WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Snowstorm leaves Wisconsin followed by cold temperatures for Christmas
The snow has finally stopped in far northwest Wisconsin -- and it was already being replaced by bitter cold wind-chills over the lunch hour.
The actual temperature was only one-above at noon at Superior, Siren, and New Richmond. Wind-chills were in the minus teens in much of the northwest, along with far southern Wisconsin. It felt like 23-below at Platteville this morning, and minus-17 at Monroe at mid-day. Ashland's snow finally stopped late this morning. Twenty-six inches fell there yesterday and today, as places close to Lake Superior got pounded with lake-effect snows. Cornucopia -- the state's northernmost community in Bayfield County -- had close to 17 inches. Superior had around 15. Parts of southern Wisconsin had up to nine-and-a-half inches. Skies got clearer in much of Wisconsin at mid-day, thus allowing colder air to come in. Tonight's lows are expected to range between two-above in Milwaukee to minus-15 at Hayward. Forecasters say the snow will return on Christmas Eve night and into Wednesday morning, with another 2-to-5 inches in the forecast at the moment.
Five-to-nine inches fell yesterday in much of Wisconsin's southeast quarter. Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay all had record snowfalls for the date -- and while Green Bay only had six inches, hundreds of thousands of football fans got to see part of it come down during yesterday's Packers' loss to Pittsburgh on CBS. Milwaukee picked up eight inches yesterday, breaking the mark of two-point-eight set in 1896. Ditto for Madison, with five-point-nine. Much of the southeast quarter of the state had 5-to-9 inches -- including Wisconsin Dells, and stretching northeast into Door County. The Fox Valley got around four inches. Central and western Wisconsin only had a couple inches yesterday. Other parts of the state had 1-to-3. Milwaukee County sheriff's deputies handled almost 120 crashes and disabled vehicles -- including one mishap that caused minor injuries to a deputy. Packer fans on Interstate-43 went single-file at times on the two northbound lanes while slowly heading to Green Bay for the game. UW-Madison's graduation ceremony was packed, and chancellor Rebecca Blank said the thousands of people at the Kohl Center were to be congratulated just for showing up. Over 40 churches in Milwaukee County canceled their Sunday morning services.
The Badger State got off easy compared to folks to the east and south. At last word, nine deaths were reported in snow, floods, and an Arkansas tornado. Wisconsin had no storm-related deaths that we knew of at seven this morning. Only about 30 customers of the state's five major electric utilities were in the dark -- while over 440,000 people lost their power as of late yesterday between Michigan and New England.
Almost one-of-every-three Wisconsinites are hitting the road for the holidays. The state's Triple-"A" says 1.8 million residents are going at least 50-miles one way between Saturday, when the travel season began, and New Year's Day. The number of state travelers is up for the fifth straight year. The Triple-"A's" Pam Moen credits an improved economy and gas prices which a little less than a year ago. The motor club said the average price of unleaded regular was just over $3.15-a-gallon today -- four cents higher than a week ago, but four cents lower than at this time last year. Despite all the publicity about bad weather in the Eastern U.S, only a handful of flights at Milwaukee are being delayed -- both incoming-and-outgoing. For drivers, the worst of the snow appears to be over, even though forecasters expect 2-to-5 more inches statewide today through Christmas morning. Up to 23-inches fell in far northern Wisconsin near Lake Superior, and up to nine-and-a-half inches fell in southern Wisconsin.
A Neenah man has been fined $865 for making rescuers in Eau Claire spend parts of two days looking for missing kayakers who never existed. 30-year-old Andrew Wallace admitted making up a story about two men falling from a boat in April in the Chippewa River in Eau Claire. Personnel from the state DNR joined local police and rescuers in waters that were high, choppy, and dangerous at the time -- and a helicopter from the Mayo Health System joined in the search. Wallace was convicted of making a fake 911 call, and two counts of obstructing officer. Two other obstruction counts were dropped in a plea deal. Wallace moved to the Fox Valley after living in Manitowoc at the time of his arrest. He'll be allowed to stay there, after choosing 240 hours of community service over 30 days in jail. Wallace must also write apology letters to the agencies involved in the search. Media reports said the false incident cost local fire departments $7,600 in manpower time and equipment -- plus about 70 man-hours for Eau Claire Police and county sheriff's personnel.
Wisconsin's largest city has recorded its 103rd homicide this year, the most since 2007. Milwaukee Police said a 27-year-old man was found shot-to-death on a sidewalk last night in a north side neighborhood. The man died at a hospital, and no suspects were in custody as of mid-day. Milwaukee has 12 more killings than in all of last year.
A Milwaukee man was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for killing a long-time acquaintance over $10. A jury convicted 47-year-old Leroy Rushing Junior of first-degree reckless homicide in the beating death of Curtis Scott, whose body was found in a Milwaukee alley on Easter Sunday. Rushing must also spend 15 years under extended supervision when he's no longer behind bars. A third person, 48-year-old Dexter Broughton, is scheduled to stand trial in March on a reckless homicide charge. According to authorities, Rushing gave Scott 10-dollars to buy alcohol as the group was heading to a liquor store. But their plans changed, Rushing wanted the $10 back, and Scott refused to return it. That led to an apparent argument in which Rushing killed Scott with a baseball bat, and Broughton then allegedly looked through the victim's pockets to try and get the money back.
A 40-year-old woman will spend just over three years in prison for her role in a beating death in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis. Lina Pezanoski was the last of four people convicted of beating 57-year-old Jeffrey Garnier to death. They accused Garnier of chasing Pezanoski's daughter and her friend late at night in November of 2011. He denied it, but the four attackers beat him anyway. One attacker stole Garnier's wallet, and they left his body in a street outside a West Allis tavern. The incident was captured on another tavern's surveillance video. Pezanoski pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of felony murder. She was given four years in prison, minus 246 days she spent in jail while her case was going through the courts. She must also spend three years under extended supervision when she gets out. Her daughter, 19-year-old Javasi Pezanoski-Young, was earlier sentenced to four-and-a-half years behind bars. 49-year-old Danny Thompson was given a four-year term. 20-year-old Qwajavious Pittman was given two years for stealing the victim's wallet. "West Allis Now" profiled Lina Pezanoski in 2009 for turning her family's life around. They had moved from Milwaukee to West Allis, and she got a job as a quality assurance technician.
A Rib Lake woman has been sentenced in the attempted homicide of four children. 37-year-old Heidi Mann pleaded no contest to four counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide… she was sentenced to 25 years in a mental institution. Court records show Mann allegedly left four of her six youngest kids in an S-U-V and let it run in a garage for two hours. The children – ages 3, 6, 9 and 12 – survived and suffered no apparent injuries.
Sheriff's officials in Green Bay did not have to look far to find an armed robbery suspect. A 24-year-old man was arrested yesterday, while visiting somebody at the Brown County Jail's Work Release Center. The man was wanted after he allegedly robbed a Shell convenience store in the Green Bay suburb of Allouez. He got away with an undetermined amount of money and a pack of cigarettes. A short time later, deputies said they found an SUV at the work release center with the same description as the one sought in the robbery. The stolen merchandise was reportedly visible inside the vehicle, plus the clothing the robber was described to have been wearing.
Authorities in the Fox Valley have cut back on their late-night patrols to nab drunk drivers, because fewer officers are willing to work those shifts. According to the Post-Crescent, Appleton Police have cut back the number of their saturation patrols from 40 in the 15-months ending in October, to less than 10 for the year ending next September. The shifts run before-and-after bar-time, between 11 p.m and 4 a.m. Officers take those voluntary patrols in addition to their regular shifts -- and officials say it's getting harder to find officers willing to work those hours. In spite of the cutback, Police Captain Todd Freeman said the program is still having its presence felt. He said many drivers are now aware of the OWI task force, and driver behavior has changed just by maintaining police visibility in areas with the biggest problems.
_________________________________Another day, another scam in Wisconsin. This one comes from Lincoln County, where a woman went to a funeral home's Web site and posted a condolence for a family friend. Later, the Merrill area woman got an e-mail claiming she was a beneficiary of the dead person's estate -- and she could start collecting money if she sends the scammer her bank account numbers. The funeral home was from south central Wisconsin. It posted e-mail addresses of those writing condolences, but it stopped publicizing them once the scam came to light. Authorities said the funeral home promised to alert its users to the situation -- and to remind people never to give personal information to people they don't know, especially online.__________________________________
A search continued overnight for a man with a severe brain injury who walked away from a group home in Racine. Police have been asking for people's help in finding 57-year-old Ruben Santos. He was last seen shortly after midnight yesterday, wearing a white T-shirt and sweat pants or pajama bottoms. Officials say Santos has a diminished mental capacity due to his brain injury. He does not have a history of aggressive or violent behavior -- but police said he's been known to hide in bushes when somebody's looking for him.
The state Fire Marshal's office continues to investigate a weekend house fire that killed an 80-year-old man in South Milwaukee. Fire-fighters were called Saturday afternoon, after smoke emerged from the rear of the home. Officials said the fire started in the kitchen, where the man's body was found. His name was not immediately released. An autopsy is scheduled for today. A fire-fighter was treated at a hospital for a shoulder injury, and was later released.
Target is feeling the effects of its recent security breach. The Wall Street Journal said the Minneapolis-based department store chain had a sales of drop of 3-to-4 percent during the weekend, compared to final weekend before Christmas in 2012. Target did what it could to prevent such a decrease -- including a 10-percent discount offer that ended yesterday. Target said last week that hackers stole up to 40-million credit-and-debit card numbers from the company's purchasing system at virtually all its stores -- 40 of which are in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, USA Today said class-action suits are pending against Target in California and Oregon -- and attorneys general in at least four other states want more information. Security expert Brian Krebs writes that millions of Target account numbers have reached the black market, where apparent scammers buy them for $20-to-$100-per card. The Secret Service is investigating. The AP says many U.S. companies are using 20th century technology to fight 21st century hackers. Professor Dave Brennan of Saint Thomas University in Saint Paul says that in many countries, businesses have moved past magnetic-strip cards to digital chips for holding data.
A humane society in Merrill is caring for about 50 dogs seized from a cold, condemned house over the weekend. Officials of the Lincoln County Humane Society were asked on Saturday to take about 20 dogs -- but when they arrived at the house near Gleason, they found over 50 animals, mostly puppies. One volunteer said the house was deplorable, with animal urine and feces everywhere -- however, the owners have not been criminally charged with abuse. Shelter manager Liz Friedenfels said her group has yet to obtain legal possession of the animals, but they're taking names of those wishing to adopt the pets. In the meantime, the Lincoln County Humane Society was taking donations to feed the pets and provide extra housing facilities -- and they were already getting donations by mid-day yesterday. They also need to be spayed or neutered. Friedenfels said the dogs were generally in good health.
Two researchers from UW-Madison were named today as winners of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. Jennifer Reed and Benjamin Recht were among 102 scientists named by President Obama. They received the federal government's highest honor for promising science experts who are just starting their independent research careers. Reed is still at the UW, as an associate professor of chemical-and-biological engineering. Her group studies human metabolism and regulation. Reed said her team uses computational models to expand its knowledge of underlying mechanisms. Recht left Madison in the past year, to go work at the University of California at Berkeley. He's as assistant professor in the school's electrical engineering and computer sciences department. Recht said his work involves statistical signal processing, large-scale data analysis, and machine learning. The presidential awards were first given by Bill Clinton in 1996. They're coordinated by the president's Office of Science-and-Technology.
Wisconsin Realtors sold six-percent fewer houses in November than in the same month a year ago. However, home buyers paid an average of almost five-percent more. The state's Realtors Association said today that its members sold just over five-thousand existing houses last month -- 300 fewer than in November of 2012. The median sales price was $136,000, about six-thousand more than the year before. For the year as a whole, Wisconsin home sales still had a robust increase of 11-percent, to around 65,000. Median prices jumped seven-and-a-half percent for the first 11 months of the year, to $144,000 -- 10-thousand more than the same period of 2012. Board chairman Steve Lane of the Realtors Association said the housing market has cooled down somewhat from what he called a "red-hot pace" in the first nine months of the year. Lane also said it was bound to happen, due to strong sales late in 2012. Despite the slowdown, Lane said the numbers of homes on the market dropped by almost one-percent from the previous year.
At least some Wisconsin companies have held back on hiring new people, due to uncertainty over Obamacare. Gannett Wisconsin Media says some executives fear that their health care costs will skyrocket, while others worry about unpredictable changes in the federal health care mandate. Gannett, which puts out 10 daily newspapers in Wisconsin's mid-section, says there are corporate leaders who want to see how the Obama law plays out before taking on more workers. Pam Branshaw, a partner in the Wipfli accounting firm, says larger employers could get hit with 12-to-15 percent increases for health premiums. And small business owners that provide coverage could get 25-percent hikes. Some small business groups say those fears are exaggerated. Lori Compas of the Wisconsin Business Alliance said her main message to small companies is quote, "No penalties, no fees, no fines" -- and she said members were flabber-gasted. She said many small companies are quote, "unnecessarily frightened." Those without health coverage are required to have it by January first, or else they face fines. Businesses with less than 50 workers have until January of next year to offer required coverage.
Thirty-four Wisconsin businesses have been named "Green Masters," for the steps they've taken to be more environmentally-sustainable. The Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council said 167 companies took part in the Green Masters program this year -- almost 50-percent more than the year before. The new Masters represent the Top-20 percent of participants who've become more sustainable by reducing energy use, cutting waste, and more. The 34 honored companies are located throughout Wisconsin. Officials say they've done everything from creating community gardens, to developing waste-to-energy facilities. Council leaders say they're delighted by the increase in participation. They say it represents a continued commitment to sustainability throughout the Badger State.
Governor Scott Walker's office says it will continue its policy of not granting pardons. Iraq War veteran Eric Pizer of Plain has asked for a pardon so he can become a police officer. However, spokesman Tom Evenson said the Republican Walker is not changing a stance he decided to take early in his administration to not grant pardons. The Wisconsin State Journal reported yesterday on the 32-year-old Pizer, who spent four years in the Marines and was home for just two days after he tried breaking up a scuffle outside a tavern near Boscobel. That was in 2004. He pleaded no contest to felony battery, spent two years on probation, and paid 71-hundred dollars for the victim's medical bills. Last year, Pizer earned an associate criminal justice degree from Globe University, with the hopes of becoming an officer -- something that's not possible with a felony conviction. He has tried reducing his felony conviction to a misdemeanor, but the State Journal says Grant County prosecutors won't accommodate him.
Wisconsin's Mary Burke is one of six high-profile women running for governor's offices around the country next year. Right now, Republicans have four female governors to just one for the Democrats. The AP says national Democrats and women's groups are trying to turn that around, in part by going after incumbent men who've restricted women's privileges on social issues like abortion, contraception, and equal-pay-for-equal-work. Outsiders are vocalizing what they call a "war on women" -- something that doesn't exist according South Carolina's Republican female governor, Nikki Haley. She says it will be up to her and the nation's other female Republican leaders that women get treated well by the Grand Old Party. So far, none of the high-profile Democrats have broken through in the polls -- including Burke in Wisconsin. She could still face a primary challenge from state Senate Democrat Kathleen Vinehout -- but in either case, it appears likely that a woman will be Walker's primary challenger come next November. Burke tells the AP there are lots of areas where Wisconsin women are not getting a fair shake. She points to Walker's repeal of the ability to file state lawsuits based on wage discrimination due to age-and-gender. She also noted the GOP law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, reducing the numbers of abortion providers.
About 100 people showed up in the state Capitol today to celebrate Festivus and air grievances about Governor Scott Walker. Earlier this month, protesters erected an aluminum Festivus pole, were they sang songs and voiced their opinions on Governor Walker and other Republicans. The holiday was created in 1966 and made popular by the sitcom “Seinfeld”. The holiday is celebrated by those frustrated with the commercialism and pressure of the Christmas holiday season.
________________________________________Over 140 soldiers from Wisconsin and Minnesota have just come home-for-the-holidays. They were reunited with their families yesterday, at a welcome-home ceremony at Cambridge-Isanti High School in the Gopher State. The troops are from 100 communities in Wisconsin and Minnesota. They spent the last eight months building roads and clearing mines in Afghanistan. First Sergeant Jeffrey Taylor said his members were often fired upon, or shelled with mortars -- but they only had one serious injury. A soldier had a concussion, after an explosive device went off near his vehicle. Taylor said infantry-and-cavalry troops accompanied his unit, and provided protection.
Wisconsin's second wolf hunting season will close at five p.m today, when the last of six zones throughout the state shuts down. The DNR says Zone-Three in the northwest is about to reach its quota. Seventy-one wolves were available there for hunting-and-trapping -- and the DNR's Kurt Thiede said 12 of those wolves were taken on Friday and Saturday. Zone-Three covers parts of Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Rusk, Price, and Taylor counties. It was the only zone open since early November, after quotas were reached in all of the other five locations. The statewide quota this year was 251, more than twice the number from the inaugural season in 2012 -- which also closed in December. In each case, hunting could have continued until late February had the available wolves not been taken so early. Because wolf hunting is so new, officials have no idea if the early harvests are a quirk -- or if it will be the norm. The DNR is trying to get the state's wolf population down to about 350, to reduce attacks on livestock and farm crops. Last winter, the DNR said there were as many as 834 wolves. Environmentalists say there are not enough wolves for hunting. They have a lawsuit pending that would end wolf hunts throughout the Upper Midwest, and put the animals back on the federal endangered species list.
A state government Web site has published an atlas of Wisconsin's public Stewardship lands. For decades, the state has preserved most of its pristine nature lands by borrowing money as part of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. The new Web atlas contains 441 maps, a glossary, two indexes, and lots of contact information for property managers. It also lists other state, county, and federal lands in Wisconsin that are open to the public. Republican critics of the Stewardship Program have said it's often hard for people to know where the program's properties are located. The new atlas will presumably fix that. You'll find it on the D-N-R's Web site, accessible at Wisconsin-Dot-Gov.
Forty-five years ago, Doris Huckbody's family delivered Christmas dinner to 10 people in the Wausau area who didn't have anyone to share the holiday with. That act of kindness grew over the years -- and this Christmas Day, about 500 people are expected to get free meals. Three-hundred of those will be delivered to home-bound residents, and 200 other people are expected at a community dinner at Wausau's First United Methodist Church. Huckbody is now 82. She said she never believed "in a million years" that her event would get so large. She's no longer coordinating it, but she and family still volunteer.