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Ashland snowfalls exceeds 2 feet; throng of canines rescued from condemned house; 13 more state stories

While many in Wisconsin scraped and shoveled five to nine inches of snow on Sunday, folks in the far north are dealing with considerably more.

The National Weather Service said Ashland had received 23 inches of snow as of 6:30 a.m., Monday including five inches overnight.

Brule in Douglas County got half of its 12 inches overnight. Bayfield picked up more than eight inches by 6:30, and it was still coming down.

Five-to nine inches fell Sunday in much of Wisconsin's southeast quarter. Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay all had record snowfalls for the date -- and while Green Bay only had six inches, hundreds of thousands of football fans got to see part of it come down during Sunday's Packers' loss to Pittsburgh on CBS.

Central and western Wisconsin only had a couple inches yesterday. The Badger State got off easy compared to folks to the east and south. At last word, nine deaths were reported in snow, floods, and an Arkansas tornado.

Wisconsin had no storm-related deaths as of 7 a.m., Monday. Only about 30 customers of the state's five major electric utilities were in the dark -- while over 440,000 people lost their power as of late Sunday between Michigan and New England. Lingering snow is expected to depart later Monday and it will get much colder. Hayward expects 15-below by Christmas Eve morning.

Wisconsin's Burke among several high-profile gubernatorial candidates nationwide

Wisconsin's Mary Burke is one of six high-profile women running for governor's offices around the country next year.

Right now, Republicans have four female governors to just one for the Democrats. The Associated Press reports national Democrats and women's groups are trying to turn that around, in part by going after incumbent men who've restricted women's privileges on social issues like abortion, contraception, and equal pay for equal work.

Outsiders are vocalizing what they call a "war on women" -- something that doesn't exist according South Carolina's Republican female governor, Nikki Haley. She says it will be up to her and the nation's other female Republican leaders that women get treated well by the Grand Old Party.

So far, none of the high-profile Democrats have broken through in the polls -- including Burke in Wisconsin. She could still face a primary challenge from Senate Democrat Kathleen Vinehout -- but in either case, it appears likely that a woman will be Walker's primary challenger come next November.

Burke tells the AP there are lots of areas where Wisconsin women are not getting a fair shake. She points to Walker's repeal of the ability to file state lawsuits based on wage discrimination due to age and gender.

She also noted the GOP law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, reducing the numbers of abortion providers.

Wisconsin soldiers among 140 soldiers who returned Sunday

Over 140 soldiers from Wisconsin and Minnesota have just come home for the holidays. They were reunited with their families Sunday, at a welcome-home ceremony at Cambridge-Isanti High School in Minnesota.

The troops are from 100 communities in Wisconsin and Minnesota. They spent the last eight months building roads and clearing mines in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Jeffrey Taylor said his members were often fired upon, or shelled with mortars -- but they only had one serious injury. One soldier suffered a concussion, after an explosive device went off near his vehicle.

Taylor said infantry and cavalry troops accompanied his unit, and provided protection.

Humane Society caring for 50 dogs seized from a condemned house

MERRILL -- A humane society in Merrill is caring for about 50 dogs seized from a cold, condemned house over the weekend.

Officials of the Lincoln County Humane Society were asked on Saturday to take about 20 dogs -- but when they arrived at the house near Gleason, they found over 50 animals, mostly puppies.

One volunteer said the house was deplorable, with animal urine and feces everywhere however, the owners have not been criminally charged with abuse.

Shelter manager Liz Friedenfels said her group has yet to obtain legal possession of the animals, but they're taking names of those wishing to adopt the pets.

In the meantime, the Lincoln County Humane Society was taking donations to feed the pets and provide extra housing facilities -- and they were already getting donations by midday Sunday. They also need to be spayed or neutered.

Friedenfels said the dogs were generally in good health.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Act of Christmas kindness grows into annual event

WAUSAU -- A small act of kindness in Wausau in 1968 has become a large community dinner, aimed at making sure that no one's alone on Christmas.

Forty-five years ago, Doris Huckbody's family delivered Christmas dinner to 10 people in the Wausau area who didn't have anyone to share the holiday with.

That act of kindness grew over the years -- and this Christmas Day, about 500 people are expected to get free meals. Some 300 of those will be delivered to home-bound residents, and 200 other people are expected at a community dinner at Wausau's First United Methodist Church.

Huckbody is now 82. She said she never believed "in a million years" that her event would get so large. She's no longer coordinating it, but she and her family still volunteer.

Latest consumer scam involves funeral home web sites

Another day, another scam in Wisconsin. This one comes from Lincoln County, where a woman went to a funeral home's Web site and posted a condolence for a family friend. Later, the Merrill area woman got an e-mail claiming she was a beneficiary of the dead person's estate -- and she could start collecting money if she sends the scammer her bank account numbers.

The funeral home was from south central Wisconsin. It posted e-mail addresses of those writing condolences, but it stopped publicizing them once the scam came to light.

Authorities said the funeral home promised to alert its users to the situation -- and to remind people never to give personal information to people they don't know, especially online.

-- Larry Lee, WSAU, Wausau

Red Wing Shoe recalls thousands of work boots

RED WING, Minn. -- Red Wing Shoe Co. is recalling thousands of work boots in the United States and Canada after a problem was found with the steel toecap.

The cap in the boots “could fail to protect the wearer’s feet in an impact,” according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. No injuries have been reported.

The recall affects about 105,000 pairs in the U.S. and 9,000 in Canada.

All boots that are part of the recall were made in the United States, and most came from Red Wing, company spokesman Peter Engel said.

The issue was due to a defective part from a supplier in Europe, Engel added.

The recall involves more than 40 styles of men’s steel toe work boots in sizes 11 to 18 and widths ranging from B to H. The boots have 6-, 8-, 10- or 11-inch ankle height and are black, brown or maroon leather.

People should return affected boots to the place of purchase or contact Red Wing Shoe. They will get a free replacement pair.

For more information, visit and click on Safety Notice or contact Red Wing Shoes at (800) 733-9464 or

-- Forum News Service

Search continues for group home walk-away

RACINE -- A search continued overnight Sunday for a man with a severe brain injury who walked away from a group home in Racine.

Police have been asking for people's help in finding Ruben Santos, age 57.

He was last seen shortly after midnight Sunday, wearing a white T-shirt and sweat pants or pajama bottoms. Officials say Santos has a diminished mental capacity due to his brain injury.

He does not have a history of aggressive or violent behavior -- but police said he's been known to hide in bushes when somebody's looking for him.

House fire claims life of 80-year-old man

MILWAUKEE -- The state Fire Marshal's office continues to investigate a weekend house fire that killed an 80-year-old man in South Milwaukee.

Firefighters were called Saturday afternoon, after smoke was seen pouring from the rear of the home.

Officials said the fire started in the kitchen, where the man's body was found. His name was not immediately released. An autopsy was scheduled for Monday.

A firefighter was treated at a hospital for a shoulder injury, and was later released.

Police: Boy accused in killing also fired on responding officers

ASHLAND -- A 14-year-old boy turned on the couple who were raising him, fatally shooting and stabbing a male relative and also attacking a female relative, who was able to escape and call police for help, officials said Friday.

The teen later traded gunshots with police and shot himself. Ashland police are recommending that the youth be charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the slaying of William J. Saari, 52, who was found dead near his Ashland home Monday night, and attempted first-degree intentional homicide of Saari’s wife, Carolyn Saari.

Ashland Police Chief Greg BeBeau said Saari was apparently killed from a combination of several gunshot and stab wounds.

Police also said there was a brief exchange of gunfire between the suspect and the first officer on scene. The officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard such cases.

The boy, who had an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, was taken to a Duluth hospital, where he was treated and released. He was being held in a juvenile detention facility on $250,000 bond.

Police said the boy was a relative the Saaris had been raising but have declined to release his name or exact relationship.

Ashland County District Attorney Kelly McKnight will decide on charges.

-- Forum News Service

Neenah man dodges jail on missing boaters report

EAU CLAIRE -- A Neenah man has been fined $865 for making rescuers in Eau Claire spend parts of two days looking for missing kayakers who never existed.

Andrew Wallace, 30, admitted making up a story about two men falling from a boat in April in the Chippewa River in Eau Claire.

Personnel from the state DNR joined local police and rescuers in waters that were high, choppy, and dangerous at the time -- and a helicopter from the Mayo Health System joined in the search.

Wallace was convicted of making a fake 9-1-1 call, and two counts of obstructing officers. Two other obstruction counts were dropped in a plea deal.

Wallace moved to the Fox Valley after living in Manitowoc at the time of his arrest. He'll be allowed to stay there, after choosing 240 hours of community service over 30 days in jail. Wallace must also write apology letters to the agencies involved in the search.

Media reports said the false incident cost local fire departments $7,600 in manpower time and equipment -- plus about 70 man-hours for Eau Claire Police and county sheriff's personnel.

Final wolf hunt closes at sunset Monday

MADISON -- Wisconsin's second wolf hunting season was to close at 5 p.m., Monday when the last of six zones throughout the state shuts down.

The DNR says Zone Three in the northwest is about to reach its quota.

Seventy-one wolves were available there for hunting-and-trapping -- and the DNR's Kurt Thiede said 12 of those wolves were taken on Friday and Saturday.

Zone Three covers parts of Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Rusk, Price, and Taylor counties. It was the only zone open since early November, after quotas were reached in all of the other five locations.

The statewide quota this year was 251, more than twice the number from the inaugural season in 2012 -- which also closed in December. In each case, hunting could have continued until late February had the available wolves not been taken so early.

Because wolf hunting is so new, officials have no idea if the early harvests are a quirk -- or if it will be the norm. The DNR is trying to get the state's wolf population down to about 350, to reduce attacks on livestock and farm crops.

Last winter, the DNR said there were as many as 834 wolves.

Environmentalists say there are not enough wolves for hunting. They have a lawsuit pending that would end wolf hunts throughout the Upper Midwest, and put the animals back on the federal endangered species list.

New site shows Wisconsin's public Stewardship lands

MADISON -- A state government Web site has published an atlas of Wisconsin's public Stewardship lands.

For decades, the state has preserved most of its pristine nature lands by borrowing money as part of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

The new Web atlas contains 441 maps, a glossary, two indexes, and lots of contact information for property managers. It also lists other state, county, and federal lands in Wisconsin that are open to the public.

Republican critics of the Stewardship Program have said it's often hard for people to know where the program's properties are located. The new atlas will presumably fix that. View it here:

N.D.’s Christmas tree grown in Wisconsin

BISMARCK – North Dakota’s mammoth state Christmas tree aglow in the Capitol comes not from the plains of North Dakota but from a bog in Wisconsin.

Rather than cutting down a local spruce or pine, which Facilities Management spokeswoman Ronda Berg said dry out too fast in the low humidity, the state gets a balsam fir special from central Wisconsin. It was ordered through Bismarck-based Cashman Nursery, which has been providing the state tree for decades.

The tree cost about $700, according to The Associated Press.

Cashman Nursery owner Dan Cashman said he’s experimented over the years with local trees for the Capitol’s Memorial Hall – a spruce here, a pine there.

“Both lost every needle that they’ve got,” Cashman said. “And I don’t mean some of them.”

Cashman said he orders balsam firs from a bog in Wisconsin, where the hearty trees grow best. It took a crew of 12 to bring the 25-foot tree up the Capitol steps, he said.

“That’s why (the state) gets a tree from me,” he said. “They’re the best I know of.”

-- Forum News Service

Steve Dzubay

Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer from 1995-2016. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.