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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  December 24, 2015 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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thanks very joining us. "nightly news" is up next. >> always find us online at and of course on facebook and twitter. developing news tonight. a state of emergency after a ferocious tornado outbreak tears through several states. at least 11 people are dead, including a 7-year-old boy. entire neighborhoods destroyed. panic at the mall. gunfire erupts on christmas eve. a police officer shoots and kills a gunman inside a store as frightened shoppers run in fear. winter summerland. late december and temperatures in the 60s and 70s across much of the country. the warmest christmas ever. shorts and t-shirts, a day in the park instead of by the fire. and holy night. celebrations in bethlehem, at the vatican and around the world. "nightly news" begins right now.
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good evening, i'm thomas roberts. lester has the night off. on this christmas eve, officials in the south confirm the death toll has risen to 11 after a series of spring-like tornados ravaged the region. the unusual december system hit mississippi the hardest with parts now under a state of emergency. tonight, search and rescue teams there continue to look for storm survivors, which may take them well through the christmas holiday. we begin with nbc's mark potter in clarksdale, mississippi. >> reporter: a devastating scene just before christmas after deadly storms and twisters curve through a midsection of the country. at least 11 killed and more than 40 injured. preliminary reports of at least two dozen tornados, including a possible ef-3, believed to have traveled more than 100 miles. >> a total loss, everything. >> reporter: mississippi was the hardest hit, seven lives lost including a 7-year-old boy,
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who died not far from where these twin tornados were spotted. >> oh, wow. >> reporter: powerful winds flipped this semi. >> i already knew it was bad. i could tell from outside. >> reporter: 22-year-old haley hid under a mattress with her mother, grandmother and dogs. >> every house just about round us is gone. it's still standing, but it's not going to make it. >> reporter: search teams worked night and day going house to house looking for victims. >> we are trying to go through the mangled up mess of the trees and it's just a disaster. >> reporter: the mississippi governor declared a state of emergency in seven counties. >> families lost loved ones. funerals will be planned. this should be a joyous holiday season. >> reporter: in tennessee, three people died. >> it's heartbreaking. >> reporter: including a couple ages 69 and 70, their home was among those demolished. >> everything they owned and worked for all their life is scattered down the hill. from mattresses to teddy bears to medicines.
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>> reporter: in arkansas, high winds pushed a tree on to a house and killed 18-year-old michaela miles. we learned today she was shielding her 18-month-old sister who is expected to be okay. the same storm system has been battering georgia and alabama with heavy rain. water cascading over this collapsed road. so many in the path of yesterday's destruction now spending this holiday rebuilding homes and coping with heartbreaking loss. and this house where haley hid under the mattress, they are already cleaning up the debris, grateful this christmas eve, that despite a very close call, everyone in her family survived. thomas. >> close call indeed. mark potter in mississippi, thank you. one of the ingredients fueling those twisters is these record-shattering temperatures across much of the eastern half of the country where it looked like spring today than late december. nbc's stephanie gosk has our report.
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>> reporter: instead of bitter cold, the weather in new york is balmy. >> feels like the weather in hawaii. >> reporter: instead of getting snow, these visitors from san diego are in a sweat. >> came here to see snow. >> we did. >> you're still in your short sleeves. >> yeah. i didn't bring any shorts. >> this is nuts. >> reporter: in chicago, more of the same. >> this crazy warm weather is nuts. >> reporter: east of the rockies, temperature records weren't just broken today, they were crushed. here are just a few examples. boston 69. new york city 71. norfolk, virginia, a sizzling 82. some are basking in the warmth, like the flowers in bloom in boston and the jet skiing grinch in d.c., others just think it is strange. >> it doesn't feel like the holidays because it's not cold. >> reporter: there are places in the country coping with a dose of real winter weather. the latest snow totals in washington's cascade mountains are being counted in feet, not inches. major highways are shut down and avalanche warnings are
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in place. >> that there is not a ski run. that's interstate 80 >> reporter: the snow pack is what drought-stricken california needs. the great weather divide between east and west is being created in part by el nino. the high temps being pulled up directly from the tropics. >> i'm losing layers, but i can't take my pants off. that's the only problem. >> reporter: all the humid -- humidity just right for a lovely rainbow, even if it makes no sense on christmas eve. i'm at rockefeller plaza. it's a packed crowd tonight to check out the tree and go ice skating. it's hard to believe on christmas eve, i'm not the only person out here in short sleeves. thomas. >> most people enjoying themselves tonight. thanks so much. we bring in our friend wnbc meteorologist janice huff. janice, so break it down for us. do we have more of these warm temperatures in store? >> they're still out there right now. we are looking at temperatures in the 60s and 70s from texas all the way up to the northeast.
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new york city right now is right at 70. the clash of these two air masses combined with a very powerful subtropical jet stream putting spin in the atmosphere yesterday helped to create those tornados. this is more of a spring-time event, of course. record highs across the area today. 65 in worcester, massachusetts. 72 in new york city. even down to sarasota, florida, in the mid-80s. the warmest christmas eve ever. we've got thunderstorms along the gulf coast, but they are not nearly the intensity we've seen over the past 24 hours. these storms are a lot less intense right now. travel weather. there will be a few isolated storms tomorrow. we aren't expecting severe weather like we've just seen with the outbreak. memphis, delays there. atlanta with a high of 75. houston at 80. snow in the west around salt lake city into the rockies expecting quite a bit of snow and winter storm warnings in effect on christmas day there. thomas, back to you. >> janice huff in the weather center for us tonight. merry christmas. thank you. we move on to a story out of charlotte. gunfire erupting in a mall packed with last-minute shoppers
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on this christmas eve a police officer shooting and killing a man with a gun as people ran for their lives. nbc's blake mccoy has late details. >> reporter: gunfire on christmas eve causing chaos at the upscale northlake mall in charlotte, north carolina. >> i heard six gun shots and it sounded like firecrackers to me. and then i saw people turning around, running towards me and trampling each other. >> reporter: police say it started with an argument with two groups of people inside the mall around 2:00. an officer working off-duty heard gun shots and intervened. when he encounter one of the men with a gun he opened fire. this woman was at children's place with her twins and became separated from them in the chaos. >> people went running. they ran through the store. they actually rushed right through the twins, grabbed the twins and were gone. >> reporter: her kids are okay. a terrifying ordeal these shoppers hadn't bargained for. blake mccoy, nbc news.
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new protests in the streets of chicago today. demonstrators angry over the death of a teen shot 16 times by a police officer. an incident caught on that gut-wrenching video that sparked an uproar. now we are hearing for the first time the police dispatch calls as a taser was repeatedly requested. minutes later laquan mcdonald was dead. nbc's kevin tibbles reports on these new details. >> reporter: they marched in the heart of chicago. calling for the resignation of mayor rahm emanuel over the city's handling of the police shooting death of 17-year-old laquan mcdonald. >> it hurts my heart to see this. i couldn't stay at home wrapping gifts. >> reporter: the protesters blocked streets and also targeted an apple store trying to prevent shoppers from entering. on christmas eve, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, chicago's popular michigan avenue shut down.
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laquan mcdonald who was carrying a knife was shot 16 times last year by chicago cop jason van dyke. van dyke's attorney has said he feared for his life. through a freedom of information act request, nbc chicago station obtained audio recordings from the night mcdonald was shot, revealing a taser was requested. >> reporter: the dispatcher repeatedly asked for a taser. four minutes after the initial request for a taser, gun shots. whether an officer with a taser arrived at the scene before mcdonald was shot is unclear. mcdonald later died. officer van dyke is scheduled to be arraigned next week on first degree murder
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charges. kevin tibbles, nbc news, chicago. just because it's the holidays does not mean the candidates running for president are taking much of a break. they are even getting in some last-minute jabs at each other before taking maybe 24 hours off for christmas to spend time with family and friends. nbc's hallie jackson reports on the latest political war of words. >> reporter: don't feel guilty about your last-minute christmas shopping. even presidential candidates are procrastinating. >> normally, i'm much better organized. >> reporter: jeb bush browsing board games. >> unlike donald trump, i didn't try to have a monopoly of real estate. >> reporter: taking shots at donald trump who is focused on his own feud with hillary clinton in a not so silent night before christmas eve. >> i haven't gone after hillary yet and there is a lot to go after. she is very susceptible -- look, the job she's done is horrible. >> reporter: trump's attacks just getting started, he warned. cautioning clinton to be careful after she said this to the "des
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moines register." >> it's not the first time he's demonstrated a penchant for sexism. >> reporter: while trump called clinton a liesh for some of her comments about him, he is under fire for what is called the lie of the year after examining his controversial comments and determining three-quarters of them are not true. that's not hurting. >> donald trump is the only candidate i've seen in -- i don't know how many cycles able to get away with what he gets away with. the electorate constantly forgives him for the things he says. >> reporter: trump making plenty of noise, but on christmas, quiet on the campaign trail. candidates spending time with families. >> merry christmas. >> reporter: sending greetings to supporters. >> happy holidays, happy new year and here's to a great 2016. >> reporter: and in rand paul's case, airing his annual festivous grievances. light-hearted swipes at his rivals, at least most of them. i have no grievances against my fellow doc ben carson because i
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have not heard a word he has said in any debate. carson may be soft spoken, but many are looking closely for a word of a campaign shake-up after christmas as he is slipping in recent polls. carson insists his senior aides aren't going anywhere and neither is he. thomas. >> thank you. still ahead -- midnight mass with the pope at the vatican. uneasy christmas eve amid tight security in bethlehem, where the faithful believe jesus was born.
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midnight mass at the vatican tonight. pope francis celebrating the birth of jesus and calling on christians around the world to practice what he preached, a message of peace needed nowhere more this christmas eve than the holy land itself, believed to be the birthplace of jesus. bill neely reports on christmas in bethlehem. >> reporter: they are celebrating christmas in bethlehem, but not like they used to. there is still powerful emotion at the grotto where it's believed jesus was born. >> so exciting. >> reporter: but fear has meant tens of thousands of christians are staying away because this
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center of faith is also now a cradle of violence. palestinian youths confront israeli troops in regular battles here. the city of peace, anything but. >> bethlehem is the capital of christmas, the capital of nativity. the city of peace. this city is besieged. that means there is no peace. >> reporter: palestinians join a wave of stabbings of attacks on israelis, two more today that have seen dozens killed. an israeli man buried today after he was stabbed in jerusalem. so there is lots of room at bethlehem's inns. tourism struggling in a city that depends on it. >> a little bit sad christmas. we are trying our best to be happy. >> reporter: americans, too, are here in much smaller numbers. >> less visitors, less
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people enjoying christmas. >> reporter: wise men here appeal for peace, but it's elusive this christmas eve where tonight, mass at the churches of the nativity celebrates the birth amid much death and trouble in bethlehem. bill neely, nbc news. when we come back, last-second shoppers racing to beat the clock. even at this late hour, some stores are packed. we are also tracking a lot of special deliveries on the way. we'll tell you where santa's sleigh is right now. thousands of people
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came out today to run the race for retirement. so we asked them... are you completely prepared for retirement? okay, mostly prepared? could you save 1% more of your income? it doesn't sound like much, but saving an additional 1% now, could make a big difference over time. i'm going to be even better about saving. you can do it, it helps in the long run. prudential bring your challenges this just in from the folks at norad tracking santa's sleigh making his way around the world where it's already christmas in many places. so santa has dropped off presents for good little boys and girls in sydney and moscow, athens and cairo, and he's on his way here right now. so hop in those pjs, get to bed when mom
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and dad said so, so santa can make those special deliveries while you are fast asleep. santa is on time but shoppers are not. many still in stores right now looking for last-second gifts. while they're there, they are likely finding major bargains thanks to those unseasonably warm temperatures. nbc's olivia sterns explains. >> reporter: the race was on today. retailers hoping last-minute shoppers would finally come to their stores. >> i have to do it now or it won't get done. >> reporter: after a season where more and more americans are choosing to buy online. about 2 million americans estimated to be picking up at least one last present on christmas eve. 17% of americans had not even started holiday shopping a week ago. the procrastination has paid off. >> we are seeing huge retailers, gap, old
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navy, ann taylor, putting 50% off signs in their windows and really attracting customers using black friday-esque promotions. >> reporter: tonight some of the country's biggest retailers are staying open extra late. walmart will be open until 8:00 p.m. toys "r" us until 9:00 p.m. and some target locations will be open until 11:00 p.m. if you can't get to a store, it's still not too late to find that perfect gift from your couch. more than 200 of the season's hottest products online are now selling up to 40% below their black friday prices. and amazon prime now is offering delivery to your door in 20 cities tonight if you place your order by 9:45. >> so if i suddenly realized i had forgotten to get somebody a gift, how quickly can i get one? >> if you need it in an hour, we'll get it to you. >> we usually deliver in less than an hour. >> reporter: if worse comes to worst, there is always the gift card. you can have it delivered via e-mail
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before anybody knows you forgot. and thomas, those gift cards could come in handy after christmas when most retailers slash their prices even further, and many stores offer their very best deals of the entire year. thomas. >> the best bargains to come. olivia sterns, thank you. when we come back this christmas eve, the man of the hour. the story you probably haven't heard about old st. nick. we'll show you what may affect
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your upcoming travel plans .. vicky/vo plus, it isn't just
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rain and snow... wait till you see what else this storm brought one northern california city tonight... ==close== the news is next. finally, on this special night, with millions around the world taking time off to celebrate christmas, one man is just going to work. you know him as santa claus, kris kringle, father christmas and of course, good old st. nick. in fact, st. nicholas was santa's inspiration. since he was a true man of the world, we asked our chief foreign correspondent richard engel to bring us this christmas story. >> merry christmas! >> reporter: everybody knows santa's real name is st. nick, but you may be surprised to learn the real st. nicholas was born here in what is now a town in southern turkey almost 1,800 years ago. his statue still stands in the center of town, where he served as bishop and acted like a saint.
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his present-day successor is revered here, too. once a year, he holds mass in the church where his famous predecessor was buried. and there is an icon of st. nicholas in every greek orthodox church? >> yes. >> reporter: old st. nick is nothing like the santa we know. those stories are fun, the bishop says, and they would be even more fun if i was a child and had gifts coming my way. so how did st. nicholas go from a real-life christian saint to a fairy tale figure from a greek orthodox bishop to a toymaker with a staff of elves and a team of flying reindeer? well, much of that happened in america. the 19th century poem "'twas the night before christmas" describes st. nick as jolly and plump, flying in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.
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cartoonist thomas nast came up with the familiar santa image and ads like this one from the 30s helped lock it in. coca-cola has a bigger advertising budget than the greek orthodox church. do you try and tell people when you see all of these little santas, that's not the guy. that has nothing to do with st. nick. >> exactly, he says. i've been doing that for 30 years now, but without much success. because it seems people like santa just the way he is now. richard engel, nbc news, istanbul. we like santa and now we like st. nick. thank you, richard. that's going to do it for us this thursday night. i'm thomas roberts in tonight for lester. for all of us here at nbc news, thank you for watching. have a merry christmas and good night. christmas this year in the
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sierra. but you may have a tough time getting there... it will definitely be a white christmas this year in the sierras. but you may have a tough time getting there. snow closures to tornado warnings. we're tracking the storm bringing wild weather to california. i'm vicky nguyen. >> take a look at this. picture what appears to be a tornado at folsom lake. a tornado warning was issued and
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just recently expired. so far no reports of injuries or damages. the storm brought hail in petaluma on east side of highway 101. the pea-sized hail stuck thanks to dropping temperatures. now a live look at san francisco. the rain eased up a bit later this afternoon. meteorologist rob may eda joins us now. >> they may drop in the form of a little snow. right there at the radar site we have a sleet mix and snow falling off to the east mount hamilton 4,000 feet. short-term forecast into tomorrow morning. right where we are seeing the focus of the action until 8:00 tomorrow morning,


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