Wisconsin roundup: All roads to Arcadia closed as new storms soak state; 9 more state news stories
The National Weather Service says all roads leading into Arcadia were closed Thursday morning, and "water rescues" were taking place in the wake of more storms and floods.
Nearby Frenchville in Trempealeau County had 6 ¼ inches of rain from Wednesday night through 5 a.m., as flash floods caused road washouts and closures in the La Crosse area. Xcel Energy said almost 4,000 customers were without power in western Wisconsin as of 6:15 a.m., and Alliant Energy had 5,100 customers out in the southern half of the state.
The overnight storms followed an earlier round of severe weather Wednesday night as Grant County sheriff's deputies reported possible tornado damage in the Blue River area, a gas leak at a commercial building in Muscoda, and houses hit by lightning close to Fennimore and Lancaster — and in Wisconsin Dells, lightning reportedly hit the roof of the Chula Vista Resort's indoor waterpark. More heavy rains are forecast for the evening.
Report: Walker brought up using income tax cuts for road work
MADISON — Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says his GOP members will need time to review a budget package the Senate put forward this week.
Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald met again Wednesday with Gov. Scott Walker on ways to break the current budget impasse — which mainly involves disagreements on how to pay for highway funding. WisPolitics.com says it was Walker who brought up the idea of giving up $203 million in income tax cuts he proposed in the next budget — and use the funds on road projects that have been delayed like Milwaukee's Zoo Freeway interchange. The governor's office says it wants to give lawmakers "room to reach an agreement" — but for now, Vos says they're "trying to "get to the point of negotiating."
Walker OKs background checks for voucher school employees
MADISON — The private schools that get state tax money to educate low income kids will have to conduct background checks on their employees.
Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill to that effect Wednesday, as he made mostly technical changes to the state's private school choice voucher program. Among other things, the new law eliminates academic performance standards for voucher schools — and the state's public education agency did not object because the voucher schools will still have to be graded for school report cards.
Early flood damage estimate: $26M
MADISON — The first damage estimates are in from last week's flooding in Wisconsin.
State officials report $26 million of damage from massive rains in Racine, Kenosha, and Walworth counties and a separate rain cell across the state in Polk County. Assessments continue but according to the first numbers, almost 3,800 homes were damaged — including 2,300 in the Burlington area where the Fox River went a record 6.5 feet above its banks.
Four Kenosha County businesses had major damage, plus one business in Polk County — and six counties have reported $8 million of damage to roads, bridges, and dams. State agency leaders plan to meet with local officials Thursday in far southeast Wisconsin — and the La Crosse area received four more inches of rain overnight that caused flash flooding and road closures.
Sporting groups, ex-wardens oppose bill to limit DNR warden patrols
MADISON — Members of sporting groups join former state DNR wardens in opposing a Republican bill to keep wardens off private land unless they suspect violations.
Balsam Lake Rep. Adam Jarchow proposed the bill after the DNR tweeted a photo of a warden crossing private land to check on a hunter in a tree stand last year — and he wondered if it violated the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches. The bill would require courts to throw out evidence obtained without "reasonable suspicion" of lawbreaking on the 82 percent of Wisconsin land that's held privately.
Mike Arrowood of the Winnebagoland Conservation Alliance called the bill a "poacher's dream." Nobody from the current DNR testified, but retired chief warden Ralph Christensen says courts have ruled multiple times that wardens have the right to enter open fields — and the bill would effectively transfer the ownership of public wildlife to private landowners.
UW expert: Mosquito discovery shows no sign of Zika virus
MADISON — A UW-Madison expert says a mosquito that's capable of spreading the Zika virus should not be a cause for concern.
State health officials say three bugs similar to the Asian tiger mosquito were found this week in the Madison suburb of Monona. It's the first time a possible bug with the Zika virus has been found in Wisconsin — but there have been no human cases connected with the discovery. UW entomologist PJ Liesch says the breed has been widely found throughout the southern United States, and the only Zika cases were in Florida and Texas. Wisconsin has confirmed 67 Zika infections since it became known last year that the virus may cause birth defects in babies — but in all cases, patients contracted it while traveling abroad.
Racine man charged in fatal shooting of son, 3
RACINE — The father of a 3-year-old found fatally shot at their Racine apartment has been charged in the child's death.
Officers were called to the apartment July 12 where they found three-year-old Jere'Miah Pitt dead of a single gunshot wound to the chest. The child's 30-year-old father, Jeffrey Pitt Jr., told police he drank five shots of alcohol before coming home, putting in a movie for his son and passing out. He told police that when he woke up the next morning he found his son dead. Police say officers found a gun hidden under Pitt's dresser.
The Racine Journal Times reports prosecutors on Wednesday charged Pitts with first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree recklessly endangering safety and illegally possessing a gun.
Motorcycle death investigated
SPOONER — The Wisconsin State Patrol is still trying to figure out why a motorcyclist got into a crash right before he died.
Troopers said Wednesday that 68-year-old Jerome Burnham of Spooner died in last Saturday's mishap on Washburn County Road A near Spooner. Officials say Burnham lost control of his motorcycle after rounding a curve and left the roadway.
Kwik Trip to buy PDQ chain
LA CROSSE — By next summer, you could see a lot more Kwik Trips in southern Wisconsin.
The convenience store chain that's based in La Crosse says it will buy PDQ's 34 similar stores and gas stations. Mark Zietlow represents the third generation of his family to own the 52-year-old Kwik Trip — and he says the family is "committed to owning and growing the company for another 50 years." He expects to add more than 1,000 new jobs once the Middleton based PDQ is purchased, and the stores are remodeled to become Kwik Trips.
PDQ has been around for 65 years, both chains are privately owned, and financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Kwik Trip expects the purchase to be finalized in October, adding to more than 570 stores in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota which have close to 20,000 total employees.
Clear-bag policy going into effect at Camp Randall
MADISON — Packer fans know the rules. And now, Wisconsin Badger football fans will be banned from carrying larger tote bags that are not clear into Camp Randall Stadium in Madison this fall.
Like the NFL did a few years ago, the university says requiring clear bags will enhance safety for fans — who will be allowed one small clutch purse and one clear bag 12 inches long and 6 inches wide. Other security requirements stay the same, and they're listed on the Badgers' website. Wisconsin men's basketball fans who went to the 2014 and '15 Final Fours may still have the clear tote bags that were given out at the Fan Fests in Dallas and Indianapolis — and they'll be good at Camp Randall as well.