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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/26/15

Guests: Paul Vance, Frank McCarton

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: All right, that is ALL IN for this evening. Two hours from when all vehicles except for essential emergency vehicles have to be off of the road here in New York City. With that, I hand it off to my friend and colleague, Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. And thank you at home for joining us this hour. This is totally normal, right? It is 9 o`clock right now on the East Coast where seven states in the most densely populated part of the country are in a state of emergency. As of right now 9:00 pm Eastern, no private cars are allowed on the road in the entire state of Connecticut. A full travel ban is in effect for all Connecticut roads. It applies to everybody other than emergency vehicles and first responders. It has been illegal to drive in the city of Boston for the past hour already tonight. That travel ban will extend to all of Massachusetts as of midnight tonight. In Rhode Island another travel ban tonight will go into effect at midnight and I New York City, in 13 counties, across the state of New York, including New York City, car travel will be banned as of 11:00 pm tonight. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today warning that anyone caught out on the streets of New York City or I any of the affected counties in New York can expect a $300 fine for the crime of driving during this weapon emergency. In Massachusetts, it`s an even bigger fine. Massachusetts` brand new governor, Charlie Baker says tonight that the fine for anyone caught driving after tonight`s midnight travel ban in Massachusetts will be $500 just for driving. If you want to get around by some means other than driving, you`re out of luck. Transit systems are shutting down tonight or plan to be shut tomorrow across the affected areas and it`s a very large chunk of the country affected by this storm. It`s something like 30 million Americans in the path of this giant snowstorm. To get a sense of just how big this storm is and how worried authorities are about it, consider one, a remarkable decision made today in the nation`s largest city. New York City has a long history of dealing with snowstorms, even really, really big snowstorms. New York is a resilient city that can take it, can take a lot and has dealt with a lot over its long history. In the 100-plus year history of the New York City subway system, it has never before been shut down for a snowstorm. Tonight, the New York City subway system will be shut down for this snowstorm, the first time that has ever happened in the history of the nation`s largest city. Even outside the immediately affected areas, this storm is already having some knock-on national effects. When thousands of flights were canceled today throughout the Northeast, that created big disruptive ripples throughout air travel across the country. This is the misery map showing flight cancellations of website FlightAware posted this thing online. These are the largest airports around the country, green on this map means that flights are on time, red means cancellations and delays. Obviously New York City is all but entirely shut down, because it`s right in the middle of this storm system, but places like Denver or San Francisco, they`re not affected by the storm directly, but they have a huge portion of their flights canceled as well, just because of connections to the East Coast that are now not going to happen. So the air travel effects of this are nationwide. They will take a long time to unwind. Even in politics, tonight in the House of Representatives, they called off their votes that had been scheduled tonight in the House. It`s not because D.C. itself is getting walloped, D.C. will probably only end up getting a few inches of snow from this storm, but there are so many members of Congress from the Northeast, from the affected region, from this storm that scheduling votes tonight just didn`t make sense for people being able to get in and out of Washington. Incidentally, I should tell you the cancellation of the votes in the House tonight is also probably going to give the Republicans a very convenient out for their anti-immigration bill which they thought they would pass this week but it started falling apart on their own side. Now they have a very great excuse for delaying the vote without it being too painfully obvious that they just couldn`t get it together for their own bill. Basically what is going on tonight is there is a big portion of the country getting absolutely thumped with snow. The word tonight in all of the states that are getting thumped with snow is that people should just stay down. Hunker down. The word from all of the governors in all of the affected states tonight is this is not a storm you want to pick a fight with. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Do not take this lightly. I know we have gone through a number of storms and sometimes people tend to be a little casual about it. This is not a time to be casual. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), N.J.: You never know how bad these conditions are going to be. Here is one thing we know for sure. Starting later this afternoon, you should stay home if you can. You should only go out in the case of an absolute emergency or necessity. GOV. GINA RAIMONDO (D), R.I.: I have a simple message for the people of Rhode Island. Use today to prepare. The snow is coming, the storm is coming. It will be the most severe storm that we have seen in years, maybe decades and I need you to keep yourself safe and keep your loved ones safe. We have today to prepare so hunker down. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now is MSNBC meteorologist Bill Karins. Bill, thank you so much for joining us. I know it has been a big day and a big night already. What is the latest in terms of the progress of the storm? BILL KARINS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Rachel, sorry, I snuck up by you, I was supposed today be over there and I snuck up on you. I just got done looking at a lot of information. New stuff is coming in. Forecast has changed a little bit for a few areas, it`s not like storm is over, but the New York City forecast does not look quite as bad as it did. That will get a lot of headlines. Of course, at one point, Weather Service is saying 24-35. There is still a blizzard warning in effect from the Weather Service. We`ll wait and see if they make some changes when they get their update out probably sometime around 10 or 11 o`clock. But I did take New York City down from 16 to 20 inches down to 10 or 14. And we already did get 5 inches of snow in Central Park. So if you do the math on that, maybe only another 7-10, 11 inches in New York City. So it may not be the paralyzing blizzard that was once advertised. Now the storm, it is still off of the coast, we`re starting to see the winds pick up, the snow starting to pick up as those bands are coming back at us from the ocean. So, you know, it is always risky as a forecaster to make changes before you get to the peak of the storm. But a lot of our short-term data is telling us that the heavy band of snow, the one that we could get the thundersnow with, the claps of thunder in the middle of the night, will stay a little further out towards Long Island, the Providence are , up to Hartford. Hartford I lowered a little bit down to about 12 or 18. Still a significant storm. But as far as people losing power, being stuck in their homes, I think it will mostly be isolated to the eastern half of Rhode Island. Very concerned with Cape Cod`s forecast, looks a little colder and snowier now. So now they`re into the mix. So just because one area gets a little improvement, Philadelphia definitely a big improvement, New York City a little bit of improvement, it`s like a ripple effect. It`s almost a little worse now. Boston are is still getting nailed. All up to Portland, Maine, to Portsmouth area, New Hampshire, all of those areas still getting hit hard by the storm with 2-3 feet and there will still be a spot, I`m sure, somewhere, maybe in the Worcester Hills that could pick up 3 feet or plus. So it`s not like the storm is over or called off, but you know how it works, being in New York City and if New York City was saying possible historic, it ends up being a 12-inch snowfall, we`ll take heat from it regardless. (CROSSTALK) KARINS: It`s part of what we signed up for. MADDOW: It means the national impact of the storm, in terms of the effect literally on the economy, the effect on the media, all of these things that are nationalized in New York, but you`re saying you`re worried about parts of Long Island, potentially worried about Cape Cod. One of the things I was looking at with Cape Cod was the storm surge and the tides, are they worried about erosion and the height of -- ? (CROSSTALK) KARINS: Yes, this storm is not any weaker. It`s still the same strength, still having the 60-80 MPH winds. That will drive the storm surge, the waves. High tide will occur in the Cape and Eastern Mass throughout the night tonight between 3:00 am and 6:00 am. That`s when we expect a 2-4 foot storm surge. We were never saying a historic storm surge. We were not expecting waves to be into houses or washing them away like we did with Sandy or anything like that. But still we`ll get a lot of overwash. We will see some houses, especially -- there is a place called Plum Island out there that is slowly falling into the ocean regardless of what storm it is. Stuff like that we could get some dramatic pictures out of. But the storm surge and the high tide this morning we will get some headlines out of it. But I still think that when we see the worst of this storm, it will be the power outages and how long it takes to get the power back on for the people in Eastern New England when the wind chill is in the single digits and people are stuck in their homes maybe until Thursday and Friday. They may not be able to leave their homes because of the snowbanks. It`s not like they can just drive to the nearest hotel. They had to get dug out first and then the power crews have to get in there. So that will be the battle. If we have life threatening weather, that`s how it will happen. MADDOW: Bill Karins, thank you for being here. It will be a long time. (CROSSTALK) KARINS: Sorry for sneaking up on you. MADDOW: It was kind of exciting actually. There was this man in black looming out of the dark. KARINS: (INAUDIBLE) your security detail. MADDOW: This is very good. I have security? Thank you. All right. We`re going to do sort of a whip-around now in terms of some of the affected states. We`re going to Connecticut now to talk to Lt. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police. Lieutenant Vance, thanks very much for being with us tonight. LT. PAUL VANCE, CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE: Sure, Rachel. Pleasure to be with you. MADDOW: Can you give us a update on the security situation in terms of the roads, power outages and things like that in Connecticut and what you`re expecting overnight? VANCE: We`re still looking at the forecast as predicted. We`re getting heavy snowfall, the DOT is out doing what they can. DPW out doing the local roads. We`re certainly anticipating what`s been predicted, that we`re going to continue receiving heavy snowfall in our state. MADDOW: Lt. Vance, I know there was a travel ban instituted and announced by the governor relatively early in the day, telling people to be off the roads in Connecticut by 9:00. There was no end date announced for that. How long do you anticipate the travel ban being in effect? And how many resources do you anticipate having to use to enforce that? VANCE: I think it was absolutely perfect to institute that simply because we needed to make sure the roads were clear to be able to have our highway crews keep the roads open and keep up with the storm. Most of our customers, the people of Connecticut and the people that would travel into Connecticut are heeding that warning and are making it accessible for DOT to do their work. We don`t know how long it will take for this storm to get through. Certainly it has been forecasted and predicted. But we`re in a wait and see mode to see exactly what occurs with this storm. MADDOW: Lieutenant Vance with the Connecticut State Police, thanks very much for being with us. And stay in touch with us over the course of the night. I know it`s going to be a long one. VANCE: Thank you very much. MADDOW: Thank you, sir. Joining us now on the phone is Frank McCarton. He`s the director of operations for the Department of Emergency Operations in New York City. Mr. McCarton, thanks very much for being with us tonight. Appreciate your time. FRANK MCCARTON, DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY OPERATIONS, NYC: Thank you, Rachel for having me. MADDOW: Let me ask you about the revised forecast totals that we just heard about from MSNBC meteorologist Bill Karins. New York City has never imposed a system-wide shut down of the subway system because of a snowstorm, was that a mistake if this turns out to be a 10-12 inch snow event instead of the larger event that had been predicted earlier in the day? MCCARTON: No, this is a serious storm. This is blizzard. New York City has only seen so many of these in the past 21st century. Public safety is the number one goal. The mayor and this office of emergency management has to protect the citizens. What we`re saying to the citizens is stay off of the roads, allow us to clear the roadways so we can get people back to work as soon as possible in the next day or so and get the system back up and running. We saw it during Sandy, protection of the system is A number one. It`s a very complex transit system and the transit authority knows that system and can make those decisions. MADDOW: When do you think transit systems will be back up and running at this point if it is a 10-12 inch snow event, which is not unprecedented in this city? Does that give you any guide as to when things might be back to normal in terms of people`s commutes? MCCARTON: No, I do not. We`re looking at a crystal ball here. We have not seen the worst of this storm. We`re being told by our National Weather Service, the meteorologists, that the intensity of the storm will increase. The first time you`re telling me that it`s going to decrease, I have not seen those, that data. But, you know, we can clean up here pretty quick. Our sanitation department with the MTA officials can clean those tracks and get people back and running. So once the snow stops and we can get, that`s why it is important for people to stay off of the roads right now. If they stay off of the roads and get home, we can prepare for the worst. If it`s the best tomorrow when you and I wake up in the big city here that we live in, then we`re doing much better than we were last night. MADDOW: Yes. Overprepare instead of underprepare. MCCARTON: Yes, because otherwise we got to be ready. And that`s what we do in this business, emergency management. That`s what it`s all about. MADDOW: Frank McCarton, deputy commissioner, New York City Emergency Management, thank you for being with us tonight, I know it will be a long night, sir, thank you. MCCARTON: Yes, it will be. Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. Appreciate it. We have more ahead as we track this storm up and down the East Coast. We`ll have live reports from several locations. Weather legend Al Roker will join us a bit later. And of course, because it`s us, there`s always the potential for political follow up from a big storm like this and how it is handled by those in charge. Stay with us. It`s a big, cold night ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: Mr. Mayor, I just wanted to seek clarity on the 11:00 pm rule. That applies to any sort of taxicab or car service and there are a few folks on social media wondering about food delivery bicycles, whether they might be allowed out? MAYOR: A food delivery bicycle is not an emergency vehicle, so, no. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: I just ran in from outside. I can`t feel my hands. So If I do something unusual with them, I can`t be held accountable. All right, so -- it is cold out there. New York City is the largest city in the country. Los Angeles is the second largest city in the country. Chicago is the third largest city in the country. In the history of our country there has only been one woman who was mayor of one of those cities. In 1979, that`s when she was elected, her name was Jane Byrne. She was elected mayor of Chicago. She got that job, she became the only female mayor ever of one of the country`s three largest cities largely because of a snowstorm. The incumbent mayor, a guy named Michael Bilandic, had the misfortune of being mayor of Chicago in the winter of 1978-1979, terrible winger. And there was a particularly huge snowstorm in January 1979. And Mayor Bilandic just could not get it done for that storm. The roads didn`t get plowed; train system got snowed in. He tried to put a brave face on it and tried to say everything was in hand, everything was fine, but it really very obviously wasn`t. And Chicago threw him out on his ear. Two months after that storm, they threw him out. In the Democratic primary for mayor which is really all that mattered in Chicago at the time, Jane Byrne defeated the incumbent mayor just a few weeks after he botched that snowstorm. That`s the one time that one of the three largest cities in America every elected a woman to be mayor. Snowstorms themselves do not have politics. But snowstorms often can have a big political impact. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The state of emergency continues in Boston. People are not permitted to drive their cars and almost everything is closed. The governor says it is worse than the hurricane of `38. MICHAEL DUKAKIS, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: Well, `38 hurricane obviously was obviously a mess, but what we`ve had here is a hurricane plus a blizzard. And I`m not sure we`ve ever had anything quite like that. MADDOW (voice-over): The year before Jane Byrne became mayor of Chicago, it was the blizzard of 1978 in Massachusetts. And that was a defining moment for Governor Michael Dukakis and his public image. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Look at that sweater. The state of Massachusetts was totally inundated with snow in the blizzard of `78, basically shut down the whole state for three days. But Governor Dukakis was ubiquitous on local TV and local radio, keeping people apprised of what was happening and how the state was handling the disaster. Before Dukakis and the blizzard of `78, it was New York City and the giant snowstorm of 1969. Mayor John Lindsay of New York City,, 15 inches of snow fell on New York City that year but the city was not prepared at all even though that is not a overwhelming amount. Fifteen inches the city should have been able to handle. But they were not ready. Part of it was a bad weather forecast. The weather forecast that year predicted that storm would start as snow and turn to rain. It didn`t turn to rain, it stayed all snow and the city could not really handle it. They plowed some neighborhoods, they did not plow all neighborhoods and Mayor John Lindsay never lived it down. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (MUSIC PLAYING) UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Those neighborhoods are now plowed for at least three days. And they are angry. When Lindsay goes out there, to walk the streets, he goes out and he walks the streets of Queens and he is heckled. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): By that time, they were throwing snowballs, which is a great symbol of the (INAUDIBLE) John Lindsay, get out of our neighborhoods. This is what you`ve done to us. And he is now in four feet of snow. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): John Lindsay didn`t cause the snowstorm, but he sent a message (INAUDIBLE) that they didn`t matter as much. They didn`t matter. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): We move as fast as we can. It`s a very heavy snowfall and a very wet one and it needs bulldozers. The ordinary plowing equipment is only partially effective. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): After Mayor Lindsay made his tour of Queens yesterday, there were a lot of words being said about having more crews and more equipment out in this area to clean up these streets and have them open for traffic, but it will take more than conversation to convince the residents here at 241st Street that something is actually being done. MADDOW (voice-over): It tells you something about the management of storms like this. The blizzard of `78 that Michael Dukakis dealt with in Massachusetts, that one even now gets called the blizzard of `78. But that snowstorm that crippled New York City nearly a decade before that, that snowstorm that crippled not just New York City in general but specifically Queens, that snowstorm doesn`t get called the blizzard of 1969, that is called the Lindsay snowstorm, like it`s his fault, like he did it. In 1982 it was Denver that was totally overwhelmed by a storm that hit on Christmas Eve. The mayor of Denver had been in office for 14 years when that storm hit. But when the city could not handle that storm at Christmas time, Denver threw him out and elected Federico Pena just a few months later. In 1987, it was D.C. D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was in L.A., he was staying at the Beverly Hills Hilton and getting ready to go to the Super Bowl in Southern California that year while back home his city got thumped by a snowstorm. In 2010, New York City got hit with a Christmas Day that left roads unplowed for days. Hundreds of people were stuck in a dark cold subway train that was marooned on the tracks for seven hours. There was a backlog of over 1,000 9-1-1 calls. And for that storm, Mayor Mike Bloomberg was in Bermuda. His staffers didn`t want to say it publicly that he was in Bermuda, but he was in Bermuda. Here is the thing though, Mike Bloomberg is not remembered in terms of his mayoral tenure for being AWOL in Bermuda during that Christmas snowstorm. That Denver mayor and that Chicago mayor, they both got turfed out after mishandling big storms. But Michael Dukakis also got turfed out after the blizzard of `78 and he actually did pretty well with that one. Marion Barry paid no price for blowing it during the Super Bowl snowstorm that he sat out at the Beverly Hills Hilton. Even old John Lindsay got pelted by snowballs and they named the snowstorm after his incompetence in 1969. But then later that same year John Lindsay got reelected. It`s a mixed bag. (END VIDEO CLIP) Tonight, New York City and Boston may get some of the largest snowfalls they have experienced as cities. The range of cities getting walloped runs from Philly to Maine, hitting every major Northeast and New England city on its way. What does it take to be good at governing through something like this? And who`s done it right? Joining us now is the great Steve Kornacki, the host of "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI." Steve, thanks very much for joining us. STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Sure, happy to do it. MADDOW: I mostly wanted you here because I wanted you to see the Michael Dukakis -- KORNACKI: That was wonderful. I get the sweater every time. MADDOW: He is a Von Trapp. (CROSSTALK) (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Is there either a gold standard or the opposite of a gold standard in terms of municipal governance and leadership for big storms like this? KORNACKI: Yes, I think there is two components of it generally. The ones who were seen as doing it successfully. One is that things have to run smoothly. To a certain expect that is not in your control. For instance, you saw the John Lindsay thing from 1969. Part of the story in 1969 is that Lindsay had really poor relations with a lot of city employees, certainly with cops, maybe with sanitation workers, too. There was a lot of speculation that around `69 the sanitation workers basically said we`re going to screw Lindsay over with this one, maybe we`re going to miss streets and miss a few neighborhoods, maybe we`re going to take our time on this one. And that sort of compounded his political problems. So first of all, you can`t have neighborhoods not getting plowed. That`s the basic part of it. The other thing is communication, it`s public communication. It`s being very visible. It`s giving the appearance of being in control. I have ordered this, I have authorized this, I have asked for this, you know, sorts of requests like that, being on television, Michael Dukakis in that `78 storm in Massachusetts, local radio, local television. He was on it constantly. And of course in `78 there was no cable TV. There`s no Internet. So everybody in Eastern Massachusetts is sitting there. They can`t go out on the roads. They have their radio tuned in to WBZ or whatever and they`re hearing Michael Dukakis and he is this calming presence through the whole storm. MADDOW: Is the political communication skills end up being not just helpful to your legacy, but also literally helpful to people. I think one of the things that happened in the last five years or so when there is a public emergency or event, where people are really tuning in to hear from leaders, we get a long list of thank yous where they thank all of the agencies and I`m sure it matters for the smooth functioning of government. It doesn`t much matter to individual people wanting to know what they should do and how they should cope for their family. KORNACKI: Right. And that could be that you take that Lindsay example so if you`re de Blasio and you`re thanking all of these heads of municipal divisions or whatever, you`re giving them public acknowledgment and you`re making maybe they`re on your team in a situation like that. But when we talk about legacy, it`s interesting because Marion Barry passed away just a few months ago. Obviously his obituary, he had a very interesting life. There was a lot in his obituary but I do remember reading in the obituary, the snowstorm made it in there. Being in L.A., being at the Super Bowl, when the city was buried in snow. So these politicians think about their legacies a lot. And it does end up coming into play for something like that. MADDOW: When you look at these things over time and I know we`re looking at them mostly in terms of the lens of the politicians, do you feel like we get better at these things over time? Do politicians and municipalities and states and cities learn from previous mistakes? KORNACKI: They definitely learn from the media standpoint. That has definitely improve. And there`s -- it`s a pageant, it`s a well choreographed pageant. (CROSSTALK) KORNACKI: Like Chris Christie a couple years ago during one of the storms, he started putting the fleece on. So governors have learned they want to look like they`re about to go brave the elements. I think Christie created a few pages in the playbook. In terms of actually handling how you run the city during the storm, a lot of times I often wonder is this a machine that runs itself in many ways? And the mayor and governor are out there, whoever, and they`re the public face on it, but how essential is the actual mayor, is the actual governor? Sometimes you wonder about that. MADDOW: Right, yes. Is there a coordinating role to be had or a figurehead? (CROSSTALK) KORNACKI: Certainly in terms of communicating messages with the public it is important. MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, the show, "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI" airs weekends 8:00 am Eastern. Steve, if you have any trouble getting home tonight, I have a couch and a liquor cabinet in my office. And you`re welcome. KORNACKI: Forget it. I`m not going home. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: All right. We have lots more ahead on this big nor`easter tonight. We have a update from the great Al Roker coming up, stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: About 9:30 right now on the East Coast. This is the latest projected path of the blizzard, making its way up the Northeast Coast tonight. And if you`ve been following maps like that all day, you can thank our National Weather Service for collecting and processing the data that gives us this kind of information. They take all that data. They run different models to project how the storm is going to behave over time. And our National Weather Service is something to be proud of. We do world- class weapon forecasting in this country. But sometimes Europe does it better. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AL ROKER, NBC METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Hurricane Sandy, a week before the storm made landfall. The American model was predicting it would continue heading out into the Atlantic. But it was the Europeans that first foresaw the devastating left hook. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We do have very good forecasting in this country, but Hurricane Sandy, as Al Roker was just explaining there, Hurricane Sandy was one important example of the European forecast just being better than the American forecasts. Part of that is just because of brute computing strength. Earlier this month with funding that was appropriated because of superstorm Sandy, our National Weather Service upgraded their super computers to put them more on par with Europe in terms of the ability to collect and process weather data. Because that just happened, that big computing upgrade just happened, tonight`s storm on the East Coast is going to be an important test case for how well our newly upgraded system performs both in absolute terms and also in comparison with the other models that are out there. The other models that have, sometimes, done a better job of predicting the track of storms in this country. Basically all of the major forecasting models in the past couple days said the same basic bottom line thing. They all say a big snowstorm headed along the East Coast. Where the models have differed is in how much snow certain parts of the East Coast would get. For example, look at this. On Saturday, this was the European model projection on the left-hand side there of where this storm would be by tomorrow. It is a Saturday projection of where the storm would be by Tuesday. The European model on the left and one of the American models, the North American mesoscale (ph), the NAM on the right. And if you look at this important difference, see where the bull`s eye is? The center of the storm? It`s in a geographically different spot in each of those models. The American model on the left puts the bull`s eye much closer to New York, which meant more snow for New York. The American model on the right had the bull`s eye further out toward the Atlantic Ocean and that presumably would mean more snow on the ocean. But it would mean less snow on people, and specifically less snow on the nation`s largest city of New York. So those were the competing projections, European on the left, American on right on Saturday. Since then the American model shifted the bull`s eye closer to where the European model put it. Same with the other big American model, the global forecast system model, but it still shows the storm going further out to sea and with less snowfall on land overall. Earlier today, our National Weather Service called the global forecast system model an outlier. They said the European model looked closer to reality so they upped their expected snowfall totals for New York. Again, bottom line, bottom line, forecast, no matter who you ask, is tons of snow on a big swath of the East Coast. How much and when and for how long, that depends on how good we are as a country at crunching the huge amount of data, that go into coming up with these mapped forecasts, making sure they`re not just awe inspiring and a little scary but they`re also correct. Joining us now is NBC`s Al Roker to help explain the forecast. Al will be forecasting live throughout the night on Mr. Roker, thank you so much for joining us. ROKER: It`s great having you, being here, Rachel, thanks so much. MADDOW: What is the latest you`re seeing in the course of the storm and its magnitude? ROKER: Again, we`re watching it, we have 29 million people under a blizzard warning right now. And we`re watching this system make its way along the coast. Right now in Manhattan, a little less snow, but that could pick up again tonight. But we really are watching from Montauk, Nantucket, Boston, that`s where we see the activity getting itself together, the heavy snow. A blizzard, sustained winds, frequent gusts, 35 mph or more. Blowing snow, dropping visibilities to less than a quarter mile. We could be talking in Boston upwards of 24 inches of snow, especially as you get out toward Nantucket it could be closer to 3 feet. There`s going to be a lot of wind, a lot of blowing snow, power outages are going to be a problem. So this is pretty much living up to what we thought. On Long Island, getting hammered right now. Visibilities at near zero. Wind gusts upward of 50-55 mph. So it is a big deal. MADDOW: Have there been important differences over the past couple days and into today in terms of the different models and types of forecasting? We heard a lot about the contrast between the U.S. and European models in the past, is that important for this storm? ROKER: Here is the interesting thing. As you mentioned, the National Weather Service has upgraded, they changed some of their software and put some money into numbers-crunching super computers and what was interesting is the American model picked up on the intensity of this system before the European model did. So we`re seeing more parity coming up and there are a number of, there is a suite of models, for example, the NAM you were talking about, a lot of times for the winter, that doesn`t handle it quite so well and we tend to discount that model. We look more at the GFS, the RPM. We`re looking at a whole suite of models. And you watch, you look and you try to finesse that suite of models. And over time you see which one does a better job. European does a great job. But I do think that there wasn`t as significant of a difference between the main grouping of American models on the European model this time. MADDOW: One question that may just be my fault and not the fault of how this has been described, but it felt to me that for a storm of this magnitude, I should have heard about it later than I might have expected. In past big winter storms, especially affecting a large portion of the U.S., I felt like we had more warning. Did this one not get much media attention, or was it not forecast until later than you might expect? ROKER: That is part of it. For example, Friday night we were not thinking this would be that big of a deal. It was coming out as a clipper. It was going to pop out along the mid-Atlantic coast, make its way up, be a fairly quick mover. But as we got into Friday night and especially Saturday night, overnight Saturday night into Sunday morning, and the models came more into focus, we realized this is going to be a problem. This is going to be bigger than we thought. MADDOW: NBC`s Al Roker, Al, thank you so much for being with us tonight, I really appreciate it. I should tell you you can follow Al as he broadcasts throughout the night tonight on And if you want Al to answer your questions you can tweet them to him and he will answer them. Tweet your blizzard questions to him using the #Rokerthon. He will be there all night, I swear. Lots still to come storm wise and otherwise. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One thing to keep in mind for this big storm, the U.S. Commerce Department ranks U.S. metropolitan areas by GDP, by how much they contribute to the economy. Of the top 10 metropolitan areas in terms of GDP, four of the 10 are in the direct path of tonight`s snowstorm. If you shut those four metro areas down for a couple days or longer, the country will feel that as an economic hit. We`re hitting our stride now in terms of recovery from the Great Recession as a country. 2014 overall was great for the resurgence in jobs, consumer confidence and economic growth. But it was not great uniformly. We had a contraction in the economy in the first three months of 2014. And that was because of the polar vortex. The group Macroeconomic Advisors estimates that the brutal cold of last year`s polar vortex winter reduced the growth of the national GDP by almost a point and a half in the first three months of last year, just because of the cold and because of those storms. Now in terms of what is happening tonight, this is one storm. Measuring the economic impact of one storm is not an exact science or an easy one. Property damage, insurance claims, lost work hours, cities hemorrhaging money for snow removal. The federal government`s sending money to help state and localities with all these states declaring states of emergency. It is a complicated thing to figure out the economic ins and outs here. But there is little doubt that shutting an entire region of the country for a day or two, especially the region that includes things like Wall Street will have a broad impact. We just don`t know what that impact is yet and we won`t know until we`re through this storm. And right now we`re still very much in the middle of this storm. In fact, we`re getting pretty close to what we expect might be the height of this storm. Joining us now from outside Boston in Framingham, Massachusetts, is NBC News correspondent Rehema Ellis. Rehema, I know you`re driving in Framingham right now, what can you safely tell us while keeping your eyes on the road? REHEMA ELLIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you that traffic is a lot lighter. Every hour that we`re out here, the traffic diminishes considerably. People are wise enough to get off the streets. We`re seeing more of the snowplows and the sands and salt machines that are out trying to clear these, on Massachusetts State highways we have 7,300 miles of state road and something like 4,000 state plows that will be out on these roads trying to take care of them. It is a daunting task that lies ahead of them. We were stopped a few moments ago and the snow was not coming vertical, but it was coming horizontal at us. The winds have picked up and they say it is something we should look out for as the night progresses, that the wind and the snow gets heavier and heavier. That`s going to make driving out here really treacherous. It`s piling up on the roads now. We`re going a lot slower than some other drivers who are a lot more courageous than I. But hopefully we`ll all get to our destinations safely. Back to you. MADDOW: NBC News correspondent Rehema Ellis, Rehema, thank you very much. Do be safe out there. Again, we have states of emergency in seven states. We have driving bans tonight in effect already in Connecticut, in Boston, driving bans due to go into effect at midnight in the rest of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. An 11:00 pm driving ban due for New York City and for 13 counties in New York. We`ve had requests for people to stay off the roads in other places, including parts of New Hampshire and New Jersey. So it is a big area of the country being affected by this. Tonight and into the dawn hours we`re told the weather will get heavier. So if you`re not out now, don`t go out now. In the morning make an educated and commonsensical decision about how much you need to be on the road. In very good local good news, I can now feel my hands. I`ll figure out something to do with them right after this. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In non-snowstorm news today, in terms of the former Virginia governor, Bob McDonald, is not going to prison, at least not yet. After his conviction on a dozen felony corruption charges earlier this year, the former governor had been told to report to federal prison to start his two- year sentence as of February 9th. He was due to start his first day in prison two weeks from today. But today a federal appeals court reversed that decision and told Governor McDonald that he can remain free while his appeal goes forward. Oral arguments will be starting on his appeal mid-May. He will be free at least until then. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Busy night around here. We`re keeping an eye on this historic storm tonight. We`re going to have much more on that in just a moment. But there is some other news to get to tonight including some unexpected and dramatic news out of Iowa, a story that is still developing tonight that you should know about. All the political attention in the country this weekend was focused on Iowa. Iowa conservatives held what was basically a big showcase for most of the potential Republican presidential candidates for 2016. Whatever you think of the potential Republican field this year, you should know that Republican insiders are very, very excited about this crop of candidates, who all gave speeches this weekend in Iowa. In the wake of that big event, though, something worrying has happened involving the Republican governor of the great state of Iowa. His name is Terry Branstad. Terry Branstad later this year is due to become the single longest serving governor in U.S. history. He was just reelected to his sixth term as Iowa`s governor. This is his second stint being governor. He served the first time in the `80s and `90s. Earlier today Governor Branstad was speaking at a ribbon cutting event in Johnston, Iowa. And people who were there say that the governor started to stumble over his words during his speech. He reportedly then got a little wobbly and began to lose his balance at the podium. Organizers at the event then laid the governor down on the ground. They called for an ambulance. Governor Terry Branstad was then taken out on a stretcher and brought by ambulance to a local hospital in Des Moines, which is where he remains tonight. The governor`s office says that he is alert and conscious tonight, but that he will be kept in the hospital overnight for observation. Early today, Governor Branstad appeared at a press conference where he and his lieutenant governor both said that they had not been feeling well recently. It was during an appearance after that event today when the governor started to struggle with his speech and his balance and then had to get into an ambulance. Obviously we wish the best for the governor and his family as he has this overnight hospital stay tonight in Des Moines. We`ll keep you posted as we learn more. And we`ll be right back here in just a moment with the latest on that winter storm that continues to churn up the East Coast. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Watch this tape. We just got this in. This is from WNBC, which is the local NBC station in New York. This is a reporter named Stacy Bell here. And she`s doing a live report. This is not at all staged. Watch how cool and calm she is as this happens during her live report. She`s doing a live stand-up on the side of the road in Long Island tonight and watch what happens. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STACY BELL, WNBC: As the snow continues to fall overnight only time will tell. Reporting live from Nassau County, in the storm as the snow continues to fall overnight -- MADDOW (voice-over): Stacy Bell, WNBC, the NBC station -- look at that -- the NBC station in New York City tonight. She`s completely calm, cool and collected as that happens during her stand up while she`s doing a live report from Long Island, just incredible. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We are now approaching 10 o`clock on the East Coast at this hour. Mayors and governors from D.C. to Massachusetts have urged their citizens to basically shut it down, get home and stay home and maybe think about staying home tomorrow, too. Seven governors have declared a state of emergency. As of tonight in some places authorities are urging people not to travel unless they absolutely must. There are travel bans in place already or due to go into effect shortly in New York City; 13 other New York counties and Massachusetts and Rhode Island and Connecticut. In those places with the travel ban, it`s not just a request that people not go out, it is a necessity. Only emergency responders are being allowed out on the roads. Major cities saw a huge rush today as people jammed onto subways and commuter trains ahead of them shutting down, trying to get home. New York City is going to finish closing its entire subway system just an hour from now. This is the first time they`ve ever closed the entire subway system because of a snowstorm. Amtrak has reduced service throughout the region, the most heavily traveled train corridor in the country. Amtrak says service will be suspended throughout New England tomorrow. Airlines canceled 2,800 flights today. They`ve canceled another 3,900 and counting flights tomorrow. Those are obviously flights that are being canceled and airports that are being shut in the most directly affected area in the Northeast. But that has a knock-on effect for air travel across the country. You are seeing cancellations across the country well beyond the areas that are being affected by the storm just because flights can`t make the connections. With driving bans, with mass transit going dark, with flights canceled, thousands canceled all over the country, right now, if you are within the sound of my voice and you are not already where you intend to be and where you intend to be is somewhere on the East Coast tonight, we are now approaching the moment when you might find it very difficult to get anywhere you are not already. It`s going to be a long night. The forecast has been changing over the course of the night. We are told to expect very heavy snowfall in all the affected areas between now and dawn. The overnight hours are going to be crucial in terms of the overall magnitude of this storm. It`s still expected to be of potentially historic proportions, particularly in New England. But that does it for us, at least for now. Stay with MSNBC for live coverage of the storm throughout the night. Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END