar workers, 1,000 white collar workers.

And it is all part of the restructuring that we've been watching over the past few years with what we now call the Detroit three automakers. The massive layoffs in an attempt to become more efficient, sell more cars. We'll have much more on this in the next hour and then the official announcement from DaimlerChrysler we're expecting in the 8:00 a.m. Eastern hour. We'll be on top of it.


M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Ali Velshi. We'll see you shortly.

In Utah this morning, they are hailing him as a hero. Ken Hammond, an off-duty Ogden police officer, was enjoying a romantic pre-Valentine's dinner with his pregnant wife as a Salt Lake City mall. When he heard shots and saw some seriously injured people, he wasted no time reaching for his gun.


OFFICER KEN HAMMOND, OGDEN, UTAH POLICE: Whether I'm in my own city or not, if I have the ability to protect more people or prevent loss of life, I have an obligation. I was in a situation that I was carrying my gun and I felt that I had to do something. I looked down and off to the left and I could see seriously injured people. And I looked up and that's when I saw the guy with the shotgun. And it was -- I went out of a romantic date mode into, I need to protect mode. I switched just that fast. It went from good times laughter to I need to do a job.

Where the suspect was, neither one of us could really see him. So at that point I kind of fanned off to the left a little bit where I did take shots at the suspect.

I don't necessarily feel like a hero. I feel like I was there and I did what I needed to do. And that any other police officer would have done the same thing had they been in that situation. I just happened to be the one that was there.


M. O'BRIEN: Humble guy. Nine people were shot. Five died before Hammond and another officer were able to shoot the gunman, 18-year-old Solejman Talovic. A Bosnian refugee. His motive remains a mystery this morning. What a story.

S. O'BRIEN: It is quite a story. And coming, in fact, coming up in our 7:00 hour, we're going to be talking to Officer Hammond and his wife as well, who's pregnant and who had her date interrupted and made her way to called 911 to bring backup in as well. Very calm and level-headed. As an officer's wife should be.

M. O'BRIEN: I bet they don't have trouble getting a reservation for another dinner tonight in Salt Lake City.

S. O'BRIEN: I bet they don't.

Chad is tracking the winter storm that's pounding the Midwest. We've been showing you some of the pictures this morning. He'll have the very latest on the path straight ahead.

Plus, the nation's capital starting work late today because of all the icy weather. Find out how much past government shutdowns have been costing us.

And best in show at Westminster Dog Show. Meet America's new top dog. That's straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. The most news in the morning is right here on CNN. There's some breaking news out of Iraq this morning. A videotape surfacing of that American soldier who was kidnapped in Iraq back in October. The clip shows Ahmed al-Taie. It appears on a Shiite website. His family says, yes, it is him, but it's unclear just how old that videotape is.

Here at home, a wild 25-car pileup to tell you about outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. It's been blamed on fog and slick roads. The pictures are pretty dramatic and some injuries have been reported.

Let's get right to Chad Myers this morning. He's tracking this winter storm for us.

You're busy today, man. You're earning your keep.


M. O'BRIEN: Washington is a place well-known for hot air, but it is not enough to melt away the winter storm phobia that grips the city every year. This morning, federal workers deemed non-essential can take a vacation day or, if they feel compelled to come in, they can be two hours late. Yesterday they got to head home early. Our essential man in Washington is Bob Franken live on the mall.

Hello, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello. I'm from the D.C. Visitor's Bureau. This would be a good time to visit the mall. Avoid the crowds.

This is not going to be a crowded city today. They have a smidgen of ice, a little bit of this and that. But as you said, this is a city that gets very nervous.


FRANKEN, (voice over): At 2:00 yesterday afternoon, non-essential federal employees were sent home to prepare and to celebrate Valentine's Day and the fact that they were among the non-essentials. In the name of full disclosure, we should point out that not everyone went right home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems a little silly to go home when there's barely anything outside. But with it icing over, it could be a little dangerous. So, I don't know. I certainly don't mind the lessening of traffic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's pretty pathetic because, I mean, this is like a half inch of snow. And I'm from Pennsylvania where we'll get two feet of snow and nothing shuts down.

FRANKEN: Closing down federal government offices here is not a decision to be taken lightly, by the way. Every day it costs taxpayers about $67 million in D.C. area payroll. It happens every winter. Inclement weather causes this entire area to freeze.

But sometimes it's a no-brainer. A trip down the icy memory lane takes us back almost exactly four years ago. To Presidential Day 2003. That's already a federal holiday, a day off, Monday, but with 18 inches on the ground, the government offices stayed closed on Tuesday.

In January 2000, another major winter duft (ph), but this time the Office of Personnel Management didn't decide to call it a day off until 7:00 that morning, which really infuriated all of those federal employees already on their way to their non-essential jobs. That doesn't usually include Congress, by the way. I mean, the members are from out of town. They can't go home. They're not going anywhere, so they may as well come to work.


FRANKEN: Now as for that decision yesterday to shut everything down at 2:00, transportation officials complain that they weren't given much notice. So, as a result, there were pretty heavy traffic jams and the subway system, the metro system here, was extremely crowded, to which the officials at the government just say, picky, picky, picky.

In any case, we have what they call winter in Washington. But in upstate New York, Miles, they'd call this spring.

M. O'BRIEN: I think you're right. So they couldn't even do the shutdown right? All right. We'll just . . .

FRANKEN: Well, now, they can.

M. O'BRIEN: And I assume that's a quote, "picky, picky, picky," right?

FRANKEN: Yes, that's a quote from somebody, but I'm not going to tell you who.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, all right. Thank you, Bob Franken.


S. O'BRIEN: Coming up this morning, the Fed chairman is warming up his report for Congress. Ali Velshi's got a preview for us. He's "Minding Your Business" straight ahead this morning.

And America has a new top dog. We'll find out who's going home the winner of the Westminster Dog Show, coming up next on AMERICAN MORNING.



ROBERT INDEGLIA, WESTMINISTER DOG SHOW JUDGE: If I had seven ribbons, I'd give them to seven dogs. I've got one ribbon. Tonight that ribbon goes to the springer spaniel.


M. O'BRIEN: The springer spaniel, America's new top dog. A springer named Diamond Jim. He jumped right into his handler's arms after winning best in show last night at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The victory is Diamond Jim's swan song. He's retiring from the dog show world to focus on his day job. He is a therapy dog. Got a good reason for being around. He does have some good chow coming today. The customary victory meal at Sardi's, the famous New York restaurant. No Alpo served on that menu. Oh, and Diamond Jim bead out the crowd favorite, Harry. We told you about him yesterday. The Dandie Dinmont owned by Bill Cosby. He did get the top terrier title. Jello pudding pops for him, I guess.

S. O'BRIEN: A cute little dog. Both of them big winners.

In addition to the business news we've been telling you about, about Chrysler, the business world also waiting to hear about the state of the economy from the Fed chairman. It's 26 minutes past the hour. That means it's time for Ali Velshi, who's "Minding Your Business."

Hey, Ali, good morning.

VELSHI: Good morning.

And this is one of those places where we can see whether the weather has an impact on the economy because today is supposed to be the first day of two days of testimony by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to Congress. This is something he does twice a year. However, as we've been hearing all morning, there are some issues with getting to work in Washington. So we are awaiting confirmation as to whether those hearings are going to go ahead or not.

It is prepared testimony. And the thing that's interesting about this testimony is it's where congressmen get to ask the Fed chief in their own language about what he thinks about the economy and what he thinks about inflation.

Now, on Monday, we didn't have any takeover news, which is why markets weren't all that excited. We typically hear about mergers on a Monday. But we got it on Tuesday. There was a lot of takeover news or a lot of takeover speculation about Alcoa, the biggest aluminum company in the world. Two offers for Alcoa speculated and they could be worth $40 billion.

Now a lot of regulators say that's not likely to happen. But after the run-up that we've seen in commodity costs over the last year or so, you know, we've been speculating about takeover in lots and lots of different industries. So this is the next one on the books. We're going to be thinking about that.

Now that news about the takeover sent the Dow up over 100 points, because markets like that sort of thing. We will follow that story to see whether it develops any further.

And, of course, the other story that we're following very carefully today is the announcement expected within the next two hours from DaimlerChrysler as shutdowns and job cuts at its Chrysler division in Northern America.


M. O'BRIEN: All right. Big news. Chrysler seemed to be doing so well too.

VELSHI: It seemed to be, but it looks like they're all having trouble.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Ali, thank you very much.

The top stories of the morning are coming up next.

The brutal winter storm. People are stranded in their homes. Even worse, some are stranded in their cars.

And Al Franken wants a new gig. We'll tell you what he's got up his sleeve today.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is right here.


S. O'BRIEN: Weather alert. Snow, ice, howling winds now hammering a dozen states in the Northeast. And travel in the Midwest is a big mess.

M. O'BRIEN: Breaking news. Video surfaces within this past hour of an American soldier kidnapped months ago in Iraq.

S. O'BRIEN: Is all Sadr on the run? There are reports that one of Iraq's most dangerous men is hiding in Iran. We'll tell you what his lieutenants are saying.

M. O'BRIEN: And it's no joke. Liberal talk show host and comedian Al Franken expected he's ready to run for a new job on this AMERICAN MORNING.

S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It's Wednesday, February 14th.

I'm Soledad O'Brien.

Happy Valentine's Day.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, same to you.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you for the chocolates and the flowers. You're the best.

M. O'BRIEN: They're on the way. They're on the way.

S. O'BRIEN: Exactly, nothing.

M. O'BRIEN: And I'm in deep trouble already.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's begin this morning with this big winter storm we've been talking about, actually for many days across the country. It is now turning right in to the Northeast. There are blizzard warnings, winter storm warnings. There's ice, there's heavy snow.

We've got team coverage for you this morning. CNN's Rob Marciano is in Cleveland, Ohio. Greg Hunter is in Albany, New York. Chad Myers is watching it all from the CNN weather center. We're going to check in with all of them in just a moment for an update. First, though, a look at just how bad it's been.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the worst. It is the worst. It's terrible out here.

S. O'BRIEN (voice over): Here, unfortunately, is all across the Midwest and in to the Northeast. In St. Louis, eight inches of snow on the ground as of last night. Thirty-mile-an-hour winds creating dangerous whiteout conditions. Fort Wayne, Indiana, hammered with a foot of snow and six-foot high snowdrifts in places.

While the plows are out, most people are staying in. Government offices and schools are closed. More than 900 flights canceled at Chicago's O'Hare.

The highways not much better. Around Cleveland, drivers are stranded by snow, freezing rain and brutal winds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long you been stuck out here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just about 30 minutes now.

S. O'BRIEN: The winter blast is also being blamed for at least one death, a 9-year-old girl who was killed by a falling tree.

East of Pittsburgh and Virginia, dozens of accidents already reported on slushy and icy roads. And in upstate New York, they've already gotten almost 12 feet of snow in some places. The plows in Syracuse and the guys driving them are getting ready for even more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just another day in Syracuse. You know what I mean?


S. O'BRIEN: Another day in Syracuse, meaning it's going to get worse.

Let's take a look now at the icy conditions in Cleveland. That's where Rob Marciano is for us this morning.

Good morning to you, Rob. How bad is it? How bad is it going to get?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, right now we're very close to blizzard criteria, which means winds at 35-plus miles an hour, heavy snow, blowing snow. And visibility is reduced to a quarter mile.

And at the airport, observations we're taking right here on the lake. I think this thing would be considered a blizzard.

You see how the snow is just blowing sideways. We have winds 30, gusting to 40 at times. Wind-chills are well below zero.

And the school closings, as you can imagine, are piling up like the snow behind me. That's great news for kids. Obviously they're happy about it. But if you've got to get out and get to work, which some people, I suppose, are going to try do, it's going to be a slow go.

We've talked to city officials. About two-thirds of the roads are deemed passable, but the issues they're going to run up against with this blowing snow are going to be snowdrifts. And we're already seeing piling up here.

The snow, when it gets cleared, it gets piled up with the -- with the wind. Twelve inches-plus so far in Cleveland and more expected over the next several hours.

The winds ripping that -- ripping those flags back there. So that gives you an indication of how strong the winds are. And it sounds, Soledad, kind of like a hurricane with the winds coming through -- coming through the trees. Eerie in that aspect, and we're getting the full brunt of this storm as it passes to our south.

Heavy snow. Winter storm warnings will remain posted until noontime today.

Back to you.

S. O'BRIEN: I've got to tell you, Rob, we can hear that sound right over your microphone.

All right. Thanks. Appreciate the update -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's go to Chad now in the CNN weather center. He's tracking all this for us -- Chad.





M. O'BRIEN: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

A powerful winter blast making things just miserable for millions of folks this morning. Now, before you grab the shovel to clear your driveway, just stop for a minute and take a moment to hear what Greg Hunter found out. He's joining us live from Albany, New York, where a lot of people will be reaching for the shovel this morning.

Hello, Greg.


Well, this snow is really light and it's fluffy, it's beautiful. It's not really good snowball-making snow. Not very good.

But I'll tell you, even though it's light and fluffy, when you start shoveling this stuff, it's a lot of work. And you better look out. You could get hurt.


HUNTER (voice over): With as much as 12 feet of snow in upstate New York over 10 days, hospital representatives there are saying that winter injuries have piled up along with the snow.

DR. BILL MAHON, ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON: I think the volume has increased significantly. The type of injuries are no different than what we will see in most winter seasons, but the volume certainly increased the past week.

HUNTER: Fifty-two winter-related injury in less than a week. The Oswego Hospital ER has seen everything from fractures to carbon monoxide poisoning.

(on camera): According to Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 20,000 people went to emergency rooms in 2005 with snow-related injuries. And here in upstate New York, they have a special hazard to look out for, trying to stay on a roof while shoveling off feet of snow.

MAHON: The uncommon injuries in this past week have been people who have fallen eight, 10, 12, 15 feet from roofs and ladders. They're up on the ladders trying to clear their roofs of all the snow that has accumulated.

HUNTER (voice over): Oswego County public health director Kathy Smith gives safety pointers, starting with your shovel.

KATHY SMITH, OSWEGO COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTOR: One of the things that we recommend are these new ergonomically-designed snow shovels.

HUNTER (on camera): The crooked shovel.

SMITH: The crooked shovel, which can help prevent back injuries.


SMITH: Another thing is that when you are shoveling snow, always bend your knees and lift with your legs.

HUNTER: Not what I'm doing here. Get down here.

SMITH: Not with your back, exactly. Don't load your shovel up too much.

HUNTER: Like that?

SMITH: Right.


SMITH: And take a break every 10 minutes or so. And if you have a cardiac condition you really have to be careful. Snow shoveling is heavy work and it's very cold out. And that's not good for people with cardiac conditions.

HUNTER (voice over): So next time you head out to shovel snow, remember, without taking precautions, it could be hazardous to your health.


HUNTER: So this is the crooked shovel, ergonomically designed. It's like this so you can take the shovel like this and whip the snow, so you don't have to bend over quite as much. And they tell us here at the National Weather Service here locally that we're going get up to 24 inches in the next 24 hours.

However, our meteorologist in Atlanta, Chad Myers, is saying much more than that, up to 44 inches. Either way you cut it, you're going to need a shovel and you're going to be shoveling a lot of snow.

Back to you guys.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Greg. I've always been curious. What's the best way to do it? Do you wait until it's done, all piled up and shovel, or do you just shovel as it continues coming down? What's better?

HUNTER: Well, Miles, I'm a coffee drinker. So I like to just shovel, shovel, shovel. As it's coming down, just to keep shoveling away.

M. O'BRIEN: Just shovel away.

HUNTER: You know?

M. O'BRIEN: All right.

HUNTER: That's it.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Greg. Appreciate that.

He's a coffee drinker. All right.

S. O'BRIEN: Don't stop, Greg. Keep going.

He did three little shovels and he quit.

Come on, man.

M. O'BRIEN: He's on the right shift for the coffee, isn't he?

S. O'BRIEN: Absolutely.

Forty-seven minutes past the hour. Let's get right to Chad tracking this winter storm.


S. O'BRIEN: Coming up this morning, going to tell you about another tally of the cost of 9/11. Now lawsuits are pushing the total in to the hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Plus on this Valentine's Day, finally there's a scientist explanation for all those crazy things we do for love. It's more about the brain than the heart.

We'll explain straight ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



M. O'BRIEN: The most news in the morning right here on CNN.

The anti-American militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr is still in Iraq but laying low, so they say. Members of his faction denying reports he fled to Iran ahead of that ongoing U.S. crackdown on insurgents.

We're watching that one.

And severe weather alerts now up in a dozen states, from the Midwest in to Maine. Snow and ice making a mess of travel for cars, planes and just people pocking walking on the sidewalk.

Akron, Ohio, battling the elements this morning. But neither ice nor snow shall stay the pizza delivery man form his appointed routes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just trying to figure out how I'm going to get up and down these hills, because my tires are just spinning crazy. I want to go sledding. I'm not going to say anything else. I wanted to go sledding.


M. O'BRIEN: Better tip him well if he comes to your door. If you're ordering, expect to wait an hour and a half for your pizza. But hey, you didn't have to leave the house.

S. O'BRIEN: Do you get your money back if it's cold by the time it gets to your house?

M. O'BRIEN: Well...

S. O'BRIEN: The poor guy gets there...

M. O'BRIEN: They've got those insulating deals, don't they?

S. O'BRIEN: He needs a jacket. That's ridiculous.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Let's talk business news, shall we?

Leonardo DiCaprio is set to make another movie about a sinking ship.

Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business."

No, it's not "Titanic 2," is it?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, but it's very similar to the last movie he did, where he's been nominated for an Academy Award, in "Blood Diamonds," historical fiction, if you will.

DiCaprio is announcing that he will produce and act in a movie about the fall of Enron. He made the announcement with Warner Brothers, which shares a corporate parent with CNN, Time Warner.

It's likely going to be based on the book by "New York Times" reporter Kurt Eichenwald called "Conspiracy of Fools." Now, you'll remember last year, just before the Enron trial began, another movie was made, sort of a documentary based on another book called "The Smartest Guys in the Room."

DiCaprio is going to play a character who exposes the accounting fraud at Enron. Again, it might be that this is fictional but based on reality.

He has been nominated for an Academy Award for his role in "Blood Diamond." Now, if you think back to 2001, when Enron collapsed, it was the first of a string of collapses that led to new legislation. Four thousand people at Enron lost their jobs and tens of thousands of people in other companies related to that scandal.

Enron chief Jeff Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in jail. Ken Lay was also convicted but died before he could be sentenced, and his conviction was vacated.

So there will be a lot of people interested in seeing this movie -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Ali Velshi, thank you very much.

Some of the other headlines we're watching for you this morning.


M. O'BRIEN: The next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.

S. O'BRIEN: Deadly storms to tell you about this morning. Snow and ice and whipping winds across a dozen states right now.