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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Customers still without service after natural gas pipeline explosion

WARREN, Minn.  --  Hundreds of homes and businesses are still without natural gas service, after a pipeline explosion in northwestern Minnesota. 

The underground gas line ruptured in a rural area near Warren, causing a fire that took two hours to extinguish.  Several homes were evacuated but nobody was hurt.  Viking Gas Transmission Co. owns the pipeline and says gas service should be restored to the nearly 700 affected customers in a couple of days.  The company is still working to determine what caused the explosion. 


An oil patch worker's camp is a twisted mess after a tornado touched down last night near Watford City.  Authorities say at least nine people were hurt, but eight of those were treated and released.  The ninth victim was taken to a Minot hospital for treatment.  Two other tornadoes were reported from the storm, but no other damage has been confirmed.  There were initial reports of people missing, but all have been accounted for.


Minnesota's two U.S. Senators are happy that a review is underway of Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics in the state to see if problems exist.  Senators Amy Klobuchar (DFL-Plymouth) and Al Franken (DFL-Minneapolis) have sent a letter to top VA officials in Minnesota, and Franken says what he's heard so far is promising.  The audit is underway after long delays in Phoenix were blamed for the deaths of dozens of veterans.  Franken and Klobuchar both mentioned the controversy during comments at the Memorial Day ceremony at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.


The longest serving president at Minnesota State University-Moorhead is dead.  Roland Dille passed away yesterday at the age of 89.  He served as the school's leader from 1968 to 1994.  Funeral arrangements for Dille are still pending.


A report indicates the top donors in the governor's race are mostly centered in the Twin Cities metro area.  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has analyzed campaign finance records to determine over 85-percent of donors sending large amounts of cash to Governor Dayton's campaign and the efforts of the top five Republicans running against him are in Hennepin County.  Philanthropist Alida Messinger of Minneapolis has given the most money at $944,000, all of which has gone to DFL causes.  Second is Vance Opperman of Wayzata, who has also donated strictly to the DFL with his $381,000 dollars in contributions.


Drivers in Minnesota may soon be allowed to travel faster than 55 mph on two-lane state highways.  State lawmakers have asked transportation officials to increase the speed limit to 60 mph where it can be "reasonably and safely" done.  Traffic engineers will spend the next five years examining every mile of road with a 55 mph limit and determine if it is safe to travel faster on them.  


Dive teams have recovered the body of a 14-year-old boy who drowned in the Mississippi River near St. Paul Park on Sunday.  Dylan Thorp's body was found early Monday morning, and family and friends held a candlelight vigil at Lions Levee Park for him last night.  Hours after Thorp was found, 21-year-old Tou Hu Vang of Coon Rapids presumably drowned in the St. Croix River when he went in to the water to save his eleven-year-old nephew who had slipped on a rock.  The boy was rescued by another man as the current carried Vang away.  Chief Deputy Chad Worden says the search for Vang will resume this morning.  Another man was hospitalized last (Mon) night after he went under water in a home swimming pool in St. Louis Park.  Police say the man was pulled from the pool and CPR was performed.  His current condition is not known.


Mixed results in the April report from the Minnesota Association of Realtors.  Pending sales were down four-point-seven percent and closed sales fell 11 percent.  CE, health, business, O Chris Galler says realtors didn't sell a lot of properties last month, but it's a better number than in previous months and they're starting to come out of the "weather doldrums."  Galler says new listings were up ten percent in April and the median sales price increased six percent.  He's expecting a much better monthly report for May. 


The foreclosure crisis is nearing an end in Minnesota and the housing market has stabilized.  Ed Nelson with the Minnesota Homeownership Center and says purchasing a home is the best foundation for building vibrant communities, and is tied to educational attainment for children and health outcomes for families.  Nelson adds home ownership is the number one driver of wealth for the vast majority of Minnesota families.  He says while many neighborhoods across the state are recovering nicely from the housing crash, many communities of color continue to face depressed prices and high foreclosure rates.


As the politically active come back from a long Memorial Day weekend, they're getting ready for next weekend's state party conventions:  Democrats are in Duluth while Republicans are in Rochester at the same time.  Republicans are set to choose their candidate for U.S. Senate on Friday in Rochester.  Five candidates are vying for their party's nod.  Balloting for the GOP endorsement for Minnesota governor is set for Saturday and five major candidates are in the running in that race also.  Democrats will have a much easier time of it at their state convention in Duluth.  Governor Dayton didn't seek the DFL endorsement at the party convention when he was running for his first term four years ago, but he'll get the nod the second time around on Saturday afternoon.  And it's expected Democrats right after that will also endorse U.S. Senator Al Franken in his bid for another term.


The 15-month-old boy who survived an eleven-story fall from a high-rise balcony in Minneapolis on Mother's Day is home from the hospital.  Musa Dayib still has casts on his arms and is in a body brace, but doctors felt he had improved enough to finish his recovery at home.  His parents want changes made to balconies to prevent another family from going through their ordeal, or prevent them from losing a child to death in a similar fall.


A Mayo Clinic physician says summertime can be an especially dangerous time of year.  Trauma and injury prevention expert Doctor Donald Jenkins says with fertilizers and pool chemicals more common, poisoning is a concern.  Jenkins says poisoning actually kills more people in the U.S. every year than car crashes -- and accidental injury is more common than any other cause of death for those under the age of 45.  And he says unless you're struck by a meteor, it's preventable.  May is National Trauma Awareness Month.


More than half of Minnesotans and other Midwesterners say the long, brutal winter caused the worst cabin fever in at least a decade, and many are looking forward to some time in the pool this summer.  But the same study shows that most believe baffling myths about their favorite summertime activity.  Preventive medicine and public health physician Dr. Ralph Morris of Bemidji says it's not true that chlorine can turn hair green.  Morris says the water in some swimming pools, particularly older ones, has slight traces of copper from fittings and heating coils, and that's actually the culprit in turning hair green.  It's also a misconception that chlorine causes swimmer's eyes to redden.  Morris says that's actually caused when body oils and other contaminants mix with the chlorine, and that's why it's important for swimmers to shower before they dive in.