WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Snowstorm dumps over 15 inches on northern Wisconsin
The snowstorm is over in far northern Wisconsin -- and the sloppy snow-melt has already begun.
Much of Vilas County at the Upper Michigan border had 14-to-16 inches of heavy wet snow yesterday and this morning. By one this afternoon, the mercury was already three-degrees above the freezing point in Eagle River. Highway crews also have fog to deal with as they try to keep the roads open. The National Weather Service said a foot of snow fell as far south as Saint Croix Falls along the Minnesota border in Polk County. It's cloudy throughout the Badger State for the most part. Some eastern areas had the sun out, at least partially -- and that's speeding up any melting that needs to be done. Clintonville and Sheboygan hit the 50-degree mark at one o'clock. Forecasters say it will be dry at least until Saturday, when thunderstorms are possible and highs in the 50's.
A 17-year-old Cedarburg boy who went missing while canoeing on the swollen Milwaukee River by himself was found safe this morning. Ozaukee County authorities said the youngster was spotted around 7:45, sleeping in a tent in a wooded area near Grafton. The boy was taken to a hospital to be checked out. Authorities said he was an experienced canoeist, and he was paddling ashore when the swollen river got him into trouble. Rescuers tracked down the boy's location using the GPS from his cell phone -- but he was actually found on the other side of the river from where the search originally centered on. A DNR rescue pilot spotted a canoe near the place where the boy was found. A fire-fighter suffered a minor injury to a leg while in the woods. Grafton Fire Chief Bill Rice advised people against doing any canoeing right now, as the Milwaukee River is high and running rapidly.
Governor Scott Walker has declared another 10-day energy emergency in Wisconsin, to help propane suppliers deliver heating fuel to those who need it. The Republican Walker said the lingering cold weather is still keeping the demand for propane high. Walker's declaration allows propane delivery trucks to exceed spring weight limits. The governor said a number of folks are still in need of propane. Officials stopped posting weekly statewide average prices in late March -- apparently assuming spring would be around the corner. The state Energy Office reported an average of 2.09-a-gallon for propane as of March 24th. That's about three dollars less than the peak price spike in mid-January. The federal Energy Information Administration reported a Saint Patrick's Day price of 2.25 in Wisconsin, down by 1.43 over the previous five weeks. Temperatures fell below zero earlier this week in northern Vilas County close to the Upper Michigan border -- and highs in central Wisconsin failed to reach the freezing mark in some places, at a time when the normal high in Green Bay is 55-degrees, and 59 in Madison.
Wisconsin's preliminary unemployment rate for March is the lowest since the Great Recession began in earnest in November of 2008. State officials reported a seasonally-adjusted rate of 5.9 percent. That's down two-tenths-of-a-point from February, and it's the first time since the recession reared its head that the state's unemployment rate was below six-percent. Officials also said an estimated 6,400 private sector jobs were created in March -- but that figure is subject to heavy revisions later on, because of the relatively small sample of employers that federal workers survey for the monthly data. One thing we do know is that Wisconsin continues to have lower unemployment than the nation as a whole. The state's new rate was eight-tenths of a percent less than the national jobless figure of six-point-seven percent. Wisconsin has been almost consistently better than the U.S. rate since 1985.
A state appeals court has revived a lawsuit filed by anti-Walker protesters who were given citations for their activities at the Capitol in 2011. The Fourth District Appellate Court in Madison ruled today that Dane County Judge Frank Remington made legal errors when he dismissed the suit. The appeals judges also tossed aside the state's claim that the topic was moot, because of a more relaxed policy adopted for group activities in the Capitol. Appellate Judge Brian Blanchard said Remington's decision might have prevented the higher court from deciding whether the lawsuit was moot. Six plaintiffs contend that their rights to free speech were violated by the permit policy that was in effect at the time. The case was sent back to Judge Remington for further review.
A judge in central Wisconsin will decide next month whether a former teacher in Abbotsford should go on trial for having sexual relations with two students -- and having contact with one of them after he was charged. A preliminary hearing is set for May 22nd in Clark County Circuit Court for 25-year-old Andy Follen. He's charged with five felony counts of sexual assault by a school staffer -- plus a charge of intimidating a victim that was filed later, along with two felony counts of bail jumping. Follen resigned in late January from Abbotsford High, where he taught math before the original sex allegations surfaced. After the sex assault charges were filed, prosecutors said Follen claimed to be with an Eau Claire softball team when he got one of his victims to set up an instant messaging account so the two could chat. Officials said he later told the girl he loved her, and urged her to call the district attorney's office to ask that his charges be reduced.
A Republican who ran for the U.S. Senate a decade ago says he won't run for the open House seat in his home district. Construction company owner Tim Michels says the Sixth District House seat given up by 35-year incumbent Tom Petri (R-Fond du Lac) is quote, "not the right opportunity at this time." Michels said he's flattered to be mentioned as a possible replacement for Petri, who announced six days ago that he won't run for re-election. Two other Republicans have said they'll run -- state Senator Glenn Grothman of West Bend and state Representative Duey Strobel of Cedarburg. State Senate Republican Joe Leibham of Sheboygan says he'll announce in a few days whether he'll join the GOP congressional field.
A four-week-old gorilla has died at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Kassiu, a western lowland gorilla, was born March 19th to her 27-year-old father Cassius and 13-year-old mother Naku. Zookeepers said the baby appeared to be doing well yesterday morning -- but she appeared weak by the afternoon, and she was no longer clinging to her mother like a normal newborn does. Kassiu died last evening. The UW veterinary school plans to perform a full necropsy to determine how the gorilla died. Kassiu is the first gorilla to be born at Milwaukee since 1996. Western lowland gorillas most often live in heavy rain forests.
A long-time Franciscan brother says he'll appeal, after state officials rejected a discrimination complaint he filed when he had a job offer rescinded in Eau Claire. Tim Nelson was in line to become the new president of the Regis Catholic school system a year ago. A couple weeks after his job offer, officials rescinded it when they saw an obituary for his father, and noticed that Tim Nelson's name was listed with that of another man -- an apparent indication that the two were a couple. Nelson said the man was his best friend and nothing more. Eau Claire Regis said Nelson's offer was canceled due to a lack of candor about the circumstances of his religious order experience. Nelson gave a statement to WQOW-TV, indicating that his years as a Franciscan brother were never questioned -- and the state never asked the name of his religious order at the time.
Green Bay Police were looking today for a person-of-interest in the shooting death of a 32-year-old man. Steven Sims was killed Tuesday night at his girlfriend's apartment, and he died yesterday from his injuries. Police said the victim and the shooter apparently knew each other, and officers recovered what they believe to be the murder weapon. Investigators said the man they're seeking is 21 years old, and he's wanted for violating a previous probation. Officers said Sims had moved to Green Bay a few years ago from the Chicago area.
A pharmacist in Oshkosh has agreed to plead guilty to selling prescription pain relievers and muscle relaxants online, against federal law. The Oshkosh Northwestern said Charles Schultz promises to plead guilty to defrauding the government and illegal distribution of controlled substances. A plea hearing is set for April 28th. Authorities said Schultz contracted with a R-X Limited, an online retailer that sold the drugs throughout the nation with no prescriptions needed. The Oshkosh paper said Schultz made over $235,000 from his Internet practice since 2006.
Snap-On Tools of Kenosha reports a 16-percent increase in its quarterly earnings, compared to a year ago. The firm's net income was just under $96-million dollars from January through March, or 1.62-a-share. That's up from 1.40 per share in the same quarter of 2013, with a net income of close to $83-million dollars. Snap-On makes tools and diagnostic equipment for professional mechanics. It reported a six-percent sales increase from the year before, partially due to higher sales for European hand tools.