UPDATE: Xcel urges conservation as crippled pipeline is restored; trooper hurt in rear-end collision; more state news
Xcel Energy now expects one of three natural gas pipelines shut down by a weekend explosion to be back at full capacity by this afternoon. But the utility is still asking its customers in northwest Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota to conserve as much as they can.
Xcel receives much of its natural gas from the three knocked-out pipelines -- one of which exploded in Manitoba Canada on Saturday.
Utility spokeswoman Mary Sandok said it's clear that customers responded when its appeal first went out on Saturday. That's despite another bout of cold and windy weather that reached Wisconsin Sunday night.
Xcel's natural gas customers are still being to turn down their thermostats, and avoid using gas-powered appliances if they can.Meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker was to meet Monday morning with people involved in the propane fuel shortage, before determining his next move.On Saturday, Walker declared a state-of-emergency, and authorized National Guard troops to help residents who need it. About a 250,000 Wisconsin homes heat with propane.The cold winter is partially to blame for the shortage -- as well as the recent shutdown of a key pipeline, and the heavy use of propane by farmers to dry their grain last fall. That's jacked up fuel prices from last winter's high of 1.50 per gallon to $5 or more.Some suppliers say they've stopped taking new customers, because they're having trouble serving the ones they have.One Marinette man said his winter supply got down to 10 percent -- and three propane suppliers refused to serve him until a relative was able to help out.
Trooper injured near Menasha; St. Croix deputy's squad rear-ended
Whiteout conditions Sunday afternoon closed Hwy. 63 east of Erin Prairie for more than an hour as authorities pulled ditched cars and later, attended to a St. Croix County sheriff's deputy whose squad car was struck from behind as he sat in the driver's seat.
Captain Jeff Klatt said Deputy Charles Coleman was following a tow truck from the scene of an accident at about 10 miles an hour on Hwy 63 just past the intersection of County Rd. G when he was rear ended by another car.
Coleman's 2013 Dodge Charger cruiser was heavily damaged. His initial report to the communications center said he suffered some back pain and the Baldwin ambulance was summoned to evaluate two children in another vehicle that was also struck.
Coleman and another deputy, a State Trooper and St. Croix County Highway Department personnel worked for nearly two hours in the problem area, near the intersection of CTH G and Hwy. 63. The closure occurred between about 2:30 and 4 p.m. when winds were gusting above 40 mph.In eastern Wisconsin, a state trooper was hospitalized after he got pinned against the back of his squad car. The accident happened just before noon Sunday on the Highway 41 expressway near Menasha.The trooper was investigating a crash in the southbound lanes. Officials said he was getting equipment from his trunk when another car slid out of control and pinned him between the two vehicles. Officials said the trooper was taken to a hospital with serious injuries. The officer and his condition were not immediately disclosed.The State Patrol and Winnebago County sheriff's deputies are continuing to investigate.Parts of southwest Wisconsin also had blizzard conditions last night. Grant County took its snow plows off the roads. Firefighters in Fennimore rescued people from stranded cars. Prairie du Chien officials urged people not to travel due to its blizzard conditions, as winds in that area hit 57 mph last night.Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said vehicles take out around 4,000 highway signs each year and that number increases as the roads get slicker.Drivers often have to pay to replace whatever signs they break. DOT sign engineer Matt Rauch says the costs range from $25 for a simple speed limit sign, to almost $10,000 to fix the large green specialized Interstate signs.
-- Jon Echternacht & Learfield News Service
UPDATED: Milltown man killed in car-pedestrian strike; ice fisherman succumbs after spill
BALSAM LAKE -- A 34-year-old Milltown man was pronounced dead at the scene of a car-pedestrian accident which occurred early Sunday morning on Hwy. 35 in Luck Township.Polk County Sheriff Peter Johnson identified the victim as Chad M. Hansen, of Milltown.Johnson said Monday that deputies were notified at 2:12 a.m. that a 2000 Chrysler Cirrus driven by Jeanne S. Fisher, 32, of Frederic, was southbound on Hwy. 35 when she struck a male subject who was walking southbound in the traveled portion of the roadway.Fisher was subsequently arrested for homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle and causing injury by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.The crash occurred about two-tenths of a mile north of 240th Avenue.Elsewhere over the weekend, an ice fisherman died in southwest Wisconsin after he fell and hit his head on an icy street.Iowa County authorities said 52-year-old Doug Halverson was planning to go ice fishing in the village of Mifflin on Saturday afternoon.Officials said he was walking on a snow-covered road when he fell and struck his head. Halverson stopped breathing.A bystander attempted CPR before rescuers arrived and took him to a hospital -- where he died.
Obama to visit Waukesha Thursday
WAUKESHA -- President Obama will visit here on Thursday.He'll talk about the economy during a visit to General Electric's Waukesha gas engine facility. Obama will deliver his annual State of the Union speech Tuesday night, and the Wisconsin visit will be part of the normal presidential follow-up tour highlighting key parts of his address.The White House says it will announce more details about Obama's visit later in the week.
Tuesday forecast as coldest morning of the week
It started warming up a little in Wisconsin by 7 a.m. but wind-chill factors were still at 40-below in Menomonie and New Richmond.The state's coldest wind chill was reported near Frederic in Polk County, at minus 46. Siren had the state's coldest actual temperature at 7 a.m. with -19. River Falls recorded -15 at 5 a.m.No place in the state was above zero at that hour. Wind-chill warnings and advisories continue at least through mid-morning Tuesday. Wind chills could bottom out at minus-55 Tuesday morning -- which is predicted to be the coldest morning of the week.Even southern Wisconsin is expecting wind chills of around 50-below. Actual temperatures could hit minus 30 overnight Monday.Blowing snow remains in the forecast, but no new accumulations are planned except along Lake Superior -- where another one to three inches are possible Monday.
Two Wisconsinites collect Grammys
Two Wisconsin natives won Grammy Awards Sunday.Wauwatosa native Mike Maher won his first Grammy for the Best "R" and "B" Performance. He's the trumpet player for the rock and jazz group Snarky Puppy, which was honored for its song "Something."Viroqua native Butch Vig won his third Grammy as a compilation producer. He put together the soundtrack for a documentary by Foo Fighter Dave Grohl called "Sound City," about the place where several ground-breaking albums were recorded.Both awards were presented before the CBS telecast of the Grammys Sunday evening.
Trains rarely derail, commissioner reminds MADISON -- Citizens need not worry about being on a train that derails in the bitter cold. State Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale said 99.97 percent of all freight trains complete their shipments without incident.He said the last time a passenger train derailed in Wisconsin was in 2010, and the weather had nothing to do with it. Despite that, Amtrak canceled half its normal runs Monday on its Milwaukee to Chicago Hiawatha line. Amtrak said it wanted to maintain service while reducing exposure to "extreme weather conditions" that are in the forecast.Nineteen cars of a Union Pacific coal train derailed earlier this month in Racine County, due to a track that broke up because of the cold.In Janesville, part of a Wisconsin & Southern grain train jumped the tracks last Friday. Officials said the cold might have caused a malfunction on a switch.The two recent incidents are rare. Wisconsin reported seven train derailments for all of last year -- and an average of 15 over the past five years.
Felon welder who surprised Walker will keep his job
MADISON -- It appears Christopher Barber will keep his job.The 32-year-old Two Rivers man was hailed by Gov. Scott Walker during his State of the State address last week only to learn later that Barber was a sex offender in his former life.The Ariens snow-blower plant in Brillion said it was considering Barber's job status, after both the company and the governor's office failed to check his background before highlighting him.Company spokeswoman Ann Stilp now says Ariens continues to support Barber as an employee. Milwaukee area labor law expert Janet Heins tells the Journal Sentinel it would be hard to terminate Barber, as long as he didn't lie on his job application.Heins said people can only be fired for things substantially-related to work -- and she couldn't see how Barber's earlier convictions have anything to do with his job as a welder.For the State of the State presentation, the governor's office asked employers to nominate workers hired during Walker's term, as an example of how the economy has grown since he's been in office.Stilp told the Journal Sentinel that Ariens took the full blame for the oversight of Barber and they've told that to the governor's staff.
Initiative would expand job training for the disabled
MADISON -- Wisconsin lawmakers will be asked to spend $800,000 to expand an on-the-job training program for employees with disabilities.Walker mentioned the effort in his State of the State address last week. Walker wants to expand the program from seven companies to 27 in the next three years.The governor promises to highlight companies and groups which help people with disabilities, as he speaks around the state.Walker is also telling state agencies to help shore up public and private efforts to improve job opportunities for the disabled.Disability Rights Wisconsin says about 9 percent of the state's workforce is made up of people with disabilities but their employment is only a-third of others, and they make an average of 30 percent less.When he unveiled his plans to lawmakers, Walker introduced the person who inspired them. Patrick Young, who has Down's syndrome, challenged the governor to put together a specialized box as fast as he could at a plant in Menomonee Falls.Walker fumbled the job, while Young completed it in only a few seconds.Advocates for the disabled say the Walker program is not charity -- it's about helping businesses with their bottom lines, and helping the state get the most from its labor force.Also, a state lawmaker who convinced his colleagues to approve four bills to fight heroin addiction is proposing two more.Assembly Republican John Nygren of Marinette is asking lawmakers to co-sponsor his new measures.One would create regional opiate treatment centers in under-served regions. The other bill would create gradual sanctions for convicts who violate terms of their releases, in the hopes that addicts would get faster treatment.Two weeks ago, the Assembly approved four other measures proposed by Nygren -- whose daughter has been struggling with heroin and nearly died from an overdose.The bills would allow trained responders to administer Narcan, which counteracts heroin overdoses, grant limited immunity to those who report overdoses to law enforcement, create more drug collection drives and require I-D's for those buying prescription narcotics.
UW Baraboo dean resigns for UP job
BARABOO -- The dean of the two-year UW branch campus at Baraboo has officially been hired as the new president of Lake Superior State University in Upper Michigan.The Sault Sainte Marie school announced last week that Thomas Pleger was their remaining finalists.The school's Board of Trustees approved the hiring on Friday, and Pleger will begin July first. Pleger was among 50 candidates hoping to replace Tony McClain, who announced a couple years that he'll retire.Pleger, a tenured professor, has run the Baraboo-Sauk County campus since 2006. Before that, he was an associate dean at the UW's Fox Valley college.Pleger also taught at UW Madison, La Crosse, Marinette, and Lawrence of Appleton. Lake Superior State has around 3,000 students.