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A stunner for the economy

By Ann Curry, NBC News Anchor  

Nightly's 2:30 meeting began today with more worry than usual about how we are going to fit in all the stories we want to cover tonight.

The big story, a stunner for the economy: median U.S. home sales plunged more than 13 percent last month, more than expected, and the biggest year-over-year drop in 40 years.

The economy isn't getting any help from the weather today. There's lots of evidence, our Lee Cowan is finding, that even last minute Christmas shoppers who want to spend are having trouble getting to and from stores on this day before Christmas eve.

The weather is also still stranding people just trying to get home for Christmas.  Get this: 250 flights out of Seattle and Chicago have been cancelled and Amtrak is reporting trains stuck for up to 19 hours and counting, stranding hundreds.

At this hour, the cold is being considered a possible factor in this morning's 66-inch water main break in Bethesda, Maryland. We are gathering not only the dramatic video of people being rescued from flooded cars on what is now ironically named River Road, but interviews with them as well.

And if that wasn't enough, later today we expect news to break on what communications anyone on the Obama team may have had with the embattled
governor of Illinois.

But amid all this, we're looking forward to some poignant stories too, including one by Brian himself, about the 40th anniversary of the flight of Apollo 8. The first to orbit the moon, the mission gives us a chance to once again get a look at ourselves from very far away. Maybe it's some perspective we can use right now.

(Editor's note: Due to breaking news, the Apollo 8 story will now air on Christmas Eve).