tv ABC World News Tonight With David Muir ABC December 31, 2021 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
tonight, breaking news on this new year's eve. millions mourning the death of beloved actress and tv icon betty white. an american treasure. betty white passing away in her home in los angeles just weeks before what would've been her 100th birthday. her remarkable career spanning nearly eight decades. best known for her roles on "the golden girls" and "the mary tyler moore show." her quick wit, her humility, and grace. tributes from former co-stars already pouring in. and betty white in her own words on how she wanted to be remembered. other headlines we're following tonight -- new year's eve celebrations scaled back for a second year, as covid cases in the u.s. soar to record highs. more than 2 million infections in the final week of 2021. nearly four americans testing positive every second. across the country, major parties canceled.
but new york city pushing ahead with its famous ball drop in times square and a limited crowd with masks and proof of vaccination. new images tonight of the devastating wildfires in colorado. the fast-moving flames destroying as many as 1,000 homes in a matter of hours. two communities gone. the fires fueled by hurricane-force wind gusts, topping 100 miles per hour. the governor touring the disaster zone, saying the fires spread in the blink of an eye. the severe storm threat across several states tonight. winter alerts impacting millions from arizona all the way east. heavy snow, rain, large hail, and possible tornados. rob marciano timing it out. the new travel warning from the faa with more than 1,500 flights canceled again today. what to expect in the coming days. the champagne shortage heading into the final hours of 2021. why high-end champagne may be in short supply. and celebrating the new year around the world.
in the shadow of the pandemic, nations cheering the promise of hope for the future. good evening, and thanks for joining us on this final night of 2021. i'm whit johnson in for david. as millions prepare to usher in the new year, we begin tonight with breaking news and the death of beloved actress and comedienne betty white. authorities say she passed away in her home in los angeles just weeks ahead of what would have been her 100th birthday. celebrations were already in the works. she was seemingly ageless, with generations of fans. her remarkable career spanning nearly eight decades. best known for her roles on "the mary tyler moore show" and "the golden girls." her list of credits dating back to the 1940s. former costars remembering her tonight. the u.s. army also paying tribute reminding us, quote, not only was she an amazing actress,
she also served during world war ii as a member of the american women's voluntary services. a true legend on and off the screen. a master of comedic timing, an activist, humble, and graceful. betty white was an american original. abc's zohreen shah leads us off in los angeles. >> you ready? one, two -- >> reporter: betty white was already america's golden girl long before that famous sitcom. >> the older you get, the better you get. unless you're a banana. >> reporter: she had americans howling as the sweet, ditzy rose nylund and as the devious happy homemaker on "the mary tyler moore show." >> now, if you'll excuse me, i have to rake someone's tail over the coals. >> reporter: white won two emmys for playing the catty sue anne nivens. seven in all during a remarkable decades-long career. >> you're playing like betty white out there. >> that's not what your girlfriend says! >> reporter: this ad was the talk of the 2010 super bowl. she got a new television series "hot in cleveland."
and then came "saturday night live," making her the oldest person to host the show. >> i'm 88 1/2 years old, so it's -- well, it's great to be here for a number of reasons. >> reporter: the beloved comedian and actress considered an american treasure, winning the guinness book world record in 2013 for the longest television career for a female entertainer. and receiving this standing ovation from her peers when she received her lifetime achievement award at the emmys. >> it's incredible that i'm still in this business that i'm still -- and you are still putting up with me. >> reporter: white's passing just weeks before what would have been her 100th birthday. authorities confirming she died this morning at her home in southern california. tonight, tributes pouring in from across the entertainment world. ryan reynolds, white's former costar in 2009's "the proposal," which helped catapult her back into the spotlight, tonight tweeting in part, quote, the
world looks different now. she was great at defying expectation. she managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. and tonight, betty white on how she wanted to be remembered, both as an entertainer and a lifelong advocate for animal-related causes. >> i would just like to have it somewhere along the line that i made people laugh and i made them think a little bit. and the two parts of my life -- the animal part and the television part, and i worked them together as much as i can. that's what i'd like to be remembered as, betty as their good friend they invite into their homes. >> that's exactly what she was to so many. zohreen shah joining us now from betty white's star on the hollywood walk of fame. where fans are placing flowers and handwritten notes tonight. zohreen, what are people telling you? >> reporter: whit, dozens of fans have come by, everyone from grandparents to very young kids,
and the notes have been so touching. one person saying they're going to make a donation to an animal related nonprofit. another simply writing, thank you for being a friend, betty white. whit? >> an incredible life. zohreen, thank you. we do move on tonight, turning to new year's eve. in the grip of the pandemic, cases explode in the u.s. more than 2 million infections in the final week of 2021 and a record number of children hospitalized with covid. in new york city, where the state just reported infections at an all-time high for a third straight day, a limited crowd is now gathering for the traditional ball drop in times square. celebrations across the country and around the world scaled back for yet another year. abc's trevor ault reports from times square. >> reporter: tonight, new york city determined to revive the iconic times square ball drop as a virus-weary nation closes out 2021 with covid infections exploding to record highs. >> life must go on, and the
party must go on. >> reporter: the u.s. facing a record 2.2 million cases reported the final week of the year. nearly four americans testing positive every second. but crowds already filing into times square. 15,000 people all masked and fully vaccinated. >> there's a lot of people, so we'll definitely get tested when he get home. >> reporter: other cities from atlanta to san francisco scrapping their new year's events entirely. boston offering vaccines at its celebration. and more than 300,000 people expected at a fireworks display along the vegas strip, as health officials urge people to avoid large indoor gatherings. >> there's really not a safe way to have a massive gathering for new year's unmasked. it's just a setup for failure. >> reporter: americans across the country still waiting hours in testing lines, from pennsylvania to houston, some stretching miles. >> we were basically told that the chances of us getting tested were basically zero because there were 200 people in front of us.
so by the time they closed, they wouldn't get to us. >> reporter: and now new year's closures and bad weather making it even more difficult to find tests. >> it's pretty frustrating. i've been literally up since, i don't know, 6:00 this morning trying to look for sites. i'm in health care, and i can't treat my patients if i don't get tested. >> reporter: right now 10,000 infected americans being admitted in hospitals each day. by mid-january, that number could climb as high as 28,000. >> hospital systems are filled. people are still getting sick, and there's still a lot of exposure happening to frontline workers, people needed to keep our country running smoothly. >> reporter: and with 30 million eligible children still unvaccinated, a record number of kids are entering the hospital with covid. 6-year-old aria shapiro has epilepsy. her mother held off on getting her the vaccine until two weeks ago, but aria tested positive the next day. she was hospitalized and just came off a breathing tube. >> i wish i would have
vaccinated her sooner, because i think her body would have had more time to build up some antibodies to this virus. >> trevor ault is back with us from times square. there's also a new projection out tonight showing when the u.s. might see the peak of this omicron surge. >> reporter: that's right, whit. scientists at columbia university are projecting we could see the peak of the surge as early as january 9th at about 2.5 million cases a week, but that could go up above 5 million a week. the models show in new york city, we could see the peak of infections in the first week of the new year. although i know you can hear here now, some people are ready to party. >> going to get worse before it gets better. thank you. now to the staggering new image of destruction in boulder county, colorado. wildfires moving with blinding speed, wiping out two communities in just a matter of hours. as many as 1,000 homes feared damages or destroyed. fires fueled by hurricane-force wind gusts topping 100 miles per hour. families given almost no notice to get out. many driving through the flames
to find safety. the governor saying it's a miracle no one died. president biden promising federal aid as the same area is now bracing for up to half a foot of snow. here's abc's will carr in colorado. >> reporter: tonight, the worst possible combination of drought and wind fueling colorado's most destructive wildfire on record. >> this is our community, and to watch it burn so quickly, so unexpectedly is something that i think we're all just struggling to believe and understand. >> reporter: apocalyptic devastation. entire neighborhoods wiped from the map. >> the fire was moving basically at the same speed of the wind. >> reporter: those winds gusting to hurricane force, pushing flames right into the towns of superior and lewisville outside boulder. some 34,000 running for their lives. >> god help us. >> drivers unable to see through the smoke as flames jumped the road. parents rushing kids out of chuck e. cheese. shoppers fleeing this costco
into a hellscape. these images taken from inside avista hospital, more than 50 patients evacuated. firefighters desperately trying to save homes through the night. the scale of the devastation visible as the sun rose. officials fear as many as 1,000 homes could be destroyed. after flames devoured the element hotel thursday, this is all that remains. the governor surveying the damage from the air. >> it was a suburban and urban fire. the costco we all shop at, the target we buy our kids clothes at, all surrounded and damaged. >> reporter: tonight, with their bags packed, so many waiting for word on their homes, including dale roy and his wife jan. >> i think our house is okay, but other people we know, their house burned, and you really feel bad for them. >> reporter: tonight, with the cause of the fire under investigation, you can see snow has started to blanket this
area. that's knocked the flames out, but there are still tens of thousands of people without power, and heading into tomorrow, the wind chill is going to be below zero. so there are still dangerous conditions here throughout the weekend. whit? >> will, thank you. you saw that heavy snow in colorado. we're also tracking a new year's storm with weather alerts from arizona all the way to the east impacting millions and possible tornados in the south. let's get right to abc's senior meteorologist rob marciano. and rob, some of the most dangerous weather is coming late tonight. >> reporter: it is, whit. this is going to be an expansive, high-impact holiday event. you mention the advisories. check them out on the map. a lot of winter weather advisories. cold air and a flood watch across an area devastated by tornadoes just a couple weeks ago. storm is now taking shape as it emerges into the plains. firestorm in colorado. pushes east into lincoln, nebraska. icing conditions tomorrow morning in kansas city. heavy rain from arkansas all the way up through the ohio river valley.
snow in chicago, 4 to 8 inches of snow there. the severe weather threat in the warm sector, that's what i'm worried about the most. memphis, birmingham, atlanta, nashville could see damaging winds and strong tornados. the mild air feeding that is pushing towards the east. temperatures way above normal in the east. away from the storm zone, ringing in the new year on the mild side. whit? >> rob, thank you. now to the new travel warning from the faa. expect even more flight cancelations in the coming days. more than 1,500 flights grounded again in less than 24 hours, making it six days in a row with more than 1,000 flights canceled. airlines crippled by the weather and covid-related staffing shortages. elwyn lopez is in atlanta. >> reporter: tonight, new trouble in the skies ahead of the first weekend of the new year, adding to an already chaotic holiday travel season. >> i've never seen this much cancelation going on. >> reporter: more than 1,500 flights grounded today alone, marking the sixth day in a row of more than a thousand cancelations. some airlines blaming extreme weather and staffing shortages due to the surging omicron variant.
>> there's a lot of cancelations with the virus. you know. i hope that this is getting better, not worse. >> reporter: but the faa now issuing a new warning -- the likelihood for more travel delays in the coming days. the agency pointing to bad weather, heavy traffic, and an uptick in air traffic controllers and other employees testing positive for covid-19. >> this is very unusual. to me, it's a surprise they haven't had more sick-outs sooner. this is just the path of the virus. >> reporter: one passenger tells me her delayed flight from the bahamas caused her to miss a connecting flight in miami, where she ultimately spent the night. >> i went through security and slept at the gate. it was unpleasant. it really was. >> reporter: whit, 8.5 million people are predicted to fly through u.s. airports between today and january 4th. here in atlanta, we could see almost 250,000 travelers on sunday alone. whit? >> and those challenges still to come for days ahead. elwyn, thank you. tonight president biden celebrating the new year in
delaware. the president speaking for the first time about his call with russian president vladimir putin yesterday. he says he told putin the u.s. will not tolerate any further escalation by russia regarding ukraine. >> i made it clear to president putin that if he makes any more moves, goes into ukraine, we will have severe sanctions. we will increase our presence in europe with our nato allies, and it will be a heavy price to pay for it. >> the president and first lady also asked about the passing of betty white. president biden calling it "a shame." jill biden echoing the thoughts of many, asking, who didn't love betty white? and tonight, amid the difficult headlines, the world is celebrating the new year. australia with a massive fireworks display at the sydney harbor bridge and sydney opera house. fireworks shooting from the rooftops, filling the skyline above hong kong. and the new year celebrated in
spectacular fashion in dubai. fireworks pouring from the burj khalifa, the tallest building in the world. quite a sight. when we come back, news on jeffrey epstein and the guards on duty when he took his own life. and the latest on the tiger mauling investigation. what the zoo is saying about the deputy's actions. today, you have to deal with a lot of moving parts. you want everything to be on autopilot. and to be prepared if anything changes. with ibm, you can do both. your business can bring data together across your clouds, from suppliers to shippers, to the factory floor. so whatever comes your way, the wheels keep moving. seamlessly modernizing your operations, that's why so many businesses work with ibm. nicorette knows, quitting smoking is freaking hard. you get advice like: try hypnosis... or... quit cold turkey. kidding me?! instead, start small. with nicorette.
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the conviction of ghislaine maxwell, epstein's former girlfriend and associate. epstein was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. an update now on the tiger mauling in naples, florida. zoo officials are commending the actions of law enforcement, saying the deputy who shot the endangered tiger faced a very difficult choice, and they support his actions. officials believe the tiger died of internal bleeding from a gunshot wound to the neck. the maintenance worker who was bitten could face charges. when we come back, news about the champagne shortage. you might want to savor that bubbly tonight. or waiting for the 7:12 bus... or sunday afternoon in the produce aisle. these moments may not seem remarkable. but at pfizer, protecting the regular routine, and everyday drives us to reach for exceptional. working to impact hundreds of millions of lives... young and old. it's what we call, the pursuit of normal. ♪ ♪
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easy, but this team works so hard to find the hope and humanity, too. i'm grateful to them and to you. happy new year. good night. ♪ ♪ should auld acquaintance be forgot and never thought upon ♪ ♪ the flames of love extinguished and fully passed and gone ♪ ♪ for auld lang syne my jo for auld lang syne ♪ ♪ we'll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne ♪
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investigating a shooting. one person was shot around 3:45 this afternoon. the gunfire sent shoppers grambling for cover. >> they were running out. everybody was running out. there was a body half dead, bleeding a lot from his left side. >> the victim was taken to the medical center at walnut creek. the extent of the injuries is not known at this time. police won't say if the suspect is in custody. there's no threat to the public. the mall was put on lockdown and is now closed for the evening. >> good evening and thank you for joining us. dan: tonight, we honor betty white. she died today at the age of 99. an award-winning actress and national treasure whose on-screen career spanned decades. >> if felix use me, i have i hae rake someone's tail over the coals.