WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Storms knock-out power, do damage across the state
Another round of heavy thunderstorms went through Wisconsin this morning. As of seven o'clock, about 14,000 electric customers were in the dark statewide.
About half of those are in Sauk and Columbia counties, where some trees fell in the Portage area about 6:30. Trees and power lines fell during the night along a line from Black River Falls to Melrose. There was similar damage in Granton, the Amherst area, and Stockton in central Wisconsin. Small hail fell at Hatfield in Clark and Jackson counties. Almost ten-thousand-500 Wisconsin Power-and-Light customers lost their electricity in Sauk and Columbia counties. About 1,500 customers in the Stevens Point area were out. The Public Service utility reported over 5,400 outages as of 5:45 a.m. roughly from Stevens Point to the Upper Michigan border. That included almost 1,400 customers at Rhinelander. Wisconsin Power-and-Light had 3,400 customers in the dark, mostly in rural Wood and Waupaca counties. Xcel Energy had about 2,200 customers out between La Crosse and Abbotsford in Clark County. Much of the region had winds gusting to almost 50-miles-an-hour during the night. The National Weather Service said Granton in Clark County had trees falling onto houses, and across roadways. Sparta also reported trees down.
A weak cold front was blamed for the storms, which came after the hottest day of the year in southern Wisconsin. It was 92 at Boscobel yesterday, and 90 at La Crosse. Early yesterday morning, the Milwaukee area was deluged with rain. Big Bend had close to two-and-a-half inches. A severe thunderstorm warning was in effect until 6:30 for parts of Dane, Iowa, Sauk, and Columbia counties. Parts of the south could see another 90-degree day. More rain is due in late tonight, with much cooler weather tomorrow -- when the mercury might not hit 70 in the far north.
A 58-year-old man was killed in Beloit overnight, and a 30-year-old man is custody for it. Police were called to a home around 1:40 this morning. Officials did not say how the death occurred, and they believe it resulted from a domestic situation. Beloit Police say they're investigating the matter as a homicide.
Charges are expected early this week against a former Dane County sheriff's deputy suspected of killing his wife and sister-in-law at his home in Fitchburg. Police said 39-year-old Ashlee Steele and 38-year-old Kacee Tollefsbol of Lake Elmo Minnesota were found shot at the Steeles' home on Friday. Ashlee was dead, and Tollefsbol died later at a hospital. Police have not said exactly how the two women died. They're only calling it "homicidal violence" while the matter remains under investigation by Fitchburg Police. Officials confirmed Saturday that Steele's husband -- 39-year-old Andy Steele -- has been arrested. He's at an undisclosed medical facility with a non-life-threatening injury from the incident. Andy was diagnosed in June with ALS. He recently took a medical retirement from the Dane County sheriff's office. Yesterday, Sheriff Dave Mahoney called it an "overwhelming tragedy for so many." The sheriff said his office is providing resources to help his staffers cope with the incident. The sheriff's office is not involved in the investigation. Media reports said Andy Steele took the Ice Bucket Challenge on TV to help raise money for the disease he contracted. A number of family members took it as well. Ashlee Steele helped raise $25,000 by Friday in an ALS fund-raising campaign on the "Give Forward" Web site.
A Catholic bishop said Marquette University graduate James Foley was living his faith, by showing the world images of those suffering from oppressive regimes and war. Bishop Peter Libasci eulogized the 40-year-old journalist during a memorial service last night in Foley's hometown of Rochester New Hampshire. His parents John and Diane attended the Mass, along with hundreds of others. Foley was first captured in Libya in 2011, and Libasci said Foley went back to the region so that in his words, "we might open our eyes." Foley was kidnapped in 2012 while covering the Syrian internal war. A video released last week showed that he was beheaded by the Islamic State terrorist group. Foley, a 1996 Marquette grad, will honored tomorrow evening at a memorial vigil in Milwaukee. Marquette has moved the location to the Gesu Church on Wisconsin Avenue on the east end of the campus.
Wisconsin officials will hold a public hearing today on a proposed new crude oil pipeline from the North Dakota oil fields to a terminal in Superior. Environmentalists have raised concerns about Enbridge Energy's Sandpiper line from the Bakken oil fields across Minnesota. It's a 600-mile project. Ben Callan of the state DNR says the final 14 miles would be laid under Wisconsin soil. Also, Enbridge would replace another pipeline heading into its Superior oil terminal. Callan says the project will need an environmental impact statement, and the DNR wants the public's help in deciding what the analysis should include. Enbridge has received heavy criticism in recent years, in the wake of some major oil leaks along its Upper Midwest network. Over the weekend, the company's Lorraine Little said Enbridge has spent four-billion dollars in the last two years on upgrades designed in part to prevent and detect leaks. She told the "The Big Wild" syndicated radio show that Enbridge will spend 75,000 hours this year reviewing the safety of having the Sandpiper line along its proposed route. The Superior hearing runs from 3:30-to-8 p.m. today at Indianhead Technical College. People can also give written comments to the DNR by September 30th.
Wisconsin has had about the same numbers of dairy cows over the last four years -- while the number of herds keeps going down. According to the state ag department, Wisconsin had just over 10, 200 licensed dairy herds as of August first. That's about 550 less than a year ago, and 1,200 less than two years ago. Clark County, just west of Marshfield, has the most dairy herds in the state with 877. Marathon County, which has the state's largest land area, is second with 606 cow herds. Grant County is third, followed by Vernon and Monroe.
With four cheese factories, Plymouth in Sheboygan County wants to promote itself as the "World's Cheese Capital." However, a Green Bay firm is the registered owner of a similar title -- and its owner is not giving it up. Plymouth used to call itself the World's Cheese Capital back in the 1940's-and-'50's. City Redevelopment Authority chairman Lee Gentine says they let the slogan "die on the vine," and it's a good time to bring it back, and try to make Plymouth a destination. However, the Sheboygan Press checked the Wisconsin Secretary of State's office, and found that Language Links in Green Bay and Denmark are the registered owners of the phrase "Cheese Capital of the World." That owner, Tom Wall, said he's about to use the phrase and others in his own marketing materials for now.
Rescuers in Merrill are getting a rare opportunity to practice saving people who might get hurt in the obscure confined sections of a hydro-electric dam. The Wisconsin Public Service utility partially shut down the Merrill Hydro facility for routine maintenance this week. The utility had discussions with fire department officials about training for rescues in the dam's more remote and confined spaces. Kelly Zagrzebski of Public Service said they'll go in one of the dam's water wheels -- and because the water has been removed, it provides for a unique rescue training opportunity as far as 20-feet down. Officials say it will also rescuers a unique chance to see more areas of the hydro-electric dam, so they'll know what it looks like during an actual emergency.
Outagamie County is about to use alcohol detection bracelets to keep tabs on repeat drunk drivers in a special treatment court. The Appleton Post-Crescent says two community foundations have put up $14,000 to buy five bracelets which detect alcohol levels through the wearers' skin every half-hour. They'll be used on fourth-and-fifth-time drunk driving offenders. Also, they'll get more random alcohol tests, as authorities buy three new remote breath-testing devices. Outagamie County's Drug-and-Alcohol Treatment Court is a voluntary option for substance abuse offenders who want to turn their lives around. Besides the monitoring, participants also get counseling and various forms of treatment.
The death of a teenager two years ago is prompting a UW-Madison researcher to create a detection system for rip currents on the Great Lakes. Engineering professor Chin Wu was given a $200,000 federal grant this summer to come up with a system which shows heavy-and-dangerous waves on color-coded maps. The goal is to provide a real-time warning system for rip currents, which are narrow and fast-moving channels of water that flow quickly away from shorelines. Fifteen-year-old Tyler Buczek drowned in September of 2012, when he was swept off a sandbar by a rip current on Lake Michigan at Port Washington. Wu was conducting nearby erosion studies at the time. He said he couldn't believe that a real-time warning system for rip currents didn't exist. Wu is now working on a system that includes underwater camera observations near the shorelines, which help translate the waves on maps. Wu said it would make Great Lakes swimmers more confident and better informed as they head into the waters.
The state Transportation Department is writing new administrative rules on how it would provide free ID's if people need them to vote in November. Governor Scott Walker officially assigned the task to the DOT last week. Department Secretary Mark Gottlieb says his agency will implement whatever's required -- but at this point, he's not saying how. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the agency has budgeted 200 hours of staff time to come up with something. It was almost a month ago when the State Supreme Court upheld the Republicans' photo ID law for voting. But the justices said the state must find a way to give ID's without forcing people to buy birth certificates to prove their identity. The court ruled that any such payment would be equivalent to an illegal poll tax. Meanwhile, the federal appeals court in Chicago continues to hold up the voter ID law. Federal Judge Lynn Adelman ruled it unconstitutional this spring. The state is appealing, and a three-judge panel of the Chicago appellate court will hear oral arguments in the case on September 12th.
A Fond du Lac man will undergo a mental exam to see if he's competent to stand trial for allegedly entering people's homes while in his birthday suit. The defense asked for the evaluation in the case of 26-year-old Lucas Leffel. He allegedly entered four homes in Fond du Lac in recent weeks. Prosecutors said he touched a woman in one house, but she woke up and he ran away. In another incident, officials said Leffel tried touching a woman -- and a man woke up and chased him. Prosecutors quoted the defendant as saying he's been addicted to pornography since he was eleven. Leffel is charged with three counts of burglary, and four counts of sexually-assaulting an unconscious victim.
The Mega Millions' jackpot is back to the minimum of $15-million for tomorrow night. That's after a ticket sold in California won the $180-million prize on Friday night. Nobody from Wisconsin won the million-dollar second prize. The numbers of state players winning smaller prizes were not immediately available. In the previous drawing last Tuesday, over 22,000 Wisconsin tickets won anywhere from one-dollar to $2,000. In Powerball, the jackpot is at $80-million for Wednesday night.