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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Heavy rains, stiff winds batter Minnesota's southern tier of Counties

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CHANHASSEN, Minn. -- It was another brutal weather night for Minnesota's southern tier of counties.  Meteorologist Chris Franks with the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen says the biggest threat from the storms that rolled through west and central Minnesota was the heavy rain that fell on already saturated soil.  Mankato was especially hard hit, but communities across much of south central Minnesota picked up a healthy two to four inches of rain, with some locations getting five or six inches overnight.  Franks says there have been a number of reports in southern Minnesota of quarter to half dollar size hail.  From Albert Lea to the west, strong winds have likely left some damage in their wake, but Franks says it'll be tough to say how much until meteorologists and emergency managers have a chance to survey the affected areas in daylight.  Those were likely straight-line winds, while areas *just* south of the border in Iowa may have been visited by tornadoes -- but that's not yet been confirmed.

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Flood and storm recovery efforts continue around the state.  Minnesota emergency management officials say that in Owatonna, creeks, streams and rivers are at capacity and further rain could cause them to overflow.  In Faribault, Blue Earth and Freeborn counties, residents and officials are dealing with downed trees and power lines, plus buildings damaged in some areas.  The cities of Alden, Emmons and Conger are pumping to protect a treatment plant and private wells.  In northern Minnesota, flood fighting efforts continue in International Falls and vicinity where waters are still rising.  Rainy Lake is predicted to crest in mid-July.  In northern Saint Louis County, sandbagging efforts continue as officials and residents try to hold back rising waters on Lake Kabetogama.

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Officials in International Falls and vicinity are gearing up for a long-term battle against flood waters.  Koochiching County Commissioner Brian McBride told Governor Dayton it could take a month for lake levels to drop and they're concerned about having enough volunteers to continue the fight.  McBride says they'll "have to start looking for some help if this continues."  Meanwhile officials remind boaters that a no-wake zone extends 300 yards from shore on Rainy Lake.

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A close call for a kayaker from New Jersey who was rescued from the Pine River in Crow Wing County just downstream from the dam in Crosslake.  Authorities say 53-year-old Ann Weissman was pinned to a tree by the extremely strong current.  Rescuers were unable to free her until the Army Corps of Engineers shut down the dam so water levels could subside.  Weissman was wearing a life jacket and helmet and was uninjured.  Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl is reminding boaters that water levels are extremely high and rivers and streams have very strong currents because of recent heavy rain.

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Authorities say a person sustained serious burns at a science lab on the U-of-M's East Bank Minneapolis campus this afternoon (Tues) from an explosion involving a volatile chemical compound.  Smith Hall was evacuated and haz-mat crews dealt with the spill.  Authorities say there was no fire or structural damage to the building.  The exact cause of the explosion is not known and the investigation continues. 

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 Despite the capture of Abu Khattala for allegedly orchestrating the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, the lead in the investigation says the probe is not over.  FBI Director James Comey was in the Twin Cities to visit the new Minneapolis FBI field office, and would not say where Khattala is being held, other than to confirm he's in U.S. custody.  The September 11, 2012 attack in Libya killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

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Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is blaming the Obama administration for the growing insurgency in Iraq, claiming the president pulled U-S troops out to score political points.  The Minnesota Republican says President Obama needs to bring in a completely different national security team, from foreign policy to intelligence to the military.  Bachmann suggests the president tap former U-S Ambassador John Bolton to help with the crisis in Iraq.  Meanwhile, Women Against Military Madness is holding a vigil in Minneapolis tonight called "No New U-S War in Iraq!" (Wed 5-6pm) 

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An elected official from Minnesota is among those lobbying in Washington D-C against a proposal to allow longer trucks -- double trailers up to 33 feet each -- on the nation's highways.  Carver County Commissioner Randy Maluchnik with the group Coalition Against Big Trucks says FedEx is one company pushing for it.  He says companies don't pay enough gas tax to repair damage that heavy trucks inflict on roads, and that expense falls on local property taxpayers.  FedEx didn't respond to a request for comment  Maluchnik met Tuesday with representatives of Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.

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A Waseca teenager accused of planning a terror attack on his family and school is scheduled to be back in court today.(wed) 17-year-old John Ladue is charged with 12 felonies, including four counts of attempted first degree murder.  Ladue earlier entered a denial plea--which is the equivalent of pleading not guilty.  Investigators say a detailed journal was found at LaDue's home and confirmed his attack plans involving pressure cooker bombs, firearms and ammunition.  A judge could decide today whether or not to seal that evidence.  We could also learn today whether LaDue will be charged as an adult, pending results of a court ordered certification study. 

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An estimated 10 to 15 thousand sandbags are in place in northern St. Louis County around properties near Lake Kabetogama, the Ash River Trail and Crane Lake.  The sandbagging effort began last Friday and continued through the weekend as heavy rain caused water levels to rise by more than a foot. The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office continues to monitor the situation and have added extra patrols.  There have been no injuries, evacuations or road closures at this point and all county roads remain in good condition.

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Minnesota State Trooper Brian Beuning is being hailed as a hero for rescuing a woman who was stranded in the floodwaters on Interstate 90 near the South Dakota border Monday night.  The woman called 911 as her car was filling with water, and moments after Trooper Beuning helped her get out through a back window, the car was swept away by the flood.  A DNR boat was unable to get to them due to the current, so firemen in water-rescue suits tied a rope around the trooper and woman to help them walk to safety.

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 The owner of a Mankato day care center was arrested Monday after the Blue Earth County Sheriff's office executed a search warrant at the Kind Heart Day Care Center.  27-year old Yasmin Muhina Salim is accused of fraudulently billing Blue Earth County Human Services for more than $12-thousand dollars from the Child Care Assistance Program.  The C-C-A-P is a public assistance program that helps low-income families obtain child care.  Salim faces Felony charges of wrongfully obtaining assistance and theft, both which could bring up to ten years in prison and a fine up to $20-thousand dollars.

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Three teens were hurt when the pickup they were in rolled while trying to beat a train.    It happened yesterday (tue) afternoon on Highway 9 in Doran, south of Breckenridge.    The state patrol says the pickup tried to go around the crossing arm, but hit it, causing the vehicle to roll.  The 19-year old driver, and two passengers, ages 18 and 13, were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

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 A pickup fleeing police drove down the fairways of Moorhead's Village Green golf course with several squads in pursuit.  It started around seven last night after North Dakota BCI asked police for help in arresting a fugitive with felony warrants.  Police terminated the pursuit because of the danger to the public.  A short time later, the pickup was spotted on I-94 and officers began chasing it again.  More than a half-dozen squads pursued the fleeing driver, with a helicopter hovering above.  The driver bailed out of the pickup in the parking lot of West Acres Mall in Fargo.  He was caught a short time later.  33-year old Kendall Feist (fyst) of Bismarck was arrested on multiple counts, including fleeing and criminal damage to property. 

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