Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo; Massive Snowstorm Pounds Northeast; ISIS Deadline; ISIS Demands Life-or-Death Hostage Swap; Millions Under Siege from Relentless Buzzard; Major Seawall Damage as Blizzard Rages; Inside Obama's Meeting with Saudi King

Aired January 27, 2015 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Rising danger. Icy floodwaters swamp some coastal waters, a seawall cracks, and an entire island goes dark. CNN is across the winter storm zone where conditions are the worst right now.

And ISIS deadline. The terrorists set a new time frame for killing hostages, adding to pressure for a prisoner swap.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Breaking now, millions of Americans under siege from a powerful winter storm. It's walloping parts of New England right now, where blizzard warnings remain in effect. Massachusetts is buried under record snowfalls, nearing in some areas three feet. It's still in the bullseye at this hour.

We're tracking some very hazardous conditions in several states, including heavy snow, treacherous roads, coastal flooding, plunging temperatures and power outages. The reach of the storm is going beyond the region. At least 400,000 Americans have been affected by flight cancellations alone.

We have a team of correspondents in the blizzard zone to bring you the newest information about the weather emergency.

First, let's go to CNN's Brooke Baldwin. She's joining us from Boston with the latest -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, is the kind of disaster that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says he does not want to break. Do you see -- I'm just going to fall -- do you see the snow that I'm in? It's two feet here in Boston, 24 inches. They're saying in a matter of hours, this could be record-setting snowfall. Take a look.


BALDWIN (voice-over): The blizzard of 2015 still isn't done with New England.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (R), MASSACHUSETTS: There are parts of central and eastern Massachusetts where people may get as much as another five to 10 inches of snow on top of what they already have.

BALDWIN: The hardest-hit area, Auburn, Massachusetts, got 32.5 inches of snow; 30 inches of snow already fell in Framingham. Here in Boston, there's nearly 21 inches and forecasters predict the state capital could still get close to another foot.

MARTY WALSH (D), MAYOR OF BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS: We have been through blizzards before and I'm certainly confident that we are prepared. But a storm of this size poses a threat to public safety and the safety of our residents in many different ways, so we're taking this storm very seriously.

BALDWIN: In Worcester, where two feet of snow fell, firefighters battled blizzard conditions after this home went up in flames.

BAKER: The drifting continues to be an issue, the blowing. There are drifts now as high as four, five, six feet in many places.

BALDWIN: Heavy snow isn't the only issue. Along the coast, there was early-morning flooding, heavy snow and strong winds. Tides along the coast have been running up to five feet above normal and wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour.

Right now, people who live in the area are bracing for new high tide and storm surge. Farther south, this section of a seawall collapsed in Marshfield during Tuesday morning's high tide.

And not too far away in Scituate, slushy ice, seawater and debris clogged streets. Travel also remains an issue in the region. The storm shut down highways, mass transit and air travel. Some roads are still shut down tonight.

GOV. GINA RAIMONDO (D), RHODE ISLAND: It is very bad. These roads are not safe. The snow is still coming down several inches an hour.

BALDWIN: About 17 inches of snow already fell in Providence, Rhode Island, and the snow is expected to continue through Wednesday morning.


BALDWIN: So, one of the things I really wanted to point out, Wolf, we talked to the fire commissioner here in Boston earlier this afternoon and he said to me it's actually great news because of how cold it is. This is some of the snow.

I fell accidentally and it was it was a soft fall. It's incredibly light snow. Why is that great? Because one of the anticipated worries was the power outages and they haven't had significant numbers of people, at least in the city of Boston, without power because it's light snow. So it's not downing, so far, those lines and those branches.

The story, it seems, other than potentially breaking records and some of the winds out here, as you will see, I'm sure, on your show, the coastal flooding and the power outages along the southern and eastern part of the state -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, we're going to check that out. Brooke Baldwin, thanks very much.

The flooding is an extremely serious problem right now in the storm zone. There are concerns rising in the past hour alone as the water reached high tide.

Let's go to Marshfield. Brian Todd is along the coast there, a major breach in the seawall.

Brian, so set the scene for us where you are.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the wind here is really devastating. This is a driving wind in addition to the snowstorm occurring right now in Marshfield, a tidal area right just southeast of Boston.

We're on this street here in Marshfield because we had to come away from the coastal area. We shot some video of the seawall really being threatened again. It was breached earlier today, just after high tide at 5:00 a.m. It was breached by incredibly heavy waves. We shot video of some of those waves as the high tide came back and threatened that seawall once again.

Several people had to be evacuated from their homes and luckily there were no injuries to report that we know of at this time. But this area is still very much under threat because high tide is coming back and the video that hopefully you're looking at now from the waves washing over the seawall that we shot earlier, it's very dangerous there, Wolf.

What they are telling us is that if there's any power in any of those houses and the water comes back in, it could short-circuit some things and some fires could start. They are really worried about that right now. That's a real danger as high tide comes back, but, right now, no injuries to report in Marshfield, despite the fact that several people had to be evacuated from their homes -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're going to stay in very close touch with you, Brian. Be careful over there.

Emergency crews and equipment, they are in place in coastal areas of Massachusetts to respond to all of the flooding that is under way. There's been some evacuations, including in the town of Scituate.

Our Alexandra Field is on the scene for us over there.

Alexandra, the water hit high tide just a little while ago. What is it like now?


We were up at the seawall when high tide in at about 5:00. And we did that that water beginning to spill over the seawall and trickle down through the snow here, not in the volume that we saw early this morning when the tide came in, at least not on this street here.

But these are people who have dealt with a tremendous amount of flooding already today. People in this house say that they had their basement flooded four or five inches. Still, we had to back down, get away from that water as it was coming up over that wall. There's incredible wind out here.

You can see the snow sort of blowing around behind me out here. I have got to say I have spoken to people on this block and, as you can see, they still have the power. They have the electricity. They are grateful for that, of course. They want their lights and they want their heat on since they are staying home, but Brian Todd pointed out to you some of the concerns that are being shared here in Scituate along with Marshfield about problems that can be created in these cases.

Part of the town actually shut off the power last night to avoid problems like electrical fires. At this point, right now, the street just covered in snow. You can't actually see it but this road was completely covered by water earlier today. That was because of the early high tide, the one that came in around 4:00 or 5:00 this morning and brought the water flooding into this neighborhood and down the street and well back into the neighborhood down this way, flooding really these backyards. So at this point, really watching the wind out here. That's the biggest problem for everyone.

BLITZER: All right. Be careful over there, Alexandra. Thank you very much.

This is certainly proving to be one of the worst snowstorms ever to hit Massachusetts. Take a look at some of the latest snowfall numbers, parts of Massachusetts nearing three feet of snow, while Boston got under two feet. Remember, the snow is still falling, though, right now. New England clearly has been harder-hit than New York, which got less than a foot of snow.


BLITZER: The governor of Rhode Island is warning people that bitter cold tonight will certainly the compound the storm danger, with icy conditions on snowy roads.

The governor, Gina Raimondo, is joining us on the phone right now.

Governor, what do you expect in Rhode Island right now? What's your biggest concern?


My biggest concern is people going out and it's not safe to go out. I have extended air travel ban until 8:00 tonight and I'm urging Rhode Islanders not to go out even after 8:00 unless they absolutely need to. The roads are not safe. We still have 40-mile-an-hour winds and it's going to be minus-10 degrees, which means it's icy. I just need -- people are getting antsy, but I need folks to stay home and let us do our work to clean this up until it's safe. BLITZER: It's bitter freezing cold. It's still snowing. You have a problem of flooding along the coast?

RAIMONDO: We have not had flooding, thankfully.

We have had some power outages and excessive wind outages along the coast. But right now, it's snow and unsafe roads. And we just have to keep folks off the roads.

BLITZER: How long before Rhode Island is up and running?

RAIMONDO: Well, we hope tomorrow. I think the main arteries will be up and running tomorrow. And certainly by the end of the day, I think that we will be fully functioning by the end of the day tomorrow.

BLITZER: And hopefully no deaths, right, so far?

RAIMONDO: No. No. We have had no fatalities. I issued a travel ban almost immediately yesterday and thankfully people heeded that. So we have had very few accidents, no fatalities.

BLITZER: Why are you lifting the travel ban at 8:00 tonight? You think maybe overnight keep it, let them plow the roads and then maybe easing it by 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning?

RAIMONDO: It's always a balance, of course.

Connecticut lifted theirs earlier. So, we do have folks coming in from Connecticut. I think we have had the National Guard and our Department of Transportation all day. So I believe it will be safe, which is why I have done that. But, nonetheless, I'm urging extreme caution for folks to stay home unless they absolutely have to be out.

BLITZER: Because the roads I see -- and the roads are still pretty icy, right? Have they all been cleared?

RAIMONDO: The main arteries have been cleared. The highways are in pretty good shape.

And right now, we have got 17 National Guard and DOT teams out there coordinating cleanup. So, two hours makes a big difference, Wolf, and they are working overtime in the next two hours and I feel confident it will be passable by 8:00.

BLITZER: Well, good luck, Governor. Good luck to all the folks in Rhode Island. We will stay in close touch with you.

RAIMONDO: Thank you so much.

BLITZER: The governor, Gina Raimondo, joining us on the phone.

Still ahead, fierce winds whipping up the snow and the surf and the anger. We are going to the site of two storm-related deaths.

And we will update you on the flight cancellations and delays. It's a nightmare affecting more than 400,000 people all across the country. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, the blizzard bringing record snowfall, treacherous conditions to parts of New England right now.

New York City largely spared, but not Long Island, battered by heavy snow, raging winds and we're now learning of at least two people killed.

CNN's Ana Cabrera is joining us from Montauk. That's on the tip of Long Island.

What are you seeing over there, Ana?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The waves still battering the shore here, the ocean still angry, Wolf.

We have heard reports of waves up to 16 feet high. And in fact that's been inviting to many of these surfers who, if you can believe it, actually braved the cold weather and the blizzard-like conditions that have continued throughout the day here.

We're seeing a little reprieve. Fortunately, the threat of coastal flooding, which was looming for so long, that seems to have passed here. But the snow has really piled up, causing a huge inconvenience for the folks still trying to get back to a sense of normalcy here.

In fact, I'm just going to step forward and show you just how deep the snow has accumulated here. In fact, we're seeing more than two feet of snow in much of this region tonight. I know I just stepped out of the light. Forgive me for that.

But I really think this gives you a sense of how much of an inconvenience and a problem this still remains. Up to 28 inches reported in some areas. In fact, the wind has been really causing snow to drift. In fact, there were issues of drifting reported in some places that have prevented a lot of people from getting out and about still today.

We talked to one man who was digging out, expecting to take some two hours just to clear part of his driveway so he could get his all-way drive vehicle out. We talked to a woman who talked about the battering winds inside the lighthouse, the keeper there who really waited out the storm last night and described it very similar to superstorm Sandy, so terrifying, but even colder.

Up to 60-mile-per-hour wind gusts have been recorded and that drops the windchill to near zero degrees. It's the cold that has proved deadly out here with an 83-year-old man was froze to death. His wife found him outside this morning. We are told he has dementia.

And another victim of this storm, a 17-year-old boy who went out to go sledding and, unfortunately, hit something and those injuries proved fatal, Wolf. So it's a dangerous storm, no doubt about it.

BLITZER: It certainly is, deadly in those cases. Ana, thank you very much.

More than 7,000 flights have been canceled so far because of this blizzard. New York's airports are now running up and they're beginning to start going. Many New England airports though are still closed. Shockwaves from all of this are being felt all across the United States and indeed beyond and will be for days.

Our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, is joining us from La Guardia Airport in New York.

What's the latest there, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it really still is pretty strange to look around and see one of the busier airports in New York look like this.

That being said, we are seeing some small signs of progress. Flights are starting to take off, but it's going to take some time before everyone gets to their destination.


MARSH (voice-over): One of America's busiest airports nearly deserted. The ticket counters empty and about 60 passengers called this terminal their hotel for the night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I slept right here, right on the floor and by the window. Used some clothes as my pillow and just bedded down for the night.

TODD: Stranding passengers like Kenzie Knopp (ph), who has been trying to get to Denver.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At this point, my family just wants me home so we're looking for the earliest time in the morning.

MARSH: At Boston's Logan Airport, the tarmac is buried in snow. In Atlanta, exhausted passengers are everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we were able to find some seats to pull together and kind of -- I had a blanket, luckily, with me and pulled it together and sit and try to get some rest.

MARSH: Even Las Vegas saw canceled flights. International passengers also felt the pain. Perhaps the worst was at JFK. This Virgin flight was canceled after a six-hour delay, stranding passengers in the terminal at midnight.

One airline company estimates the storm impacted more than 400,000 passengers, costing upwards of $235 million, and the price tag for airlines, about $10 million. Back in New York, the city's subways and buses are back in service. And trains are resuming as well. Amtrak will roll into Boston with limited service Wednesday.

Here at La Guardia, there was some good news this afternoon. The first flights started arriving and departing, and that meant Knopp was on her way home.

(on camera): You just got some really good news.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did. I'm getting out of here at 2:45 today. So I'm so excited.


MARSH: Well, good for her, long gone at this point. She's probably on her way on that second leg of her flight back home to Denver.

All this said, although we are seeing these limited flights, flight operations resume at these airports, travelers are not out of the woods yet. We're still seeing cancellations slated for Wednesday. That being said, many of the major airlines say that they hope to get their operations back to normal tomorrow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope that happens. All right, Rene, thank you.

This is far for over for millions of people.

Up next, Chad Myers is back. He's tracking the blizzard and has important new information.

Plus, a new ISIS tactic -- details of a terrorist proposal that could potentially save the life of two hostages facing death.


BLITZER: There's more blizzard coverage coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM, but first, a new tactic by ISIS we're watching right now.

It is threatening to kill two more hostages unless a convicted suicide bomber is released.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's working the story for us.

What are you picking up, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at this hour, more threats, more demands from ISIS, questions about their motives and whether the group may finally be feeling some of the pressure.


STARR (voice-over): ISIS released a new message showing Japanese hostage Kenji Goto saying he will be killed along within 24 hours, along with a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, if the Jordanian does not release a female prisoner accused in a string of bombings in Amman in 2005.

CNN cannot independently confirm the message's authenticity.

JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We continue to coordinate closely with the Japanese government, continue to call for the immediate release.

STARR: The Japanese government, doing all it can, sent an envoy to Jordan to help secure the release of their hostage. This comes as the U.S. says the long-besieged Syrian city of Kobani is now 90 percent controlled by Kurdish forces, a significant setback for ISIS.

But while ISIS has lost some territory, it's not down and out.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They still maintain their ability to intimidate the local population. But I think you have seen some damage done to the organization.

STARR: Still, the head of U.S. special forces says ISIS is a recruiting powerhouse.

GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL, U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND: Over 19,000 foreign fighters from more than 90 different countries have traveled to Syria and Iraq. Their ideology is overpowering. They are attracting youth from across the globe.

STARR: The Pentagon claims 6,000 ISIS fighters have been killed, half the leadership eliminated.

HERTLING: They are losing their ability to find operations and I think we're even seeing indicators in several areas where they haven't had the same kind of power and influence.

STARR: But it is here in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, where coalition air strikes are already pounding ISIS's positions. It is Mosul that is the next big test coming for all sides.

One senior U.S. military official telling CNN the Iraqis must have a decisive victory against ISIS here, not just, quote, "get their noses bloody."

But the bottom line, Wolf, the U.S. military says ISIS's ability to still recruit fighters is staggering. That is the word from the U.S. military and ISIS can very much continue their threats, again issuing yet another call for lone-wolf attacks against the west -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. They're very powerful on that social media circuit, to be sure.

All right, Barbara, thanks very, very much.

Let's get some more now. Joining us is our counterterrorism analyst, Philip Mudd, and our global affairs analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel James Reese.

Col. Reese, what's the likelihood that this female suicide bomber that the Jordanians have been holding, what, since 2006 is going to be released?

LT. COL. JAMES REESE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Wolf, I think it's -- I think it's a low probability. I think one of the issues you have right now is you had, you know, ISIS or DAISH, said that they would do a swap for the Japanese but just spare the life of the Jordanian.

I think if they said they would swap both for the women terrorist in Jordan, there might be a possibility. But I just don't see it. And it's unfortunate, but I just don't see it happening.

BLITZER: But the Jordanians clearly want their -- their fighter pilot that went down and ISIS has him. They want him out.

REESE: They do. But if you listen very closely, what was said was, they would swap the Japanese and spare the life of the Jordanian. So the way I hear that is, they'd swap one for one and allow the Jordanian pilot to live, probably still under captivity.

BLITZER: Philip Mudd, what do you read into the fact that the Japanese did, in fact -- they have a senior diplomat in Amman, Jordan, right now working this issue? What's the significance of that?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: This game has changed, Wolf, the past week or two, from a one-way communication that is ISIS making threats and beheading somebody to a chess match that involves the potential for ISIS having almost a conversation with a government. That is the government of Japan.

Remember, a few weeks ago or even a week ago, we were talking about the demand for 200 million. No government would take that demand seriously. Now Japan is on the hot seat because ISIS actually created a demand by talking about this swap that's vaguely reasonable.

So they are looking at this saying it's win/win. If the Japanese and Jordanians don't play, ISIS kills somebody and says, "Not our fault. We gave them an opportunity."

If the Jordanians actually negotiate, first you have ISIS talking almost one-on-one with the government. And second, you have them wanting the release of a woman in the prison. I think ISIS is starting to figure out this horrible game, a little bit more sophisticatedly.

BLITZER: You know, here's the problem, Colonel Reese. Tell me if you agree. All these mixed messages that ISIS gets. Some European countries, some other countries, they're willing to trade a lot of money for a hostage. Other countries, like the United States, they say they don't negotiate with terrorists. ISIS gets these mixed messages, right?

REESE: Wolf, they do. And I think Phil hit it on the head there. It's a chess match, but it's against multiple players at one time, and ISIS sits at the single point of failure.

But what you get is when you get these mixed messages around, it starts to show continuity for ISIS, so ISIS puts that out and says, "Hey, look, I've got the French over here doing this, got the Turks over here doing this, have the Americans doing this," and on and on and on. So it shows, you know, a break in the coalition and ISIS as being as one.

BLITZER: Are you surprised, Philip Mudd, about the brutality that ISIS has recently shown with these increasing beheadings?

MUDD: I have to confess, I am. Over time as an analyst -- and I was an analyst for 25 years. You've got to step back and realize you don't understand the world through the eyes of the adversary.

I watched brutality when Islamic extremism hit North Africa, Algeria and Egypt back in the '90s. I watched it in Iraq with some of the former leaders of the predecessor to ISIS. It failed every time, because the population that the extremists wanted to recruit eventually turns against them.

You would think -- at least I thought the extremists would learn over time. They'd realize that brutality can win at the fringes. You can get some people, for example, to go up against "Charlie Hebdo" in Paris. But it can't win the general population. But it doesn't seem they're learning. That surprises me all the time.

BLITZER: Me, too. Colonel Reese, there have been reports that the latest hostage video from ISIS differed from some of their previous videos, could have actually been recorded in the studio because of the distinct lighting. How does that speak to the ISIS propaganda machine, how they're proceeding with all their threats.

REESE: And Wolf, it continues to show their maturity and, you know, probably their funding and where they're looking at these things. And it also shows who is coming in to assist them and what type of aspect they get.

But on the other side, though, it might also see where some of the concerns are, and some of the aspects that the coalition has been destroying so they literally have to get into a studio to do these things, because it may not be safe for them to do it out in the past.

BLITZER: Phil Mudd, let's go to Libya for a moment. Because there's disturbing developments in Libya all the time. But today, an American contractor was killed in Tripoli, along with 11 other people, a terrorist attack, supposedly an ISIS terrorist attack. I think you've stayed there at that hotel in Tripoli, Libya. What's your reaction to this attack?

MUDD: A lot of reactions, Wolf. I did stay there back under the previous regime. I think it's a snapshot of how we transition in the Arab Revolution, the Arab Spring, from what we had, a sense of hope years ago, to now what we have in places like Yemen and Libya, militias taking over.

So my first sense, when I was there years ago, I was there under the Gadhafi regime, visiting the government of Moammar Gadhafi. I walked around without an escort in the streets of Tripoli. Not only can you not do that today, you can get a car bomb followed by attackers in the hotel.

The second and final thing was the sophistication of the attack. Remember, "Charlie Hebdo," you just had somebody walking in, a few people walking in with weapons. This, as a counterterrorism guy, is a step or two above that. The vehicle goes in. The car bomb breaches. And then the people come behind, the attackers through the breach created by the car bomb to move into the hotel. Pretty serious sophistication for some pretty basic terrorist groups.

BLITZER: Colonel Reese, what's so sad is the U.S.-led effort to get rid of Gadhafi, and it was expensive, has now resulted in a failed state in Libya with a lot of terrorist groups competing amongst themselves, the U.S. embassy shut down. We saw terrorists swimming at the U.S. ambassador's pool there at the embassy in Tripoli. This has become a horrible situation in North Africa.

REESE: And Wolf, it has. I mean, I was -- I stayed at the Corinthian (ph) also the month before the U.S. embassy shut down. And I will tell you, they -- that was a hard target. And the operation, like Phil just said, sending that exclusive IED in and let it explode and then do follow up. We've seen it in Iraq; we've seen it other places. So it shows a sophistication, but it is. It is a failed state.

And we have folks on the ground there and other folks that we know there. It's very concerning, both east and west. There's a definite split between the two parts of the country.

BLITZER: Yes, I certainly agree. Guys, thanks very, very much. James Reese, Philip Mudd, good to have you in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I want to get back to the breaking news, the Blizzard of 2015. Millions of people in New England, they're still in the middle of this life-threatening weather emergency. Heavy snow is expected to continue for several more hours. States of emergency, travel bans remain in effect. Our severe weather expert, our meteorologist, Chad Myers, is tracking this storm.

Chad, you're getting new information about what's going on. What is the latest?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. This storm refuses to move away from the coast, Wolf. So the snow continues, the winds continue. The low pressure itself is still very low, which means that the winds won't die off until it moves over toward Nova Scotia.

So we still have this band of snow back into Maine all the way down from about Nashua in Manchester and then back down into Boston. And the offshore flows very gusty, 35 to 50 miles per hour, blowing this very dry snow around.

And you can see -- you can see the picture, right up there at the top of the screen. The snow is not even falling down anymore. The snow was just going across the screen. It's going across the roadways here, making very dangerous wind chills. If you don't have power, of course, you can't turn the heater on. You want to go ahead and turn the oven on, but you shouldn't because you don't get the carbon monoxide out of the house with the natural gas oven. And so you can actually put yourself in more danger that way. Find someplace else that has heat and get to it as soon as you can if you don't have heat. Probably if you don't have heat, you can't watch me anyway, so there's another rum (ph) right there. Can't even watch TV. There's the snow in Boston, heavy snow coming down, all the way down through the cape. And this is what we expected to be ending about now. Now it doesn't look like this is going to end until 12 a.m. tonight, midnight, because the storm refuses to pull away from the coast. We still have heavy snowfall coming down to Boston and Plymouth. We know there's been quite a bit of beach erosion and water over the roadways around Plymouth. That was my last stop on a -- the circus tour of big nor'easters last year.

Lots of wind there. Boston still at 26 miles per hour. Nantucket, 53 miles per hour with wind chills there about 15 to 20 degrees below zero. And a lot of those people, Wolf, as you know, don't have power in Nantucket as the power lines have gone down with wind gusts there over 78 miles per hour.

BLITZER: Wow. Nantucket is dark right now, the power basically gone.

Thanks very much, Chad.

I want to go back to the flooding dangers in Massachusetts. Right now Brian Todd is in the coastal town of Marshfield. What are you seeing over there, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the winds are I can picking up again in Marshfield. You can see it swirling all around us. This is the driving snowstorm with really severe winds here in Marshfield. Snowdrifts all over town like this one.

Photojournalist Oliver Dent (ph), he's going to try and follow me. Look at this. This is whiteout conditions here right now, Wolf. And this is really hampering some of the efforts to try to get around town and make sure people are OK for the first responders who are venturing out.

This is what they are dealing with. Just sheets of white -- just of whiteout. You can't see, really, about five feet in front of you here. If Oliver can train his camera over here, you can just see the severity of the wind and just how it's driving the snow.

If you train it up on the light there, you can see all of that. We were a few miles away from here earlier just a short time ago, looking at the high tide breaching the seawall again. That seawall breached early this morning. Several people had to evacuate their homes, had to be rescued from their homes. We don't have word of any injuries yet, thankfully, so a lot of these people really dodged a bullet when that seawall was breached.

We've got some very dramatic pictures of that as the -- as the high tide returned at around 5 p.m. Eastern Time tonight. We pulled onto the street that was heavy flooded, and then the water was just coming right over the seawall, again very violently, Wolf.

The sea being driven by this storm, being driven by the winds and the tidal surges, was very, very violent. What we're told is that there's some people in shelters around here who had to evacuate their homes. But most of the people got out of here OK. What they were worried about, Wolf, is the second wave of high tide coming in right about now, and it's going to last for at least a couple more hours. They are really concerned that with -- if the power is on in some of the houses right next to that seawall, and the seawall gets breached again that the surge of water coming into the houses is going to cause some short-circuiting and some fires. They said a couple of houses a few years ago burned to the ground, because that happened.

So seawall has been a real problem here. We were talking to a local official who said they need to really reinforce the seawall around here. That's been an issue, as well, Wolf.

So this is the kind of condition that drives that point home. You've really got to be careful of these areas. Very severe flooding here in Marshfield. The snow has not stopped, will not stop for several hours, we're told.

BLITZER: Be careful over there, Brian. Brian Todd on the scene for us, as he always is. Thank you.

More on the breaking news coming up. We're tracking this blizzard, breaking record snowfall to parts of New England. Much more coming up.


BLITZER: Breaking now, an ongoing weather emergency in new England facing blizzard conditions in many parts of New England, especially in Massachusetts. Snow already nearing 3 feet at least in some parts of Massachusetts and there's another six hours of snowfall ahead that could dump another half a foot of snow from Connecticut up to Maine. We're watching all of this for you.

Other news: a brief but very important meeting today between President Obama and Saudi Arabia's new king. Much more than simply a courtesy call or a photo op.

Our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta is getting new details.

What are we learning about this meeting, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, White House officials say the president was indeed doing more than just getting to know the new leader of Saudi Arabia, King Salman. The administration's biggest foreign policy headaches -- ISIS, Yemen and Iran -- they were all on the table.


ACOSTA (voice-over): President Obama's stop in Saudi Arabia was brief but spoke volumes about U.S. relations with this key Mideast ally. After cutting short his trip to India following the death of Saudi King Abdullah, the president and the newly crowned monarch at Riyadh were all smiles. Mr. Obama praised King Salman's palace -- BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's beautiful.

ACOSTA: The response was, "Now that you're here, it's even more beautiful."

But the president declined to criticize the kingdom for the beating of a Saudi blogger, was punished for scrutinizing his country's religious police.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Will you speak about the blogger to the Saudis?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think on this visit, obviously, a lot of this is just paying respects to King Abdullah.

ACOSTA: CNN's Fareed Zakaria asked the president what he would say to Americans appalled by Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

OBAMA: Well, what I would say is that it is important for us to take into account existing relationships, the existing alignments within a very complicated Middle East, to recognize that we have strategic interests in common with Saudi Arabia.

ACOSTA: Common interests like ISIS, Yemen, where the U.S. is fighting al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia's main rival, Iran. A senior Saudi official brushed off White House assurances that Iran is not in charge of the Houthi rebels in Yemen, saying, "If the Houthis are not controlled by Iran, then who is giving them guns and money? To us, that is control."

The Saudi trip is something of an optics do-over. After the White House failed to have a high-profile presence following the terror attacks in Paris.

By contrast, the president's Saudi delegation was a Washington's whose who, from Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and CIA Director John Brennan, to former Secretaries of State James Baker and Condoleezza Rice.

Top White House aides complained that's an unfair comparison.

BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: You have, I think, a period of time where different leaders are able to pass through Saudi Arabia to pay their respects and to meet the new king. So, there is a difference.


ACOSTA: Now, also on the table for the president and King Salman, both leaders talked about those falling oil prices here in the U.S. and President Obama returns to Washington with some news he will welcome, Senate Democrats said today they will not support Republican efforts to approve new sanctions on Iran, a move the White House feared could have blown up sensitive talks over Tehran's nuclear program -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jim Acosta reporting from the White House -- thanks very much.

Just ahead, we're going to get more on the blizzard that's socking New England. We're tracking the storm into the night. That and more, coming up.


BLITZER: Breaking now, the governor of Massachusetts is warning that blizzard conditions will continue in some parts of the state for several more hours. He's keeping a travel ban in place until midnight in those areas. Some towns have already gotten more than 30 inches of snow and the totals are climbing. More on this story at the top of the hour.

But now, a story with very deep meaning for me and my family. Holocaust survivors gathered in Poland today, along with some world leaders to mark 70 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp. More than a million people were killed there, most of them Jews including two of my grandparents.

I visited Auschwitz for a CNN special on the camp's survivors and to trace my personal connection to the atrocities that happened there.


BLITZER: It haunts us to this very day. You just hear that word, "Auschwitz", and you think of death. You smell death when you're walking around.

(voice-over): I read a lot about the Holocaust. I've seen the movies. I've seen a lot of the pictures. Certainly, I knew what happened.

But until you see the location, you see where it occurred and you get a sense of the enormity of this crime it's hard to believe that people can be as cruel as they clearly have been.

(on camera): One-point-two million people, within two or three years were slaughtered. And then when I went to Birkenau and saw the crematory, the gas chambers, it will stay with me for the rest of my life. It was a powerful, powerful moment.

Auschwitz survivors went through hell and lost their parents and grandparents and their sisters and brothers.

(voice-over): We hear those stories. It is so, so moving to listen and to appreciate and to understand what these people had to endure.

Eva Kor, when I think about what she and her sister had to endure they were only 10 years old, taken to Dr. Josef Mengele, for the most barbaric kinds of torture, experiments. It's just so shocking. It's so horrible and to believe that these were doctors, so called doctors. This is a sick part of the Nazi history -- sickest that you can imagine.

(on camera): It's hard to believe that people could do this to other people. Parents were taken to the right. Older brothers and sisters were taken to the right. They went right to the gas chambers.

(voice-over): When I first walked into the gas chamber I thought about my paternal grandparents -- my dad's mom and dad who were killed probably in that gas chamber. I don't know for sure, but I know they were killed. They were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau. I know that they probably were taken into that gas chamber. I don't know what was going through their mind. Did they know that this was going to be the end?

(on camera): I waited a long time. I could have gone many years earlier. But for some reason I didn't. I don't know why.

On my dad's side, he grew up in the town of Auschwitz. He was born in Auschwitz. He grew up in that village, that town. And I walked around that town.

And, you know, I wouldn't believe how close it was. He himself was never taken to Auschwitz. They took him to a dozen other slave labor camps.

I grew up hearing these stories, my parents were very open about their experience. They never hid anything from me. But finally went but it was powerful moment for me. When you walked around those areas in Auschwitz, in Birkenau, knowing the blood that's in ground there -- it wasn't until that moment that it hit me that my father's parents were killed at Auschwitz. Powerful experience. Something I'll never forget.


BLITZER: And CNN special report "Voices of Auschwitz" will air on CNN tomorrow night. It will premiere at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. It is a powerful, powerful one-hour documentary. I recommend it highly to all of you.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. Remember, you can follow us on Twitter. Tweet me @wolfblitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNSitroom.

We'll see you again here tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always watch us live or DVR the show so you won't miss a moment.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.