WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Risk of wildfires decreasing thanks to today's rain
The risk of wildfires has gone down, and rain is in the forecast statewide for today. Even so, the D-N-R says you should not forget that it's the worst time of year for out-of-control forest and brush fires. This is "Wildfire Prevention Week," to remember the upcoming anniversary of last May's blaze in Douglas and Bayfield counties that blackened 74-hundred acres -- the state's largest forest fire in 33 years. It was only last week that far northern Wisconsin had up to 19-inches of snow. The D-N-R's Catherine Koele said it's a misconception that things don't burn after such a large snowstorm melts away. She said it's exactly the opposite because the vegetation is dead, and dry windy weather makes for a bad combination. Officials urge those burning yard waste to make sure their fires are completely out when they're done -- and to get the proper permits. The D-N-R has reported about 150 wildfires in Wisconsin this spring, burning around 12-hundred acres. The fire danger remains high in west central Wisconsin and about the southern third of the state. Moderate fire dangers are reported everywhere else except Vilas County, where the risk is low.
A statewide tornado drill is still on for today. It would have been called off had severe weather been predicted for real. With rain in the forecast, the National Weather Service said it consulted with state officials and the broadcasters association -- and they agreed to go ahead with the drill. It gives schools, businesses, and residents a chance to practice what they'd do in the event of a real twister. A simulated tornado watch will be issued at one this afternoon -- and you should hear the sirens go off when the test tornado warning goes out at 1:45. The drill will be finished by two o'clock. It's part of Wisconsin's Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week. The Badger State averages 23 tornadoes each year, but it only had 16 a year ago. The weather service says most tornadoes occur in May and June, but they can happen anytime when conditions are right. Most twisters touch down between three and nine p-m.
A court hearing will be held in Madison today on a lawsuit that challenges conditions for abortions that were set by Republican state lawmakers in 2012. Planned Parenthood filed suit 14 months ago, claiming the law is too vague to be constitutional. Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess will hear arguments on both sides this morning. Under the law, doctors must determine if a woman really consents to an abortion -- and if they think she's being coerced, they'd have to tell her about available domestic abuse services. Also, doctors would have to conduct physicals before they could prescribe abortion-inducing drugs -- and they'd have to be in the same room where the drugs are administered. Planned Parenthood says the law does not clearly say how voluntary consent would be determined -- and whether doctors need to be around when drugs are dispensed.
Shawano County prosecutors are expected to file charges by the end of the week against a man arrested for holding a McDonald's manager hostage. The 28-year-old suspect from Gillett (jill'-ett) was sent to jail after he was checked out at a mental health center. Authorities said he had symptoms of severe depression during Tuesday's incident at a combined Mickey-D's and Shell gas station in Wittenberg. The man reportedly allowed everyone else to leave before he held the 26-year-old restaurant manager at gunpoint for about an hour on Tuesday afternoon. The male hostage was let go without injury, and officials said the suspect surrendered an hour later after negotiations with officers. He did not ask for money from the store, and there's no apparent relationship between the gunman and the hostage. Online court records showed that the man only had previous traffic offenses on his record -- including first-time O-W-I and driving with a revoked license.
Minnesota State-Mankato now wishes it could have been more forthright in explaining how it dealt with former U-W Eau Claire football coach Todd Hoffner. The school is asking Minnesota's legislative auditor to review the process Mankato used in firing its coach last year -- only to bring him back after an arbitrator recently ordered the school to do so. Hoffner's supporters said he got caught up in the public outcry against former Penn State football assistant Jerry Sandusky. Hoffner was fired after a judge dropped charges that he possessed child porn in 2012, because he had nude photos of his kids playing in a bathtub on his university-issued cellphone. The arbitrator said Hoffner was wrongly let go. Chancellor Steven Rosenstone said one of the most frustrating aspects of the case was the inability under state law to explain its actions to the public. He said there was quote, "no intentional wrongdoing' by Mankato's decision-makers. The school wants the legislative auditor to determine whether the processes used were appropriate. Hoffner coached at Eau Claire for seven years before going to Mankato.
Three Marquette engineering students have won 53-thousand dollars, for creating a mobile app that makes it easier to do Power Point presentations. Undergrads Devin Turner and Charlie Beckworth, and M-B-A candidate Nicholas Winninger won a entrepreneurial prize in the Rice Business Plan competition. They created an app called "Focal Cast" in a company called Narsys that Turner established. The app allows people to make wireless Power Point presentations from their smartphones or tablets. The team said the prize money will be used to further develop the app so it can run on Apple's platform. It will also be tested by Wisconsin firms like American Family Insurance and the Brady Corporation. The app is expected to be released next month for Android devices.
Businesses affected by the downsizing of the Oshkosh Corporation will get the state's help to replace the military business they'll lose. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation says it will issue short-term loans and loan guarantees of up to a quarter-million dollars each. The agency said it was planning to begin a pilot loan program sometime after July -- but it's proceeding now, in order to help companies affected by new layoffs at the Oshkosh plant. That firm recently said it would lay off 760 people. It's because of a slowdown in military vehicle production, due to the ending of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Suppliers like metal fabricators and machine shops will also feel the pinch. W-E-D-C leader Reed Hall says it's imperative for companies that rely on dwindling defense contracts to diversify, and explore new products and markets. The agency said the loan program could eventually expand to help other Wisconsin companies.
A ticket sold in Florida won last night's Powerball jackpot of 148-point-eight million dollars. Wisconsinites did not win any of the other big prizes. Four players in the Badger State won 400-dollars by having the Power Play multiplier of four, and matching either four regular numbers or three-plus-the-Powerball. Almost 10-thousand-400 Wisconsin players won smaller prizes. Last night's numbers were 19, 25, 29, 36, and 48. The Powerball was 12. The jackpot was building since March 22nd. It returns to 40-million dollars for the next drawing on Saturday night. In Mega Millions, the top prize is at 59-million dollars for tomorrow night.