tv NBC Nightly News NBC December 23, 2010 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
on the broadcast tonight, the cleanup. a massive job after that rush of water and river of mud. and now what's in store for the rest of the country this holiday weekend. the surge to spend. what's driving what could be the best holiday shopping season in years. kids rule at this school. they do what they want all day long and their parents like it. making a difference for military families with loved ones far from home this christmas. and the helpful neighbor who suddenly found himself hauled away in hand cuffs. "nightly news" starts now. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening.
i'm carl quintanilla in tonight for brian williams. those monster storms pelting southern california tonight have left a new problem, mudslides. hundreds of homes have been evacuated or destroyed. trash and pesticides are leaking into waterways and closing beaches. despite the return of sunshine today, the region is struggling to clean up two days before christmas. nbc's miguel almaguer is in highland, california tonight. miguel, good evening. >> reporter: carl, good evening. the city was a bull's-eye for the storm, a river of mud flowed right through this neighborhood. tonight, it's still several feet deep. although the weather and rain have passed, it may return. highland is a devastated city just before christmas. fire crews were shoveling to help residents get in their homes. ramone perez feels lucky his house was spared. he's helping neighbors. >> look at the devastation, this close to christmas. >> reporter: there's still a mudslide threat to 140 homes
under a saturated ground. but for 26 houses, the damage is done. >> at first, i seen a rush of water and mud. by the time i knew it, we were engaufled like a river in the house. >> reporter: karen hernandez escaped, but lost her beloved dog. today, she won't go into her home. >> i haven't looked inside. i didn't want to look inside. i'm sorry. >> reporter: she raised her two children, freddie and erica, here for 15 years. >> the christmas tree was in the corner, along with the kid's gifts. their graduation pictures were on the wall. i was so very proud of them. they worked so hard. their diplomas are gone, everything. >> reporter: her husband, al, a salesman, was working during the storm. he needed to see inside. >> we're kneeling down and touching the sealing. that's just incredible. >> reporter: elsewhere, mudslides weren't the only
concern. in palmdale, motorists had to be rescued when the mohave river overflowed. along the coast, 12 miles of beaches were closed because of pollution worries. at qualcomm stadium, ground crews worked around the clock to clean the grounds before tonight's poinsettia bowl. back in highland, officials say it will be weeks before all the mud is cleaned up and life returns to normal. but for the hernandez family, it will be christmas without a home. >> we got them a tree and we scraped up enough money to get them a little bit of gifts and now those are gone, too. but that's okay, because we've got our lives. >> reporter: and everyone did escape with their lives. still, neighbors aren't just cleaning up tonight, they're prepping for the next storm that will likely hit here christmas night. but carl, it's not expected to pack as powerful a punch. >> miguel almaguer joining us from highland, california tonight. miguel, thanks. you may recall miguel
reporting yesterday that 47 guests and four employees had to be rescued from their hotel in san diego when it became surrounded by flood waters. lieutenant john everhart was part of the rescue team and he's been with the san diego city life guard service for more than 25 years. lieutenant, good evening to you. have you ever seen anything like this in your area before? >> well, good evening. i'll tell you, yesterday the water level here in mission valley was higher than i've ever seen it. i've been on a rescue flood team since 1988 and here in mission valley, that's the highest i've ever seen the water. so the rescues we had here was difficult, the water was treacherous. but a little good luck and a lot of experienced life guards and firefighters and police officers and good equipment and we were able to get everyone out of the vehicles and the buildings. >> we're looking at pictures of you and your team rescuing people, and six dogs, as well. using that rope-based system. is the hard part the depth of the water or the speed of which the water is moving?
>> it's a little of both. there are other hazards there, too. during that rescue, we had a dumpster float down the river we were crossing. that's usually not a river, it's usually a road. a lot of things made that rescue difficult. but we were able to get the system set up. it was a good, safe system and it took a while to get everyone over but we were able to pull it off. thank goodness all those people were able to find lodging in other places. >> lieutenant john everhart joining us from san diego. lieutenant, thank you for your time. the storms may be over for now in the west, but what about the holiday weekend across the country? meteorologist paul goodloe joins us from weather channel headquarters in atlanta. good evening to you. >> good news in california. dry for your christmas eve. the pacific northwest, we start seeing rain there. also up and down the eastern seaboard for travelers, no problems. but it's the middle of the country for your christmas eve. you'll start seeing more snow across the ohio valley, and that
will continue as we head into christmas day, as well. we were calling for a big snowstorm developing across the east for christmas night, but the cold air with its high is going to slow down and our storm system starts to speed off and also take a little farther track out towards the atlantic. while you see snow on christmas day in the ohio valley, the heavier snow should stay offshore except parts of eastern north carolina and eastern virginia, maybe cape may, new jersey. but we will see some snow showers across the appalachians and i-95 corridor. overall, the i-95 corridor will see some snow in d.c., philly, even new york city. maybe a dusting to 1 or 2 inches. the big snowstorm will not be here, but attention goes back to the west coast. more rain and snow towards next week. carl? >> weather affecting a lot of lives as people move around the country. paul, thanks. president obama is with his family tonight in hawaii for their holiday vacation.
after getting some early christmas presents in the last days of the lame duck congress. nbc's mike vicara is traveling with the president tonight. he's in honolulu tonight. mike, good evening. >> reporter: no sooner had the president wrapped up those victories back in frigid washington, he was off to andrews air force base outside of d.c., on air force one flying ten hours to hawaii, his boyhood home. arriving just before midnight, he came down the stairs with members of hawaii's congressional delegation, received the flowered garland of the island, the lei, and 11 days of r&r, starting with a workout at a marine base close to where he's staying and playing golf later in the afternoon. there was a bit of business, carl. the president spoke with his russian counterpart, dmitry medvedev, congratulating obama on his victory in ratifying that s.t.a.r.t. treaty in the senate they also talked about a number of issues of mutual concern,
according to the white house, not the least of which the situation on the korean peninsula. barring anything unforeseen, it is 11 days of serious r&r for the president. aides say he'll be with his own family, his sister's family and childhood friend from his time as a boy here. carl? >> from his beachside bureau in honolulu, mike thanks. now to a surge of last-minute christmas shoppers across the country today, one that has american retailers full of holiday cheer. despite high unemployment, it looks like this could be the best holiday shopping season since the recession began. nbc's john yang is live on chicago's magnificent mile. john, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, carl. retailers said they hoped today would be the second biggest shopping day of the year, surpassed only by black friday, the day after thanksgiving. the shoppers we talked to today said they were feeling more confident about the economy and their own personal finances. one of the busiest shopping days of the year got off to an early start this morning.
stores across the country opened 24 hours for those last-minute presents. >> i'm probably going to overdo it tonight because i'm in a panic. >> reporter: sara davis was at toys r us just past midnight shopping for her two children while they were home asleep. she said she's buying a little more than last year. >> last year, i kind of kept it to a minimum of like four gifts. >> reporter: analysts say retailers are heading to their best holiday shopping season since 2006. on the weekend before christmas, shoppers spent nearly $19 billion, up 5.5% from the year before. last-minute shoppers like cory dixon could make the season even brighter for retailers. he's buying gifts for ten family members and friends, all today. >> i'm comfortable in my procrastination. >> reporter: a consumer report survey found that 17% of americans hadn't even begun their shopping at the beginning of this week. that includes 21% of all men, compared with 13% of women. >> that means the shoppers are
willing to return. >> reporter: analyst bill martin calls today father's day. >> we see that every year. men come the last minute and retailers enjoy that. it makes a big day for them. >> reporter: analysts say consumers are feeling more confident as stock prices rise and the jobs market slowly improves. but they fear it may not last much past new year's. >> holiday feels really good, but i'm not sure everything will still be feeling really good by the time we get to mid spring. >> reporter: for the ultimate procrastinators, there's always tomorrow, christmas eve. but the day retailers are looking for is sunday, the day after christmas. that's the day people start redeeming those gift cards they may have gotten. they start returning those gifts that may have been something less than wonderful and they take advantage of the post christmas sales to do a little shopping for themselves. carl? >> the all-important self-gifting. john yang in chicago. john, thanks. there's hitting the stores
then there's hitting the road. triple-a expects 92 million americans will travel at least 50 miles from home this holiday, most by car. nationwide gas prices are averaging more than $3 a gallon, up 43 cents from a year ago and the highest ever at christmas. overseas with europe on alert for a possible terrorist attack, italy was shaken today by two mail bombs that exploded in rome. they w te e senttho embassies oflawithertznd and chile, injuring one employee in each incident. investigators said they suspect the attacks were the work of anarchists. they were similar to a wave of mail bombs last month that targeted embassies in athens. this was another day of high tension on the korean peninsulas. south korea's military put on a huge show of force, just 20 miles from the border with the north, continuing exercises that have gone on all week. north korea calls it a grave military provocation. it warned that it was prepared to launch what it called a
sacred war and use nuclear weapons if it was attacked. still ahead as "nightly news" continues, no lesson plans, no homework, no set curriculum, what kind of school is this? and later, the kindness of strangers making a difference this holiday season for families separated by war. this holiday season for families separated by war. if you live for performance, upgrade to castrol edge advanced synthetic oil. with eight times better wear protection than mobil 1. castrol edge. it's more than just oil. it's liquid engineering. try zegerid otc. it's the first 24-hour treatment with two active ingredients: prescription-strength medicine plus a protective ingredient so it's effectively absorbed.
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and the parents say it's exactly what they want. >> what i feel like i'm doing is he's becoming an individual. >> reporter: before you jump to conclusions -- what sold you on this? >> i had children. i had my daughter. >> reporter: consider who some of the parents are. >> i'm an engineer. i graduated from m.i.t. >> reporter: you worked for? >> ford, microsoft and boeing. >> reporter: the philosophy here, kids learn by discovery. what do you make of what they're doing? >> it seems like this is homeschooling mixed with anarchy. >> reporter: education expert melanie kevorkian fears what could happen when a child is never tested. >> if they're never judged or have any way of knowing how good they're doing, how do we get their potential? >> reporter: there are two dozen of these schools nationwide, a concept that's been around since the '60s, which means there are graduates.
we found 22-year-old grace miller, juggling college studies and her own cleaning business. >> when i went into an untraditional experience, i figured out what i wanted to do, figured out who i wanted to be and how i could achieve that. >> reporter: school rules are set by democratic vote. break a rule, and there are consequences. in this case, the students voted to sentence the offender, 4-year-old julian, to cleanup. then all the other students pitched in any way. >> it's what happens over time that's really going to tell the story. >> reporter: and for these kid's parents who know there are no do-overs, this is an education for life. kerry sanders, nbc news, davy, florida. when we come back, no good deed goes unpunished. a young man gives an elderly woman a ride. what happened next he could never have imagined. ride. what happened next he could never have imagined.
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change your oil to castrol gtx high mileage. its more than just oil. it's liquid engineering. we turn to a story that caught our attention today. it begins with an act of kindness. a young man in minnesota volunteers to drive his neighbor, an elderly woman, to the bank. but that trip took an unexpected turn. the story from our minneapolis-st. paul station k.a.r.e. and reporter boyd hooper. >> reporter: it should come as no surprise that luke is watching his sister's kids tonight. >> i told her it was the best news of the day. >> reporter: he likes helping people. like the 70-year-old tenant at his mother's apartment house who accepted his offer of a ride to the bank to get money to pay for
her back rent. that's her walking into the bank shortly before she robbed it. >> she leaned over and whispered to the lady, you know, give me your cash, this is a robbery. i have a gun, and i know how to use it. >> reporter: jim hanson, the bank's vice president, could be seen returning from lunch. he missioned the clunk on the counter and expected nothing. then bag in hand, the woman walked out. >> i said lock the doors, i'm going to go after her. >> reporter: jim followed luke' going to go after her. >> reporter: jim followed luke's car. >> sirens were blaring and the lights were going and he was spread out on the snow. >> she kept saying he had nothing to do with it, and i'm sorry, luke. >> reporter: that's luke being hauled off to jail, despite the pleas of the tenant, san a, pictured here after her own arrest. in her bag, police found $3,700
in cash, a small hammer, some rubber gloves, and the free 2011 bank calendar she picked up in the lobby. she remains in jail, while luke was released after a few hours, less angry at her a week later than he is concerned about clearing his name. >> i'm not saying i'm a perfect person in the world, but you know, i'll be damned if i rob a bank. >> reporter: a kind of robbery where the victims still have heart. >> hopefully she doesn't fall too far through the system and they're able to get her help. >> reporter: and everyone in town now has a story to share. and one more story that has come currency today. britain's royal mint has issued a new coin. on one side, queen elizabeth, on the other, prince william and kate middleton. but people think that the
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it's a simple christmas ritual. one that most of us take for granted. decorating for the holidays. but for some military families, the stress and strain of war can make even that a challenging proposition. in our special holiday "making a difference" series, janet shamlian found some people eager to help. >> where is he at? >> reporter: her husband is in afghanistan. his sixth deployment. and the family will spend yet another christmas without daddy. >> i just wish that sometimes other people know that there's military families out there by themselves. >> reporter: it's loneliness blake smith can only imagine. >> having recently had children, i realized just what a sacrifice
it is to be away with them. >> reporter: with a christmas decorating company and a warehouse full of wreaths and ribbons, he figured he was in a perfect position to deck the halls for families separated by war. with his installers across the country, he started the decorate a family program, taking letters of nomination, and decorating the homes of almost all. so in a rural town in southern illinois, volunteers from his local chapter showed up and rolled out christmas. a similar transformation in pittsburgh at the home of ronald sprang. injured by an explosive device in afghanistan. >> kindness goes a long way. i'm very grateful. >> reporter: this year alone, hundreds of military families receive a similar gift. a holiday literally brightened by the kindness of strangers. >> three, two, one -->>
reporter: for a marine who can no longer decorate his own home, no better gift. >> thank you. >> reporter: back in illinois, jacqueline learned the angel who nominated her was her own husband. >> i wanted to do it to have something to brighten your holidays. >> three, two, one. >> reporter: a tribute to an often silent sacrifice. >> i just wish he could see it. >> reporter: lighting up christmas for the heroes at home. >> thank you. >> you guys are so welcome. >> thank you for your time. >> merry christmas to you. >> reporter: janet shamlian, nbc news, highland, illinois. >> and you can find much more on this week's holiday "making a difference" on our new website, or get it, of course, by going to nightly.msnbc.com. that's our broadcast for this thursday night. thank you for being with us. i'm carl quintanilla in for brian williams. we'll look for you back here
tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com . these are do not end up in a sewer collection system unless they are put there. a deliberate attack or an act of negligence. either way there's a big clean up of a stinking mess literally in the north bay. good evening. two raw sewage spills in just the last week