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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Tornado Destruction In Texas; Southeast Storm Threat Today; Trayvon Martin Shooting; Questions About Zimmerman 911 Call; Crime Concerns In Sanford Community; Romney Sweeps; Romney Halfway Home; Texas Slammed by Storm; Dallas Mayor: "We Dodged A Big Bullet"; Romney Wins Maryland, D.C., and Wisconsin

Aired April 4, 2012 - 05:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN HOST: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're bringing you the news from A to Z. 06:00 a.m. here in east, so let's get started for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD (voice-over): Texas tornadoes tossing semi-truck like toys, crushing cars like soda cans. Look at your screen. If you're not looking now, you may never see something like this. Total well video showing the incredible power of a twister.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was scary. It was so scary. It reminds you of the Wizard of Oz when the tornado hit and everything is going around and round.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Cleanup is just beginning in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Area, and one of the busiest travel hubs in the country is checking to see if the planes are fit to fly.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): New details in the Trayvon Martin investigation and new questions about whether George Zimmerman uttered a racial slur before he pulled the trigger.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We won them all.

BANFIELD: Yes, he did. A trifecta. Mitt Romney sweeping three more contests last night and moving closer to clinching the nomination as President Obama mentions him for the first time by name.

SAMBOLIN: And from Russia with love. Claims that a new documentary that the Russian spy, Anna Chapman, got cozy with a cabinet member. The FBI now stumping those rumors out.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BANFIELD (on-camera): It is now 5:59, and we begin in Texas, where there is a massive cleanup under way. As many as 13 tornadoes tore through the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. Take a look at your screen. You can hear the sirens, too. This is what people were listening to as they were running for cover. Hundreds of homes were damaged in the series of twisters.

And DFW had to shut down and make a lot of its folks get away from the windows and get to, closer, you know, closer quarters inside the airport. One of the twisters was caught on tape in Lancaster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that. The debris fly, my God. Please. It's about a block or two away from my house. Look at that, shoot, shoot, holy shoot. Look at that, my god. The debris flying. Holly moly, my gosh, my gosh, it's coming, holy moly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: It's a good thing he chose holy molly. In fact, in Lancaster it was very bad. The damage was terrible. This is the kind of image that is about as close as you can get. We do not advise this because this guy was shooting video from the roof of his house.

SAMBOLIN: And how's this for a dramatic video, it shows a tractor-trailer being picked up and thrown through the air like a toy right out of the movie "Twister." Remarkably there were no reported deaths and the mayor of Dallas says, we dodged a big bullet.

BANFIELD: Boy, that's an understatement. Our Miguel Marquez is live in Arlington, Texas, another place within the metroplex that was pretty badly hit. The Tarrant County officials are saying that they are only beginning to assess the damage, right, Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are indeed. In fact, teams will be out today to assess damage. We're at 2803 Quell Lane in Arlington, Texas. I'm standing next to what used to be a brick wall here. This used to be a bedroom. That's a bed right there.

You can see the clothes sucked out of here. It is absolutely amazing how destructive and completes the destruction can be with these storms and yet how precise.

This home completely destroyed, a few feet away this one is fine and right over here they are fine and across the street they are all fine as well.

Our Ed Lavandera had a tour of this particular house with the Lawrence family who owns it just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN LAWRENCE, HOMEOWNER: It sounded like a bomb went off. It was absolutely crazy. I thought the -- the house started shaking and I started praying and holding on for dear life. We were sitting in the bathtub and I heard the wind pick up and the whole house started shaking. This door started shaking and after a few seconds it left and we heard people screaming and we came out and walked out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Now, I want to show you, again, just how destructive and yet how precise these storms can be. These are the trees outside of Quail Lane here. This tree has some leaves left on it, but just over to the right, this tree is completely stripped of everything, absolutely amazing how the storms blow through.

The National Weather Service, their teams will be out today to try to determine, look at all the storm damage across this really incredibly wide area and try to figure out exactly how many storms occurred out there. Back to you guys.

BANFIELD: Miguel, so lucky that so far we are hearing nobody killed in these storms.

MARQUEZ: Amazing.

BANFIELD: Thank you. Miguel Marquez live for us in Arlington, Texas.

SAMBOLIN: Well, the severe storm system is on the move now. So let's check in with Alexandra Steele. She's at the CNN Weather Center.

And Alexandra, you know, I have a number here and it's 14,000 pounds that supposedly those trailers weigh and so it's kind of hard to believe that that wasn't a more vicious storm, right, F-1, F- 2?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right, potentially an EF-3 with 135-mile-per-hour winds potentially lifting that 20,000 pound tractor-trailer up into the air, 100 to 200 feet at least.

So here's a look at what happened, around 1:00 yesterday, this is the line of storms, you can see how it coalesced, moved through Dallas, these all showing where reported tornadoes are.

At this point 13 reported tornadoes, of course, National Weather Service going out and assessing the damage and assessing to see how many tornadoes and what they were in terms of EF-2, EF-3, that's all done with the damage reports after the fact.

But in addition to this hail was a huge factor and at Dallas- Fort Worth at the airport, 600 flights were canceled yesterday, so obviously going through flying to, flying around today with that makeup factor, certainly could be a factor.

And also 110 planes with hail damage at Dallas-Fort Worth reported this morning. So, what we're seeing right now, the problem is the setup that we've got today incredibly similar to the setup from yesterday.

The only difference, the axis of it shifted a little bit farther eastward. You can see where Dallas is, this all farther east, Tennessee, Kentucky, Nashville, Memphis, Jackson, New Orleans, under that threat, so that's where the potential threat is today.

Again, a little bit farther east, but same atmosphere of dynamics entirely. The problem is none of these areas of low pressures or fronts are associated with the jet stream so there's no kind of progression to move them out, so another problem today. Back to you guys.

BANFIELD: All right, Alexandria, thanks very much.

It's now 4 minutes past 6:00 and we want to move on to the Trayvon Martin shooting investigation. George Zimmerman has hired a second attorney this morning to help prepare a defense if he needs a defense. That attorney, Hal Uhrig, told WOFL TV in Orlando that he is ready for the challenge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAL UHRIG, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: You know, if you look at the forces arrayed basically against George if you look at the media, particularly the national media, you look at the state attorney's office, the special prosecutor, FDLE, the U.S. Justice Department.

And Craig has been standing in there tall trying to stand up for this guy, I think it's time that we have just a little bit more effort putting the truth out and getting George's story out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: In the meantime, we have the results of an analysis of the controversial 911 call that George Zimmerman made the night Trayvon was shot. At issue, did he use a racial slur just moments before he shot and killed Trayvon Martin?

SAMBOLIN: Alina Cho joins us now with all of the details. We get to hear it first.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And it's really difficult to hear. I mean, even when we play it back several times and you'll hear it in just a moment.

Good morning. You know, we do want to begin with the 911 call, very controversial. Remember, this is the phone call that George Zimmerman made on the night of the shooting before the shots rang out.

In it he can be heard mumbling something. Now some people say they hear him using a racial slur here, but candidly, very hard to hear exact I had what he's saying. Listen very carefully to the very end of this clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED OPERATOR: He's running? Which way is he running?

ZIMMERMAN: Down towards the other entrance to the neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED OPERATOR: OK. Which entrance is that that he's heading towards?

ZIMMERMAN: The back entrance (inaudible).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: What you hear is a lot of wind, right? It's really hard to hear. So what exactly did George Zimmerman say there? We asked forensic expert, Tom Owen, to enhance and analyze that portion of the audio to see what he could glean.

Now Owen says that he believes Zimmerman did not use a racial slur. But instead said f'ing clothes, we're going to play it for you again. This time Owens' cleaned-up version and you're going to hear it three times. Listen.

Well, if you're listening for it, sure, it may sound like that, but we wanted to bring in another forensic expert. His name is Ed Primo and he did his own analysis of the very same clip. He sent us his version.

He also enhanced and he says he believes that Zimmerman did use a racial slur. Listen to that version and, again, we're going to play it for you three times.

It's so hard to decipher. You know, the reason why people are paying attention to this, of course, is the reason why the whole nation is paying attention to this story. Did Zimmerman use a racial slur as Trayvon Martin supporters say he did?

And if he did, of course, for those supporters this could bolster the argument that this was a racially motivated crime, that this was a hate crime. So, you know, but very difficult to hear. It's very difficult to decipher. You've heard it now seven times. It's hard to say.

SAMBOLIN: I even closed my eyes to see if maybe I could just focus a little bit more. It is very difficult to understand. I want to talk a little bit about a friend of Zimmerman's that appeared on Soledad's show and what he said about crime in that community.

CHO: That's right and again, you know, everybody is taking small details of this story and using it to bolster whatever side they're on, right?

So, we did speak to a man, Soledad did, earlier this week, named Frank Taaffe, neighbor of George Zimmerman. He lives in the community. A former neighborhood watch block captain and here's what he said to Soledad about crime in the area, watch --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRANK TAAFFE, FORMER NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH BLOCK CAPTAIN: We had eight burglaries in our neighborhood all perpetrated by young black males in the 15 months prior to Trayvon being shot. One of those -- it would have been nine -- excuse me, there would have been nine.

But George Zimmerman through his efforts of being a neighborhood watch captain helped stop one in progress, documented in the 911 calls February 2nd, my house was being robbed.

And George on his nightly rounds watched this burglary in progress, called Sanford PD, waited for them, and helped ensure that nothing bad happened to my house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: So, if you listen carefully, you heard this man, Frank Taaffe, said that Zimmerman stopped a robbery in progress. Did he? CNN did some digging into this and according to Sanford police records there were eight robberies in that housing development in the 14 months prior to the Trayvon shooting.

Four of them involved black male suspects and another four, unidentified suspects. Now, there is also this 911 call dated three weeks before Trayvon was killed.

Police were called to an address that matches that man, Frank Taaffe's address after the caller said that they saw a black male near the home. But when police were called to the address, no one was there.

BANFIELD: One more piece of the puzzle that hopefully ultimately will be built for this case.

CHO: That's right.

BANFIELD: If it ends up as a case. Alina Cho, thank you for that.

CHO: You bet.

BANFIELD: It's 10 minutes past 6:00 on the east coast.

And still ahead, Mitt Romney three for three last night anyway and he's more than halfway towards a victory at this point. So Rick Santorum says hang on there. It's me going to be doing the sweeping soon. But is this thing ever going to end? We'll talk about Rick Santorum's home state coming up.

SAMBOLIN: And a member of the president's inner circle seduced by a spy? The FBI quickly responding to a new British documentary that says, yes. You are watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: It's 13 minutes now past 6:00 and after pulling off a triple-header primary sweep in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., Mitt Romney is more than halfway there.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, indeed.

BANFIELD: Please, please.

SAMBOLIN: We want it to end.

BANFIELD: I kind of do. I kind of do. I just want to get to the big race, you know? So here's the deal, he's almost there, about to grab the Republican nomination and the big prize was Wisconsin last night at 42 delegates in total.

Those are critical winner-take all delegates and the final count was Romney, 42 percent, Santorum, 38 percent and then there's Paul and Gingrich. It's almost not worth mentioning I hate to say these days.

In Maryland 37 delegates, Romney had 49 percent of the vote to Santorum's 29 percent of the votes and he took those delegates too, and in Washington, D.C., 16 delegates last night at stake and it was a total routing, look at your screen, 70 percent in favor of Romney.

And you know what? Santorum is not even on the leader board there because he wasn't even on the ballot. So, that would mean he gets all the delegates there. And all told, it's a lot of delegates. Almost 100.

Romney is now seemingly ignoring his GOP rivals and sticking with the whole look-ahead strategy and zeroing in on the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president has pledged to transform America. And he spent the last four years laying the foundation for a new government-centered society. I will spend the next four years rebuilding the foundation of an opportunity society led by free people and free enterprises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: All right. Well, here are the numbers that really count the very most, our latest CNN delegate count. And Mitt Romney is well past the halfway point. He needs 1,144, but he's got 648. Two hundred and thirty-one total delegates are at stake in another three weeks when there's the next set of primaries. New York and Pennsylvania, by the way, are going to be the big kahunas when those go to vote on April the 24th.

CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is live for us in Washington, D.C.

You know, I feel like a broken record sometimes when I say, wow, he's got the momentum, but this seemed to be the one. Please, God. This seemed to be the one, Paul Steinhauser, that was really going to deliver the momentum, the bragging rights and everything that needed -- that Mitt Romney needed to move on to the main race, the presidential race. Is that happening?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It is happening, because the conversation, Ashleigh, really is changing from Romney/Santorum, to Romney/Obama. We're really moving into a general election kind of conversation. Now, you saw that with the president's comments yesterday really going after Mitt Romney.

But Rick Santorum -- listen, Rick Santorum said he's marching on regardless. Take a listen to what he said last night in Pennsylvania where he had his H.Q.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've now reached the point where it's halftime, half the delegates in this process have been selected. And who's ready to charge out of the locker room in Pennsylvania for a strong second half?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEINHAUSER: And let's take a look at that calendar, Ashleigh, you were just mentioning it, three weeks from now and that's an eternity. Three weeks in campaign politics is an eternity. You got five contests and most of them look like Romney country except for Pennsylvania, of course, Rick Santorum's home state where his once big leads in the polls, though, definitely disappearing.

What Santorum is doing is looking ahead to May. Let's got to the May calendar, because we've got a lot of states that are more Southern states, more conservative, and Santorum says, you know what? I can do well there. They include Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia on the 8th, Nebraska on the 15th, Arkansas and Kentucky on the 22nd, and Texas with a lot of delegates at the end of the month.

And let's go back four years ago, Hillary Clinton won five of the final eight contests against President Barack Obama in their marathon match for the Democratic nomination. You know what? In the end, it didn't matter.

BANFIELD: It didn't.

STEINHAUSER: Listen, Romney, according to our estimates, Ashleigh, he only needs to win 44 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination. It's pretty much done deal.

BANFIELD: Well, yesterday, Rick Santorum needed I think the numbers were 72 percent of the remaining delegates in order to be able to clinch the nomination and by today, that number now almost 80 percent. So, it's just getting tougher and tougher.

STEINHAUSER: Exactly.

BANFIELD: But you know what? I don't know if anybody was mentioning this, but there was a clear winner last night, someone did clinch a nomination last night.

SAMBOLIN: You're right.

BANFIELD: And no one seems to mention it. What was it, Paul Steinhauser? Break the news.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, President Barack Obama went over the top, it was a nail-biter but he did clinch the Democratic presidential nomination according to CNN estimates.

(CROSSTALK)

STEINHAUSER: Yes, it was close. It was close.

BANFIELD: Why do they bother with that? I always wonder about that. What's the point? Why do people even turn out?

STEINHAUSER: Rules are rules and they do have primaries on the Democratic side because it's not just about the battle for the presidency, there are other seats up as well. So, yes, that's right. They hold these even when there's no contest on the presidential side of the party.

BANFIELD: Paul Steinhauser, great to talk to you. Thank you. And I hope you get a break between now and 24th of April.

STEINHAUSER: See you in three weeks.

SAMBOLIN: OK. He's filling in, remember?

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Eighteen minutes past the hour.

Time to check the stories making news this morning. Here's Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: (AUDIO GAP) Dallas area surveying the damage from Mother Nature. As many as 13 tornadoes ripped through north Texas yesterday, that powerful storm leveling hundreds of homes, lifting big rigs into the air.

Incredible video shows tractor-trailers, that's right, being tossed around like toys. One witness said the scene was like the "Wizard of Oz." For all that damage, guys, there are no reported deaths.

A British documentary claims Russian spy Anna Chapman was close to seducing an unnamed cabinet member in the Obama administration. U.S. officials this morning are denying that claim. This documentary quotes a top FBI official who says Chapman was so close to seducing the sitting cabinet member the bureau had to step in and warn him.

It was 44 years ago today that civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. was shot to death in Memphis. The city is honoring King this afternoon by finally naming a street in his name. Officials have chosen a one-mile section of Linden Avenue where King led a march in support of striking sanitation workers, ladies.

BANFIELD: Thank you, Christine.

It's now 20 minutes past 6:00.

And still ahead, I'd like to see the debate between Christine Romans and Joe Biden, because Joe Biden has been making a promise that the president may not be able to deliver. All about gaffes, folks.

SAMBOLIN: Gas prices.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): In the movie "Minority Report," actor Tom Cruise tracks down would-be criminals in the year 2054.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: SCPD (ph) blue and white.

SAMBOLIN: Police in Santa Cruz, California, are turning sci-fi into reality. They are using an algorithm, a complicated math equation to predict crimes before they happen.

ZACH FRIEND, CRIME ANALYST, SANTA CRUZ POLICE: People tend to burglarize more than one time, even during the same time of the day or the same days of the week.

SAMBOLIN: The program generates 10 hot spots map each day, letting officers know when and where a crime is likely to occur.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a 60 percent likelihood of a residential burglary that we'll go to now.

SAMBOLIN: With police departments facing budget cuts across the country, the system gives them another tool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since 2000, we've lost about 20 percent of our overall staff. Yet, calls for service have gone up by 30 percent.

SAMBOLIN: Santa Cruz police say the program led to 13 arrests last year and they also saw an 11 percent drop in burglaries.

The Los Angeles Police Department is also following suit. In three months, they found the algorithm twice as accurate as crime analysts in predicting crime.

FRIEND: I really just see this as the future of law enforcement.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: It is 25 minutes past the hour. We are minding your business this morning.

Gas prices going up. The national average for a gallon of gas -- you know, I'm smiling about this, I apologize for telling you, but I have to -- $3.93, rising for the fourth time in four days, however. This is according to AAA.

BANFIELD: Half a cent, that's a bit of a steep one overnight.

Christine Romans, I've never complained about half a penny so much unless I see it nightly on gas prices.

ROMANS: I know. And half a penny is never so more political than right now, quite honestly. I mean, this is something you're going to hear it on the campaign trail, you're going to hear about how close these candidates are to the oil lobby and what they want to do and who is to blame for getting oil prices up and how to get them back down.

And Joe Biden, the vice president, yesterday was out on the campaign trail and he spent 12 minutes, 12 solid minutes, talking about why gas prices are so high. And then he made this prediction --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oil prices will come down, gas prices will come down. Whether it's in two months or a year, whenever they do, they'll come down. I'm sure as the devil they'll come down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: As sure as the devil --

ROMANS: They'll come down. And he said, by golly, as sure as a devil, I need the gas prices to come down, right? Because this is something pretty important overall. We just polled people asking in those report problems facing the country. This was March 24th and 25th, gas prices are getting more and more important.

More people are saying this is an important problem facing the country, but number one is still unemployment. Unemployment is still number one. You can see between now and December the number of people are saying that's the most important worry was more than half in December and now, it's 37 percent. The deficit is number two.

And then look at gas prices, it went from a 6 percent problem to 20 percent of people say the gas prices. So, what the candidates are looking at are those numbers, what people are thinking about gas prices, even as the jobs situation improves. Look at the jobs report on Friday, by the way. And if the --

BANFIELD: It's job one.

ROMANS: The big one. And if the job market is still healing but gas prices are still going up, you're going to be hearing more talk about gas prices rather than jobs.

SAMBOLIN: Well, I think part of the issue is, too, you are telling us that we're going to see potentially $5 and we have to totally change the way we budget.

ROMANS: Yes. It's interesting. Yesterday, an executive for Ford was saying that $5 was the new $4.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my God.

ROMANS: We've been already been to $4 before. But no, but $5 is now -- that's the pain point for consumers. It used to be $4, now it's $5. And it's a political point.

BANFIELD: I'm calling -- I'm going to say it right here. I want to be on record. I'm calling for a debate between Joe Biden and Christine Romans here on CNN.

ROMANS: Well, he's -- for 12 minutes he talked about gas prices. I can't talk about gas prices that long. I only got a minute-and-a-half.

SAMBOLIN: And you did a fine job. Thank you very much.

Twenty-seven minutes past the hour here --

BANFIELD: I'll go on record. You did better. Thanks, Christine.

SAMBOLIN: And still to come on EARLY START, Texas twisters on TV. Look at that, folks. We're going to show you more incredible video of the powerful storms as they unfolded live on television.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

BANFIELD: Nice to have you here on EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

It's time to check the stories that are making news this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Large tornado on the ground. Large tornado! Large tornado on the ground!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: The cleanup effort is under way in Texas after tornadoes tore through the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. A lot of damage.

Look at this, though, tossing tractor-trailers through the air, destroying hundreds of homes, damaging schools and dozens of planes as well.

BANFIELD: Also, "Stand Your Ground" is under fire. That's the law that may have allowed George Zimmerman to shoot Trayvon Martin and then walk free. We're going to talk to a lawmaker who is now vowing to get rid of it.

SAMBOLIN: Smugglers steal some sweet rides and they are outsmarted, guess by who? By a thing. By a car. More than a dozen stolen luxury cars would have been gone for good if it wasn't for GPS.

BANFIELD: And she said she heard screaming and it sounded like someone was going to have a baby. And guess what? That someone had a baby!

A veteran flight attendant helped to deliver a baby on a plane. You're going to hear from the hero, smiling away for good reason. That's coming up in a moment.

SAMBOLIN: Ah. Glad that that ended well, right?

BANFIELD: I know.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Residents in Texas are cleaning up today after as many as 13 tornadoes. They swept across the state yesterday afternoon, leaving a path of destruction. Amazingly, no deaths have been reported, but there was significant damage, including this twister that was caught on camera lifting trailers off the ground. Some of them actually may weigh over 20,000 pounds and it just tossed them hundreds of feet into the air.

America watched as the events unfolded live on television, and YouTube and other social media flooded with amazing images of the storms. The details have become more clear as the National Weather Service and local authorities continue to survey the damage there.

And joining us now from Arlington, Texas, Republican Congressman Michael Burgess of the state's 26th district who was in the area yesterday when the storm hit.

So, we're happy to see you. You look like you're OK. Exactly where were you when the storm hit?

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TEXAS: Well, I was in my district office north of the airport. This is south of the airport where clearly the zone of destruction is much larger. But it -- you know, the pictures we've seen on TV that have been replayed all night really attest to the power of this storm as it came through.

This is a densely, densely populated area here. So this is one of the things we always fear. This could have been of a much worse event thanks to all the people who worked so hard to prepare for this. Thanks to our weather forecasters who told people what was coming and to get out of the way.

It's just amazing to me that the damage as severe as it is that the loss of life was not staggering as well.

SAMBOLIN: No, we're certainly happy to hear that as well. What did you experience when the storm hit?

BURGESS: Where I was, it was hail and heavy, heavy rain. We really couldn't see anything. It's not like you could look out and see a twister on the horizon because the rain shield was just so intense. The lightning was intense and the hail was pretty brutal as well.

SAMBOLIN: You know, we're taking a look at a tractor-trailer there -- a trailer that was actually lifted up and, you know, flying through the air. It actually looked like a toy and I heard somebody say that there was a cloud of debris also. But luckily there are not many injuries.

BURGESS: That's correct. And, again, credit to the people who were forecasting, the first responders in the area. Obviously, there's a lot of work that's going to go on in about an hour's time when daylight comes here.

A lot of assessment needs to be done, but we're all so thankful this morning. This could have been much worse.

SAMBOLIN: No, absolutely. You represent the 26th district of Texas. It includes Ft. Worth but not Dallas. What are the reports you're getting from across the area? What kind of damage are they --

BURGESS: The things that I --

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

BURGESS: Well, the cities that I represent really fared OK. But obviously there's a lot of damage around.

SAMBOLIN: And what kind of cleanup and recovery efforts are under way right now?

BURGESS: Well, I mean, as you can see from the home behind me and it's -- I mean, this is going to require a lot of work. The amazing thing is, this is a very densely populated neighborhood. There was not more damage.

So, the damage is sporadic and it's going to take a while for people to go through and sort through where the storm tracks were and where the damage occurred.

SAMBOLIN: We know that in about 10 days here, you're hosting a summit for preparedness. Is this kind of crazy weather, something that you're used to in the area and that's why perhaps we don't see more people that were hurt here or perhaps even lost their lives?

BURGESS: Well, no question about it, providence played a big role in there not being more damage than there was as far as the human toll. Yes, we do a preparedness summit every spring. This is -- this is Texas, in north Texas. If we didn't have crazy weather, we wouldn't have any weather. So, you do have to -- you do have to know about what can come your way during the months of the spring months in Texas.

SAMBOLIN: Well, Congressman, we certainly wish you a lot of luck and with the cleanup efforts in that area. Thank you for joining us this morning.

BURGESS: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Boy, and isn't that the word of the day? Providence playing such a big role. Such luck for them as well.

And, yes, north Texas is a tough place to be when those sirens go off, you know it.

SAMBOLIN: You know, Alexandra yesterday was saying that they are used to these kind of crazy shifts and swings in weather but I was curious about all the volume of tornadoes that they're seeing, is that something that happens?

BANFIELD: When I lived there we used to say the tornado belt was north of us, Oklahoma and the like. And I tend to think that now the tornado belt can certainly include north Texas.

(CROSSSTALK)

BANFIELD: -- are shifting. No question.

Thirty-six minutes past 6:00 on the East Coast. And up next, are you ready for these tools? Someone called out for a scissors, flashlight, and a vodka, do you think they'd be delivering a baby? Because a hero flight attendant did just that with the help of a couple of friends. And look at the smile on both of them.

We'll explain.

First, though, a quick check of today's weather with Alexandra Steele, in for Rob Maricano.

Hi, Alexandra.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi. Good morning.

Well, if you are traveling today and especially travelling to or through Texas, of course, you may be impacted with travel. Six hundred flights canceled yesterday at DFW, over 100 planes impacted with hail damage. Certainly some travel delays.

Here's the bull's eye today, a little bit farther east than yesterday. Tennessee really in the bull's eye, Memphis, Nashville, down toward New Orleans and Birmingham, some wet snow in northern New England, no accumulation there. Milder in the Northern Plains and rain and mountain snow in the Pacific Northwest.

Of course, more on the Texas tornadoes and, again, the bull's eye today, where it is and what we could see -- all coming up right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Good morning, Miami. Beautiful morning. Seventy- five degrees as you wake up, and later, a couple of clouds will take away some of that heat, but you are going up to 88 degrees. Could be worse, though, could have rain. It doesn't look too bad there this morning.

There's a move in Florida today to speed up the review of that state's "Stand Your Ground" law. That's the controversial law that's at the center of the Trayvon Martin killing.

Florida's Governor Rick Scott says that he wants a task force to examine the law but not until after the Trayvon Martin investigation is complete.

State Senator Chris Smith says there's too much at stake to wait. So, he's convening his own task force tomorrow. He joins me now live from Tallahassee.

Senator, thanks very much for being with us. I want to ask you what you hope to accomplish with your own individual task force that you're convening right away.

CHRIS SMITH, FLORIDA STATE SENATOR: Well, I've assembled a lot of legal minds in south Florida -- states attorneys, public defenders, law professors and others that have been studying this law for the past eight years because it's been on the books way before the Trayvon Martin incident. And I hope to get all these legal minds together and look at the ramifications of what we've done and possibly come up with some changes to the law so that we can set the parameters of a civilized society here in Florida.

BANFIELD: And I think a lot of people respect that. But at the same time might say, well, what's wrong with allowing the governor to continue with his move and his task force? And why do you think the governor's waiting until the Trayvon Martin investigation's over?

SMITH: Well, to answer the first part, I don't really see a reason for the governor to wait. Lives are at stake as you see from the Trayvon Martin case that this law is being used and even subsequent to what happened in Sanford, two weeks ago in Miami, a gentleman chased a robber a block down the street, stabbed him to death, and was released and let go because of the "Stand Your Ground".

So, this is a public safety issue, and to wait until after this one sensational case doesn't make sense. We're elected to act. We're elected to lead, not to wait and hide behind a case.

But to the second part of your question, I really don't know if there's a motive for him doing that. But the problem is, you know, we're elected to lead and we need to lead now and not just wait for some case.

BANFIELD: Do you see potentially, Senator Smith, using a very, very sensitive political issue right now to inflame something that really is a critical issue for a lot of people? There are a lot of people who are concerned about "Stand Your Ground" but not necessarily perhaps because of this particular case.

SMITH: Right. So and that's my point. This has been an issue before that case, and this is going to continue to be an issue, and so what I've assembled a legal mind --

BANFIELD: But why time it to the case? I think that's my point. I don't question your motive in actually questioning the law, because you were on record way early on back when this law got under way, you were on the record way early on with the statistics. And you were against this law, so I can understand what your motives are.

What I want to know is your timing -- do you think it could be dangerous to time your task force at a time when there's such political heated rhetoric about this particular case?

SMITH: No. Quite the contrary. I think now is the time, because of the Trayvon Martin case, a lot more people are learning about this law and learning misinformation about this law.

I now have people throughout the state thinking, "OK, I'm a homeowners association captain, maybe I should carry a gun." Or there are a lot of people in the state saying, "Well, I didn't really know I had this right to go out and provoke something and shoot someone." So, there's a lot of misinformation. So, I think the timing is perfect, and we need to educate the public and let them know the parameters of this law and really look -- see if we need to close in the parameters of this law because of all the publicity from the Trayvon Martin case.

I think the timing is perfect to have a grown-up discussion and educate the public about this law and other things.

BANFIELD: One last quick comment, Senator Martin, and that is, what if the Trayvon Martin case ends up proving out in a court of law to actually represent a situation in which the shooter did act in a justifiable way according to law? I'm not suggesting that's going to happen. Do not put me on record that way one way or the other.

What I'm trying to -- I think you know where I'm coming from. What I'm trying to suggest is, what if it turns out to be after all has said and done and this country has been up and arms on either side of this issue, that George Zimmerman did act in a lawful way under stand your ground, and yet, we pegged this entire hearing or at least this entire task force to this particular timing in this case?

SMITH: And that's the point and that's why I'm -- I'm kind of disturbed that the government's waiting. Stand your ground has been used for eight years. And there have been questionable instances for eight years beyond the Trayvon Martin case. So, even given the scenario just for argument, even if it turns out the way you say in the Trayvon Martin that it could, there's a lot more concern with this law that 22 other states have.

And so, the Trayvon Martin case has shone the light on this law that we must revisit and take a look at and maybe send a message to other states that you have this law on the books that can be misused in these ways.

BANFIELD: All right.

SMITH: And so, no matter what happens in the Trayvon Martin case, this is necessary.

BANFIELD: Well, Senator Chris Smith, I hope you'll come back and join us and share some of your findings with us. It's great to talk to you the first time around, even better to talk to you now and I look forward to our next outing.

SMITH: Always look forward to, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Thank you, Senator. Thank you. You, too -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: It is 47 minutes past the hour. Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on "Starting Point." Good morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Hey, Zoraida, good morning to you. Starting in about ten minutes on "STARTING POINT" this morning, we're going to talk to Senator John McCain. He'll join us live. As you well know, he was one of Mitt Romney's early supporters. After the sweep last night, we're going to ask him what is the strategy for Mitt Romney now.

Also, we'll take a look at a stunning new study about how kids view race. We talked to one little boy. He's six years old and says his mother won't allow him to have white friends. So, I took the results of that test. What he said straight to his mom and dad. We'll tell you what they said.

Plus, the Masters teeing of tomorrow in Augusta National once again under pressure to allow a woman in. We'll tell you why it's even stronger pressure this time around. EARLY START is back right after the break. We'll see you at "Starting Point" at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Fifty minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning. Here's Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Good morning, Zoraida and Ashleigh. This morning, parts of North Texas looking like it was hit by a wrecking ball.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): Many as 13 tornadoes touched down in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area leveling homes and lifting big rigs right off the ground. More than 100 planes at DFW airport, a major air traffic hub, of course, they were damaged by hail the size of tennis balls.

A Tuesday night trifecta for Mitt Romney. The GOP frontrunner sweeping primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. He's now well past the halfway mark toward clinching the nomination. Rick Santorum still vowing to stay in the race. He said May is the month that's rich in delegates for him.

Ratted out by a Ferrari. U.S. Customs and Border Protection recovered more than a dozen stolen luxury cars and trucks worth more than $1.5 million. They were loaded up in containers to ship to Hong Kong and Vietnam. This bust was the result of a GPS signal that was given off by a Ferrari that led inspectors right to those containers.

A veteran flight attendant helps deliver a baby at 30,000 feet. Susan Carnes sprang into action when she saw a passenger in the late stages of labor. She grabbed some gloves and scissors, sterilized in a cup of vodka and got right to work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN CARNES, FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Having been there myself, I knew that, OK, we're having a baby, let's get ready.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Wow. An obstetrician also happened to be onboard actually doing most of the work. Mother and baby boy are both doing quite well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: What are the odds, an obstetrician is on board?

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: A cup of vodka. Having been there myself, I never would have thought of any of that.

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: Thank you. Thank you, Christine.

BANFIELD: Thank you, Christine. The lovely and still (INAUDIBLE), Christine Romans.

6:52 now on the east coast. Firefighters going above and beyond the call of duty. You are going to love this mega millions story. Talk about generous, talk about caring, and they're talking about a colleague! We're going to tell you why. It's all about a life- threatening illness and it's awesome.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Time to look at what is trending on the web.

Fresh off the airport that airlines deliver their best customer service in decades. A bit of a reality check time. "U.S. News & World Report" is out with the list of America's meanest airlines, soaring baggage fees and fares and illuminating free food were major factors in improving their bottom line and major factors in your frustration. The major carriers led the way. Number one was United Airlines, number two, Continental. The top two are now the same airline, because they merged. Number three on the list, American Airlines. United Airlines had the highest rate of complaints in 2011, late arrivals and the number of lost or damaged bags also shot up for that airline.

People were frustrated. Here's an opportunity for them to do better, right?

BANFIELD: Oh, yes, definitely.

Do you do the Google street view thing?

SAMBOLIN: I do.

BANFIELD: I love it. And if you love it, you're going to get a little treat if you go to the Google -- go to the Google! Just go to the Google! Because they've gone into the White House now and they're taking you on a virtual tour following the same route of that public walking tour that you would take if you were actually there yourself.

They use the same 360-degree cameras to do the documenting of it. They go through the museums and galleries. It's all at the Google art project. So, you can head over there, go to the White House page, actually just Google tour White House art project, you will get there and it is worth every second you are there.

SAMBOLIN: Can't wait to see it.

All right. A group of firefighters in New Mexico winning $10,000 in last week's record $656 mega millions lottery, and they are donating a chunk of their winnings to help save the life of one of their own.

BANFIELD: It's such a great story. It's the best lotto story out there. The 24-year-old Albuquerque firefighter named Vince Cordova (ph) is battling a rare and aggressive brain tumor that is going to kill him if it's not removed, but the surgery costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, his colleagues have been working hard to raise money to help cover the cost of the surgery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JED HYLAND, FIREFIGHTER: When we found out we'd won the lottery, it was decided almost immediately that we should try and follow in the footsteps of some of the golf tournament and other things that have been done to generate some awareness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Man.

SAMBOLIN: Cordova says he is overwhelmed by the compassion and all of the support. I hope we have a link here in case people want to help as well. I'll put that on Facebook for you and send it out on Twitter.

BANFIELD: Isn't that just the best -- you hear all these lotto stories about people squabbling and fighting over stealing the winning ticket and the lotto pool, and then, you have the folks in Albuquerque, the firefighters doing that. So, we wish them the best.

That's EARLY START, the news from "A" to "Z." I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.

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