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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Iowa town near Minnesota border evacuated

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news Ellsworth, 54011
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

NORTHWOODS, Iowa --  A town of nearly two thousand in northern Iowa, near the state line 20 minutes south of Albert Lea, has been evacuated because of a fire burning at the Northwood Municipal Airport. 

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Worth County emergency management officials say sulfuric acid is involved and they've asked that everyone get out of town immediately.  Worth County Sheriff's employees are taking those without transportation to the Kensett Community Center, about six miles south.  Officials have not said what caused the fire or whether anyone is hurt.

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Forecasters are calling today's winter storm the strongest system of the year so far.  National Weather Service meteorologist Lisa Schmit says expect between seven and 10 inches along and east of Interstate 35 from north of the Twin Cities, through Minneapolis and down to Albert Lea in southern Minnesota.  Schmit says there will also be strong winds, especially across southern Minnesota -- including Mankato and Albert Lea where a blizzard warning is in effect.  Schmit says Rochester could see over a foot of snow.  In the Duluth area, they are forecasting around 13 inches and over a foot-and-a-half in the Arrowhead.  Heaviest snowfall is forecast throughout this afternoon.

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The coming blizzard has grounded flights from Rochester International Airport to the Twin Cities.  Delta Air Lines operates commuter flights roughly every two hours between the two airports.  Business travelers and those seeking treatment at Mayo Clinic often use them.

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A teacher at a school in Minneapolis is charged with attempted murder for trying to kill his stepson with an ax.  The criminal complaint says 62-year-old Mark James of St. Paul admitted he swung the ax at the younger man during an argument over when the stepson and his family would move out of James' home.  The stepson told police James hit him in the face with the ax, leaving a cut near his left eye.  James' statement says he wanted to kill the other man and he swung the ax but missed.  The older man's wife told investigators that her son had charged 150 dollars on James' credit card a week earlier and her husband was still angry about it.  The Anishinabe Academy in Minneapolis has placed the fourth-grade teacher on administrative leave.

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No dramatic change is expected when the National Weather Service releases its second spring flood outlook for the Red River Basin this afternoon, says meteorologist Greg Gust.  The last outlook, issued January 24th, said risk of substantial flooding appeared low due to lack of snow, low moisture content in the current snow pack and dry soils throughout the basin.  That outlook also predicted a minor to moderate potential for flooding on the Red River's tributaries. 

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Officials with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis call a report by a statewide news outlet about priest sex abuse "misleading and inaccurate."  Church spokesman Jim Accurso says an online article by Minnesota Public Radio that identifies 28 accused clergy members who have not been named publicly, is incorrect.  Accurso says officials with the archdiocese have not substantiated any possible claims against those priests, in 16 cases accusations are false or meritless -- and more than ten are not currently affiliated with the archdiocese and allegations against them did not take place in the archdiocese.  Accurso says at least two have never served as clergy members within the archdiocese, and police investigations determined accusations against at least three were without merit. 

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The cause of the Valentine's Day fire that killed five children in a north Minneapolis duplex is still undetermined.  The Minneapolis Arson Unit's report says there is nothing to indicate it's anything other than an accident.  Investigators will continue looking into possible causes, which is not uncommon following an undetermined finding.  Two sisters of the five victims remain hospitalized in critical condition and their father, Troy Lewis, is in satisfactory condition. 

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A 12-year-old Baldwin Township boy is doing better after being rescued from a snow tunnel that collapsed on him yesterday (TUE).  The Sherburne County Sheriff's Office says a call came in reporting the boy was buried from his waist up in a snowbank.  When deputies arrived, they found the boy had been pulled out by his father.  The boy was flown by helicopter to North Memorial Hospital, treated for injuries and released a few hours later.

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An elderly woman was raped at a senior living home in Hermantown, and was then placed in a mental health unit in Duluth for nearly three days without treatment for her injuries - even though the nursing assistant who assaulted her had already confessed.  The 89-year-old woman's lawyers, who have filed suit on her behalf, tell the MInneapolis Star-Tribune that they believe staff at Edgewood Vista senior living facility didn't believe the allegations because the victim was in the early stages of dementia.  A medical exam conducted days later showed clear signs of rape.  Thirty-year-old Andrew Merzwski admitted to drugging the woman and sexually assaulting her, plead guilty, and was sentenced to four years in prison.

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The so-called "man in black" bank robber is scheduled to be sentenced on federal charges March 7th in St.Paul. Fifty-one-year-old Mark Wetsch was arrested in St. Peter in January 2012 after allegedly robbing a bank in Brewster.  During a court hearing last May, he admitted to stealing 109-thousand dollars from 31 banks across Minnesota.  Wetsch pleaded guilty to five counts of bank robbery, but in November claimed he was coerced into accepting a plea agreement and a 14-year prison sentence.  A judge has since denied motions to withdraw his guilty pleas and delay sentencing.  Wetsch changed his name to Sheikh Bilaal Muhammad Arafat while in the Sherburne County jail. 

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The state's health care exchange, MNsure, has launched a new ad campaign encouraging more Minnesotans to enroll before the March 31st deadline.  The ads take a break from the past use of spokes-legends Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.  MNsure officials say the new radio and TV campaign is more personal.  One of the ads features small business owners Mike and Becky who couldn't find affordable health coverage for their employees, but says when MNsure came along, it was the right fit. Nearly 95,000 Minnesotans have already selected health insurance through MNsure. 

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The St. Cloud Fire Department responded to a call Wednesday morning at the same apartment complex they were dispatched to for another fire on Tuesday.  Officials believe the fires are a result of arson and are offering a $2,500 reward to anyone with information.  Fire Marshal Mike Post isn't releasing many details, only saying the investigation is on-going.  There was about $500 damage Tuesday morning, and more significant damage this morning(wed).  Anyone with information on the fires should call the arson hotline at 800-723-2020.  

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