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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Area of drought shrinking in Minnesota

CHANHASSEN, Minn. - The heavy rain and snow that covered much of Minnesota for the past week hasn't quite made the drought go away.  The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows the area of Minnesota in drought has shrunk from nearly 19 percent last week to just under eight percent this week. 

An area of moderate drought is now limited to a patch of southwestern Minnesota.  Around 23 percent of the state is still rated as abnormally dry, including pockets of central, west-central and north-central Minnesota.  The ongoing rain is expected to improve conditions in next week's update.


The Chief Deputy with the Waseca County Attorney's office has filed a motion requesting the court certify 17-year-old John LaDue as an adult. LaDue was arrested and charged Thursday with four counts of attempted murder and a half-dozen explosives-related charges for an alleged plot to kill his family and fellow students at Waseca Middle and High School.  LaDue's initial court appearance and adult certifcation hearing is set to take place May 12th.


The medical marijuana bill in the Minnesota Senate would no longer allow patients to smoke the drug.  It was amended in committee today after state House leaders unveiled a compromise proposal yesterday.  DFL Senator Scott Dibble says the change makes more people comfortable with medical marijuana.  He adds that folks can vaporize cannabis and receive almost the identical benefits as they would if they were smoking it. Republican Senator Michelle Benson says she's a little disappointed smoking is being removed from the bill because it's a very accessible way for very sick people to use it.  Vaporizing of medical marijuana would be prohibited indoors and in public places where smoking is already banned in the state.  The bill passed the Senate Health and Human Services Finance Division and now heads to the Senate Finance Committee. 


The flu season is winding down in Minnesota but there is still some activity in the state.  The Department of Health reports 15 influenza-related hospitalizations last week along with one nursing home outbreak and one school outbreak.  The geographic spread moved from "sporadic" to "local."  State health officials says there's been a slight increase in late season influenza B cases.  The flu season in Minnesota typically lasts through the middle of  May.

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Minnesota is the second most bike-friendly state in the annual rankings from the League of American Bicyclists.  We moved up from the number-four spot last year.  MnDOT planner Michelle Pooler says nearly half of all Minnesotans rode a bike in 2013 and four percent ride bike every day.   Minnesota got high marks for its trail system, Safe Routes to School program, new state bicycle map, education and funding, and bike-friendly laws Washington was the top state for the seventh straight year while Wisconsin was third. 


A seven-year-old boy found himself in a bit of a jam after he put his arm between a booth and wall at the Wahpeton, N.D. McDonald's last night and got stuck.  His mother and others tried to help, but couldn't get him out so police and firefighters were called out.  Fire Chief Derek Miller says they tried to use ice cubes, ice cream,  butter, and soap and had no luck. He says they ended up taking out part of the booth and got him out that way. He says the boy was a trooper and didn't even cry.  His mom and those working to free him kept him calm.