WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Temperatures are supposed to inch up tomorrow, before another cold front comes
It's about 10 degrees colder than it was yesterday morning in parts of far northern Wisconsin. Siren had 24-below at six o'clock. It was minus-23 in both Superior and Hayward. It was a little warmer than yesterday in the state's mid-section -- where Eau Claire was at three-below, and Waupaca was actually above zero at plus-six. Winds are relatively light or non-existent -- but wind-chill advisories continue in many parts of Wisconsin until mid-morning, and will resume overnight. In southeast Wisconsin, where heavy lake effect snow was falling, Milwaukee and Racine were both at 18-above at six o'clock. Racine had almost nine inches of snow by late yesterday afternoon, and it was still coming down early today. Kenosha had six-and-a-half inches last evening, with 2-to-4 more inches possible today. Places to the north have had less. Two Creeks in Manitowoc County picked up four-and-a-half inches, and Kewaunee had two-and-a-half. More lake effect snow is expected today in far eastern Wisconsin. It's supposed to be dry in the rest of the state, with highs in the single-digits and teens. Warmer readings are expected tomorrow, and highs in the 20's are predicted for many spots on Saturday before a new Arctic air mass moves in on Sunday.
The New Year could bring a new way for you to light up your home. The traditional light bulb will soon be hard to get, as the federal government requires consumers to start using the more energy-efficient halogen and compact florescent bulbs. The Wisconsin Focus-on-Energy program is offering customers automatic discounts on the newer bulbs. You'll get it if you buy bulbs with the Focus-on-Energy sticker on the packaging. Spokeswoman Sarah Platt says over a-thousand retailers throughout the state sell the discounted bulbs. A new federal law has ended the production of the traditional 60-and-40-watt light bulbs. An earlier law banned 75-and-100-watt bulbs. Platt says the new bulbs will cut down on electrical costs in the long run. The new bulbs have a slightly different rating system which measures output in lumens, instead of the wattage for how much energy is used. Most packages show comparisons between the two.
A state prison guard from central Wisconsin says he's thinking about filing a lawsuit in a pay dispute. The head of the state Equal Rights agency has reversed an earlier ruling, and said Red-granite prison officer Paul Mertz should not be paid for the time he checks in at a daily roll call and walks to his guard station before work. State officials cut off that pay in 2012 -- and equal rights' officer Jeffrey Glick ruled in July that his bosses acted wrongly. Last month, Equal Rights Bureau manager Jim Chiolino reversed the ruling, and put the wage cut-off back in place. After the original decision, officers at 10 other state prisons filed suit seeking back pay for what they lost -- and they're trying to make it a class action suit that demands millions in back pay they lost over two years for the reporting time. Mertz lost 35 minutes a week due to the prison policy change, which was allowed under the Act-10 law which ended collective bargaining for most state-and-local public employee unions. The attorney for the other officers, Timothy Scheffler, said the ruling against Mertz should not affect the outcome of the larger suit -- which could end up benefiting three-thousand correctional officers. The state has not commented.
One person was killed early yesterday, after driving onto the Mississippi River in La Crosse and falling through the ice. According to police, a city employee called 9-1-1 after noticing that tire tracks went through a 40-foot-high embankment off an intersection at Swift Creek. Police said the vehicle was still on its tires when it landed on the river ice -- and it turned left before falling through and becoming submerged. The person's body was recovered from the vehicle, after a wrecker pulled it from the middle of the creek. That was about 12 hours after the incident was first reported about 1:30 on New Year's morning. An autopsy was scheduled for today on the victim, whose name was not immediately released. La Crosse city-and-county authorities continue to investigate.
The daily newspaper in Madison has stopped publishing birth announcements, after two hospitals in the city stopped providing the information for safety reasons. Meriter and Saint Mary's hospitals said it would no longer release birth information. The Wisconsin State Journal had already been careful about how its confirms its information for birth announcements. The paper printed listings only from parents who consented to share their news -- and the information had to come from the hospitals. City editor Phil Brinkman said the potential for mischief was too great to take birth information directly from parents over the phone or e-mail. Kathy Kostrivas of Meriter Hospital said birth announcements make parents become targets for those who might want to steal babies. Kim Sveum of Saint Mary's calls it an effort to improve security for families. Both said they acted on advice from the National Center for Missing-and-Exploited Children. The center's Cathy Nahirny said the world is so different now than it was a quarter-century ago -- and abductors are using every possible means to select infants as their victims. Almost 300 babies have been abducted in the U-S over the last 31 years -- including 132 from hospitals.
Despite the popularity of the state's do-not-call list, almost four-million Wisconsin numbers are on the national list. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has analyzed a slew of data from the Federal Trade Commission -- and it found that growing numbers of Badger State residents are getting onto the federal list. Wisconsin had a two-point-eight percent increase in registrations on the national list in the last fiscal year -- higher than the national increase of two-percent. However, not many of those folks complain about violators. The F-T-C said there were only 563 Wisconsin complaints for every 100-thousand state residents. That's down about three times as much as a national decrease in complaints during 2013. The state's complaint rate is the fourth-lowest in the country. Almost seven-of-every-10 Wisconsin phone numbers are on the F-T-C's list -- but that's still only the 32nd-highest in the country. Wisconsin has an extremely popular state no-call list, but many folks are on the national list as well. It's easier to stay on the national list, because registrations are permanent while those on the Wisconsin list must re-register at least every two years. A bill is pending in the state Legislature to eliminate the state list, and move everyone to the national no-call list.
An autopsy is planned for today on a 48-year-old man who died after a bar fight in Rhinelander soon after the New Year began. Police were called around 12:30 yesterday morning to Sackett's Bar, where they found two men injured. One was sent to a hospital, while the other died before he could be hospitalized. Police were still trying to sort out what happened at last word. They did not say whether the two men were fighting each other, or somebody else. Prosecutors have joined Rhinelander Police and the Oneida County medical examiner's office in the investigation.
Apparently, conditions were too polar for many Wisconsinites to take a "Polar Plunge" into Lake Michigan on New Year's Day. Jacksonport in Door County only had about half its normal number of plungers, as the result of record cold temperatures for the event. Kenosha canceled its plunge, amid forecasts of heavy lake effect snow. In Milwaukee, hundreds of people did take their New Year's plunge into Lake Michigan -- although a sheriff's deputy was trying to encourage people not to. At Jacksonport, officials said the water temperature was 30-degrees warmer than the air temperature -- causing folks to freeze after they left the water. At Bradford Beach in Milwaukee, it was 36-degrees in Lake Michigan while the air temperature was in the single-digits. The ice was much thicker than normal, and folks bought axes to break it up. Nic Stanczyk said it was by the far the coldest of the polar plunges he and his two brothers took over the past 14 years. The Special Olympics will give folks a second chance to take their winter plunges, this one for a cause. The Special Olympics will hold several fund-raising plunges throughout Wisconsin next month.