WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Another "polar vortex" is in the works this week
Get ready for another "polar vortex" in Wisconsin this week. Highs are expected to be in the teens-and-20's today -- but by tomorrow, forecasters say it could be 10-degrees colder. By Wednesday, parts of northern and western Wisconsin will be back down to 20-below. The entire state could be in the deep freeze until Friday, well below normal for this time of year. The National Weather Service does not have any cold advisories out for now -- but we could see wind-chill advisories tomorrow night and Wednesday night, as wind-chills drop into the minus-30's again. There's a chance for light snow tonight across southern Wisconsin, but most of the state is expected to remain dry all week.
The symbol of Wisconsin's icy winter is open to the public once again. The suddenly-popular ice caves re-opened this weekend west of Bayfield. The caves were closed last Thursday night after an 18-inch snowstorm hit the region, amid fears that the shaky ice underneath might not be strong enough. But on Saturday, officials affirmed that the ice was safe -- and folks were encouraged to use snowshoes and cross country skis to reach the ice caves until a path could be formed on the two-mile stretch from the access point at Meyers Beach. It's been five years since the weather was cold enough to accommodate people walking under the scenic ice caves along the Lake Superior mainland on the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Social media spread the word, and worldwide news coverage followed, as crowds showed up like officials there have never seen. The Wall Street Journal took its turn publicizing the ice caves today. Since January 15th, about 60-thousand people have seen them. That's about 40-percent of the 150-thousand who toured the entire Apostle Islands last year by boat.
Green Bay might become the next Wisconsin city to ban hand-held cell phones while driving. Wausau passed a similar ordinance earlier this month, with the prospect that its suburbs would do the same. Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids banned hand-held cell phones by drivers a while back. A Green Bay committee will discuss the idea tonight. Alderman Jerry Wiezbiskie tells W-L-U-K T-V the need for a ban became clear when the snow started piling up this winter. He said about nine-of-every-10 drivers who go by his house when he's shoveling on the street are holding their phones and quote, "I know they don't see me." Wausau encountered little opposition in approving its cell ban. It remains to be seen whether the same thing could happen in Green Bay. Pizza delivery man Zak Quick tells W-L-U-K says he needs a cell phone to contact customers, clarify orders, and check his delivery locations -- and hands-free phones don't always cut it. He said if drivers can't talk on their cells, quote, "Why not ban fast-food" behind the wheel.
As the economy improves, many parts of Wisconsin are in need of qualified builders and skilled manufacturing employees. Those companies often look to the state's apprenticeship program to fill their needs -- but the apprenticeship pool has gotten smaller. State officials said there were almost 98-hundred apprenticeships in the various building trades last year -- down from almost 16-thousand in 2001. The Wisconsin State Journal said it has become more of a challenge to get young people to consider apprenticeships, despite the need for skilled workers. Madison electrical contractor Mike Pohlman said his company does a lot of outreach to schools -- and some schools don't seem to want to direct students to the building trades. Madison College apprenticeship manager Jim Cook the situation has improved in Dane County because of a recent construction boom. He says the demand for apprentice services has not been this strong since World War Two.
Tax time is getting to be prime-time for identity theft in Wisconsin. The state's consumer protection agency received almost 400 complaints about identity theft last year. Fifty-seven percent of those victims, or 227, said their income tax returns were rejected because somebody stole their information and beat them to a refund. Victims can get their situations rectified -- but it often takes months of paperwork to clear their names. Both the I-R-S and the Wisconsin Revenue Department recently announced safeguards to make sure people get a chance to file their own returns. The Federal Trade Commission reported 160-thousand cases of tax identity theft around the country for 2012. That's four times more than just two years earlier. Among other things, officials urge you not to answer phone calls and e-mails from someone claiming to be from the I-R-S. The F-T-C said almost half of identity thieves use their stolen data to obtain government benefits and commit wage-related fraud. Thirteen percent receive credit cards in the victims' names.
Governor Scott Walker told the nation yesterday what he told Wisconsinites on Friday -- that the release of e-mails from his former Milwaukee County executive staff is "old news," and Democrats are trying to score points by harping on it. On "Fox News Sunday," the Republican Walker said the 27-thousand documents released last week were from an investigation that ended last March -- although his ex-aide Kelly Rindfleisch is still appealing her illegal campaigning conviction in that case. Among other things, the documents confirmed a secret e-mail system in Walker's Milwaukee County office, and close ties between the Walker campaign and county staffs during his 2010 race for governor. Fox host Chris Wallace asked the governor whether he knew there was a private e-mail account. Walker wouldn't answer, saying he won't pore through all of the 27-thousand documents released. He also pointed out that it was a Democratic D-A -- Milwaukee's John Chisholm -- who did the investigation. And Walker said Democrats are bringing up the case because quote, "The folks running against us can't counter our positive message when it comes to the economy, and creating budget surpluses." C-N-N said Walker would not say whether he regretted ordering daily conference calls between his county and campaign aides while he ran for governor in 2010.
Law enforcement officers from throughout Wisconsin are expected to attend a funeral today for a suburban Milwaukee detective. 39-year-old Stacie Napoli died last Monday, of complications from giving birth to twins, a boy and a girl. She was a 17-year veteran of the West Allis Police Department. A procession of police vehicles will start at a funeral home in New Berlin, with stops at the West Allis police station and finally a cemetery in New Berlin. Flags are at half-staff in West Allis in Napoli's honor.
An east central Wisconsin man who died after he got pinned between a milk truck and a barn is identified as 63-year-old Michael Clauson of Clintonville. Authorities said he had just finished filling a farmer's milk truck, and was unhooking a hose when the truck slid backwards on an icy driveway and trapped Clauson. It happened early Friday afternoon in the Outagamie County town of Bovina. Clauson died at the scene.