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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: The worst of the cold wave is over

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The worst of the cold wave is over in Wisconsin -- but it was still below-zero throughout the state overnight. Three a-m temperatures ranged from minus-four in Milwaukee to 29-below at Tomahawk. Winds have died down, and no place reported wind-chills colder than minus-40. State health officials say they're investigating three possible cold-related deaths from last Friday, a couple days before the cold was at its worst. 66-year-old A-C Anderson froze to death outside his Milwaukee home early Friday morning when it was four-below. His wife Beverly told the Journal Sentinel that she called 9-1-1 over 60 times in the last year to help get for her husband's psychosis -- but he refused assistance each time. She said Anderson went off medication for schizophrenia in 2009. The other two possible cold-related deaths were in Ashland and Marquette counties -- and they remain under investigation. No deaths have been reported in Wisconsin since early Monday, when high temperatures never got out of the minus-teens-below-zero in most places and wind-chills got as low as minus-55. The state's five major utilities reported only a few customers without power overnight -- after several thousand had outages at one-time-or-another since late last week. Today's highs are expected to range from zero-to-11-above throughout Wisconsin. Another sub-zero night is forecast, before a warming trend begins tomorrow. Parts of the state could be in the 30's by Friday, when snow-and-rain are possible.

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Winds are either light or non-existent in most of Wisconsin -- but the National Weather Service still has wind-chill advisories out for virtually all of the Badger State. They run until 9 this morning for 13 counties between Milwaukee, Madison, and Platteville. Most other parts of the state have wind-chill advisories until noon. The actual temperatures are the biggest problems this morning. They were as low as minus-30 at six o'clock in Tomahawk, Land O'Lakes, Hayward, and Phillips in the far north. Much of southern Wisconsin was in the single-digits below, much warmer than the past couple of days. Milwaukee was the so-called warm spot at minus-four. It's colder away from Lake Michigan. Madison was at minus-11. All of Wisconsin is expected to rise above zero this afternoon for the first time in over a week. Sub-zero readings are predicted again tonight, before a new system brings warmer temperatures and a chance of snow-or-rain from tomorrow into the weekend. Highs in the teens-and-20's are projected for tomorrow. It could reach the 30's by Friday.

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Homes and businesses in eastern Wisconsin will not have to worry about dialing 10 digits for local phone calls -- not for awhile, anyway. The state Public Service Commission has indefinitely delayed plans to have new phone numbers in the 9-2-0 zone use an overlapping area code of 2-7-4. The move was ordered because cell phones and fax machines were snapping up available 9-2-0 numbers. However, W-L-U-K T-V in Green Bay says over a million possible 9-2-0 numbers remain unassigned -- so the additional area code in that location is being held up indefinitely. 9-2-0 users were planning to dial the area code for their local calls starting on January 25th -- but the P-S-C says that's off for now. The change affects mainly land-line users. Most cell users are accustomed to dialing area codes for all their calls. The same change took effect a few years ago in central and northern Wisconsin, where new numbers in the 7-1-5 zone were given the area code of 5-3-4. Officials say it's easier than carving out a whole zone for a new area code -- where people would have to change their speed-dials and business stationery.

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Rock County sheriff's officials are still waiting for forensic evidence to determine if a woman was murdered while being burned in a fire pit. 29-year-old Nathan Middleton of Evansville stood mute during his arraignment yesterday. A judge entered innocent pleas to hiding and mutilating a corpse, and attempted escape. A trial date could be set at the next hearing in the case, set for March sixth. Prosecutors said Middleton admitted burning 18-year-old Aprina Paul of Fitchburg outside his rented house last fall. Sheriff Bob Spoden said his investigators are waiting for an analysis of bones found near the pit to determine if Paul may have been murdered. Prosecutors said Paul answered Middleton's ad on Craigslist for sex. The defendant reportedly told deputies they had sex at his home, where Paul took drugs -- and he found her dead the next morning, panicked, and burned her body. About a month after he was arrested, officials said Middleton wrote a letter to his mother, asking her to blow up a window at the Rock County Jail so he could escape and they could run away to Mexico. She never received that letter.

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More Milwaukeeans have recently landed in the hospital with the flu. City health officials say over 100 people have been hospitalized this season. Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan Baker say there's still time to be vaccinated. They're urging everyone six-months-and-older to get flu shots if they haven't already. Last week, a Marshfield Clinic doctor said the H-1-N-1 swine flu has become the dominant flu strain in central Wisconsin. Officials say this year's vaccine covers the swine flu -- which is not nearly as prevalent as it was four years ago, when Wisconsin had a pandemic. Reports from last week said almost 400 state residents have been hospitalized for the flu this winter. Officials in both Milwaukee and central Wisconsin say there's been an increase in young and middle-aged adults being hospitalized.  

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A plea deal may be in the works for an alleged drunk driver accused of killing a deer hunter and injuring another in northern Wisconsin. The lawyer for 42-year-old James Winchel of Sheldon said talks were taking place on possible settlements, but he did not elaborate. Time limits for a preliminary hearing were waived when Winchel made an initial appearance in Taylor County Circuit Court yesterday on four criminal charges. They include causing death-and-injury by drunk driving. Prosecutors said Winchel's blood alcohol level was point-196, almost two-and-a-half times the legal limit, when he allegedly hit two members of a hunting party near Gilman on November 29th. 52-year-old Juan Salinas of Roscoe Illinois was killed, and one of his relatives and Winchel were hospitalized with injuries. A pre-trial conference in the case is set for March 14th. He also faces a traffic citation for driving without insurance. Circuit Judge Ann Knox-Bauer refused to reduce Winchel's 50-thousand dollar bond -- which could have allowed him to enter substance abuse treatment. Winchel has been convicted of O-W-I four previous times since 1998.  

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The amount of electricity generated by solar panels is not growing nearly as much in Wisconsin as it is elsewhere. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said solar generation was expected to rise nationally by 27-percent in 2013, to about 43-hundred megawatts. In Wisconsin, only two megawatts of solar power are being built -- and half that comes from the Jefferson Solar project in Jefferson County. The group Renew Wisconsin will hold a conference on the subject Friday in Madison. Those in attendance plan to discuss new policy ideas that could restore the state's renewable energy efforts. The group plans to use the language of the Walker administration -- creating jobs. Carl Siegrist, a former head of renewable energy projects at We Energies, says Wisconsin could have a lot of nice jobs in the field, but it doesn't. Utilities have developed fewer solar projects in the wake of government funding-and-incentive cuts. State officials and utility leaders have said they want to make sure solar energy does not add to the electric bills of those without panels.  

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