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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Federal funds helping Minnesota heating

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Minnesota families and businesses are soon getting federal help with the state's propane shortage. The Obama administration has said it will release 16-million dollars for Minnesota as part of 450-million dollars set aside nationwide for heating homes and businesses. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency earlier this week as most of the nation sits in the grip of a cold spell.

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Governor Dayton says Texas Governor Rick Perry has agreed to keep an order in place beyond next week which relaxes restrictions on trucking so more propane can be shipped to Minnesota. Perry's pledge came during a Thursday afternoon telephone conversation with several Midwestern governors. Dayton says the state is "at a crisis point, supplies are very thin, and the ability of trucks to go down and bring supply back up from Texas is making a huge difference to Minnesota." This afternoon (Fri 3pm), Dayton will ask the state Executive Council to extend his order declaring a state of emergency. It allows the National Guard to deploy necessary resources to ease the propane shortage and keeps the state's emergency operations plan in force.

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Flu activity in Minnesota remains widespread. The weekly update from the Minnesota Department of Health shows the number of flu-related hospitalizations continued to drop last week, but more schools reported probable outbreaks. There were 84 confirmed flu-related hospitalizations statewide. Nineteen schools reported likely outbreaks, up from 10 the previous week. There was only one report of a flu outbreak in a Minnesota nursing home last week, compared to five a week earlier.

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Rocori showed support for one of its most famous graduates, wide receiver Eric Decker of the Denver Broncos, during an "Eric Decker Day" pep rally yesterday. The rally was held to celebrate Decker's upcoming appearance in the Super Bowl on Sunday. Decker was a 2005 Rocori graduate before joining the Minnesota Gophers to continue his football career. Eric's Grandmother Bernice Decker attended the rally, and says she's excited but nervous to watch the game. Decker was a three sport star athlete during his time at Rocori, playing football, basketball and baseball.

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A northern Minnesota high school was on lockdown for a while yesterday (Thu) after a live rifle round was found on campus. St. Louis County Sheriff's Sergeant Nate Skelton says a soft lockdown was put in place at Mesabi East High School in Aurora so investigators could conduct a search. They didn't find anything else suspicious and the school was deemed safe.

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Six inches of snow fell in just a couple of hours yesterday (Thu) morning, including the Twin Cities, during rush hour. Minnesota State Patrol's Lieutenant Eric Roeske says troopers handled at least 230 crashes yesterday (Fri), but none of the injuries were serious, and 369 additional cars that skidded off the road or spun out. Today (Fri), a wind chill advisory is in place statewide until 10 a.m., and forecasters with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen say the combination of cold temperatures -- below zero across Minnesota - and winds of up to 15 m.p.h. are making it feel 20 to 30 below this (Fri) morning.

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The State of Minnesota has set up a hotline for Minnesotans having problems due to the propane shortage. Doug Neville with the Department of Public Safety says if you are in danger of running out of heating fuel or have any other concerns, call the hotline. The number is staffed with experts Monday through Friday from 9 to 4:30 p.m. (800-657-3504)

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A Moorhead Man whose five-month-old daughter died after he left her in a hot minivan will *not* be going to jail. Andrew Sandstrom received a four-year suspended jail sentence and ten years of supervised probation. Clay County Attorney Brian Melton says prosecutors didn't feel a prison sentence would serve the public safety, but given Sandstrom's negligence that caused the child's death, "some jail term was appropriate." Sandstrom pleaded guilty earlier to second-degree manslaughter. Melton says it was a difficult case for everyone.

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A man accused of hiding an estimated 100-thousand doses of methamphetamine is walking free. Cesar Fletes-Ortiz was acquitted yesterday after he was accused of dealing about one-million dollars' worth of the drug out of his basement. Fletes-Ortiz contended that the 16 to 18 pounds of meth belonged to his housemate.

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A Minnesota egg company is having to settle for runner-up in a Super Bowl ad contest. The Locally Laid Egg Company of Wrenshall was one of four finalists in a contest to have their ad air during Sunday's Super Bowl. Instead, the company will have a professionally produced commercial shown during a future Fox Sports broadcast.

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