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Platteville recovers after two tornadoes touch down; Robo-callers try new scam tactic; More state news

Just over 3,000 electric customers in the Platteville area are still without power after two tornadoes hit Grant County late Monday night.

More than 7,000 customers of the state's five major utilities were still in the dark as of 6:30 a.m.

The National Weather Service confirmed two tornadoes hit Platteville Monday night, injuring 5 people and destroying several buildings.

Wisconsin Power and Light, which serves Platteville, had a total of 3,660 customers out. We Energies had 2,700 outages, most after a new round of rainstorms and hail in the Milwaukee area last evening.

Part of Milwaukee's combined storm and sanitary sewers overflowed into Lake Michigan and its tributaries between midnight and 2:30 a.m. A state permit allows six emergency overflows each year.

Madison, which had 15 homes damaged early yesterday, has all its power back. The Wisconsin Public Service utility had around 500 customers out, almost half in the Almond area of Portage County which got hit by strong winds, rain and hail overnight.

In western Wisconsin, Iduna in Trempealeau County reported almost 4.75 inches of rain around 6 a.m. Nearby Galesville had a flashflood, and Sparta had 55 mph winds.

Parts of western and central Wisconsin were under flash flood warnings until mid-morning. Areas of southwest Wisconsin were under a severe thunderstorm warning until 7:30. Occasional rain and storms are in the forecast for the rest of the week.


150 kids moved to safety before tornado hits dorm roof

Now that the tornadoes are gone, we're starting to hear heroic stories from the Monday night storms.

At UW-Platteville, about 150 youngsters at a basketball camp were moved to safety before the roof of their dormitory was damaged. Athletic director Mark Molesworth told the Wisconsin State Journal that coach Jeff Gard was at his computer when he heard a noise and saw a tornado get closer. Gard then woke up the youngsters -- ages 8 to 17 -- and they moved to an interior room.

When the twister hit, it caused heavy damage to the roof of the Roundtree Commons dorm.

Other youngsters were attending pre-college, band and engineering camps when they were taken to shelters. They were then sent home as the camps were canceled at that point.

Five buildings at UW-Platteville were damaged, including the football and soccer stadium where bleachers were twisted.


Robo-callers try new scam tactic; BBB advises, say nothing and hang up

Wisconsin's Better Business Bureau has issued an alert about the robo-calls you might be getting from foreign telemarketers.

The calls themselves are nothing new, but what is new is that you might see a number with your local area code or exchange. The BBB says the callers might be confirming your phone number so they can sell it to other foreign telemarketers, or they could offer you a credit card deal and hope you'll give them personal information they can use to steal your identity.

In either case, the BBB urges you to hang up, don't say anything and don't press the numbers they ask you to press.

Business robo-calls are illegal in Wisconsin, and we do hear about foreign telemarketers getting caught every once in a while.



National council gives Wisconsin colleges poor rankings for teacher training

A new national report gives Wisconsin universities low marks for training teachers, but school leaders condemned the rankings almost before the ink dried.

The National Council on Teacher Quality checked more than 1,600 schools that prepare elementary, secondary and special education teachers.

UW-Eau Claire was named the 92nd-best university for elementary teacher prep.  Madison was ranked 117th, and La Crosse 125th.

For undergraduate secondary programs, UW-River Falls was the highest-ranked in the state at 113th. Carroll of Waukesha was next at 193rd.

Melanie Agnew, who heads the Wisconsin Colleges of Teacher Education, said the rankings are irrelevant. She said the state is currently working to make its teacher prep programs stronger. Also, Agnew said the council did not visit the campuses or talk to anyone there.

The group's ratings were based on the selection process for teaching candidates and the overall scope of their college coursework.

Wisconsin has 36 teacher training schools. Twenty-two were not ranked because they were considered in the bottom half of the national ratings. Yesterday's rankings were a follow-up to the council's inaugural survey from a year ago.


Ron Johnson says send Khattala to Gitmo

Wisconsin's Ron Johnson is among at least five U.S. Senate Republicans who say President Obama is wrong to bring suspected Libyan terrorist bomber Abu Khattala to the United States for a trial.

Johnson, a member of the foreign relations and homeland security committees, says Khattala should instead be shipped off to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Khattala is said to be a "key leader" in the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, where ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Obama says Khattala needs to be brought to justice.

On Fox News, Johnson says it can take years to gather the proper intelligence from a foreign suspect like Khattala. He calls Guantanamo Bay the nation's "best line of defense."

Texas Senate Republican Ted Cruz says the alleged Libyan bomber has no business in a U.S. civilian court where he can get the same constitutional protections as American citizens.

Johnson says we may never know how much intelligence the U.S. won't get through a long interrogation of Khattala. He denies that terrorist suspects get abused at Guantanamo Bay, saying they're treated "beautifully, quite obviously."

In Minneapolis yesterday, FBI Director James Comey said the investigation into the Benghazi attack is not over.


Body found in submerged SUV not identified yet

SCHOFIELD -- A man's body was pulled yesterday from an SUV that drove into the Eau Claire River in Schofield, just south of Wausau.

A bicyclist saw skid marks on an embankment and called 9-1-1. Everest Metro police said the victim was not positively identified at last word.

Once they found it, rescuers spent several hours pulling the submerged vehicle out. Everest Metro Captain Clayton Schultz said crews could not tell right away if anyone was in the SUV because the doors were locked and the water was murky.

Authorities are treating the death as a traffic accident for now. Their investigation continues.

--Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau


Milwaukee tech college president takes job in California

Milwaukee Area Technical College is about to look for a new president, after Michael Burke accepted a new job in southern California.

The Riverside Community College district board voted unanimously last night to hire Burke, 62, who was at MATC since 2010.

He told the board that he looks forward to a "long and productive relationship" that will likely extend into his retirement years.


WalletHub: No credit history means much higher car insurance premiums

If you want the best auto insurance rates, you'll have to start building a credit history and then be responsible in handling your debt.

That's according to WalletHub, which says Wisconsin drivers without credit histories pay an average of 80% more for car insurance than those with the highest credit scores.

The consumer Web site says Wisconsin has the nation's 12th-highest price difference – 15% more than the national gap of 65%.

Back in 2008, the Wisconsin Senate passed a bill to ban the use of credit reports in setting premiums for auto and home insurance coverage. Democrats who ran the Senate at the time said auto rates should hinge only on how well people drive. The measure died in the Republican-controlled Assembly.

The insurance industry defends the use of credit scores in setting coverage rates, saying those who are reckless with their credit are more likely to be more reckless on the road thus causing more accidents.

Wallet-Hub sides with the insurers, but it is concerned that too many rates are based on inaccurate credit reports. WalletHub encourages people to take advantage of their ability to view free credit reports once a year.


DPI asks voucher schools for data on students with disabilities

Conservatives are crying foul as the state's education agency gathers information from private schools about tax-funded voucher students with disabilities.

It's part of a reported federal investigation into complaints that tax-funded voucher schools are rejecting disabled youngsters. The U.S. Department of Justice began receiving those complaints in 2011.

GOP legislative leaders accuse the state Department of Public Instruction of trying to undermine the voucher program.

On Monday, Senate Republican Paul Farrow of Pewaukee fired off a series of questions for State Superintendent Tony Evers. Farrow accused Evers of being biased against the private school choice program that was expanded statewide on a limited basis last fall.

DPI spokesman John Johnson said it's voluntary for private schools to offer up their data. He said the DPI is only trying to ensure that there's no discrimination taking place.

A number of Democrats have been speaking out to support the inquiry, saying it's important that voucher schools be held accountable. The DPI is asking voucher schools to respond by June 30.


Two die in Shawano freeway crash

Two people killed in a freeway crash west of Shawano have been identified as Dennis Schmendt, 73, and Sally Schmendt, 71, both of Marion.

Authorities said their pickup truck was going west on Hwy. 29 when it veered across a median and rolled onto an eastbound shoulder.

Dennis Schmendt, the driver, was ejected and died later. His passenger died at the scene.

The crash was reported around 8:15 a.m. yesterday on the four-lane 29 near County Road MMM in the town of Richmond. It remains under investigation.

--Raymond Neupert, WSAU, Wausau


Walker seeks assistance for storm victims

Gov. Scott Walker says he'll seek both federal and state aid to help storm victims who don't have enough insurance.

The governor made the comment yesterday after touring Platteville and Verona where three tornadoes touched down late Monday night.

The National Weather Service said yesterday that an F-3 tornado hit Verona with winds of up to 140 mph. It blew down a wall at Country View Elementary School and made 19 homes in Verona uninhabitable while damaging dozens of others.

In Platteville, football players said they probably lost their home games this fall after an F-2 twister with 120 mph winds hit Pioneer Stadium and twisted the bleachers and snapped off light poles.  The storm also tore the roofs off two dormitories.

Five buildings in all were damaged on the Platteville campus, and a dozen homes were destroyed in that community. The twisters were the first in Wisconsin in 2014.


Thompson asks Congress to recognize obesity as disease

Former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson will urge Congress today to require Medicare coverage for seniors' obesity medicines.

Thompson will join state officials in Michigan to encourage government leaders to recognize obesity as a disease.

Thompson served as the nation's Health and Human Services secretary more than a decade ago. He'll join Michigan Community Health Director James Haveman at a news conference in Lansing.

Haveman will give a progress report on a statewide health and wellness plan from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. That state's obesity rate jumped from 18% to 32% between 1995 and 2010. By 2030, officials say half of Michigan's population could be obese.