News from around Wisconsin at 5:28 a.m. CDT

Monday, June 23, 2014

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Stillwater Lift Bridge to close due to high water

STILLWATER, Minn. (AP) - A bridge connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin will be closed indefinitely starting Monday because of high water, officials said Sunday, as authorities around the state braced for flooding from bulging streams and rivers.

The Stillwater Lift Bridge over the St. Croix River, which joins Minnesota Highway 36 and Wisconsin Highway 64, will be closed to traffic in both directions from Monday morning until further notice, the Minnesota Department of Transportation announced. Drivers are being told to use Interstate 94 or Highway 243 instead.

Meanwhile, officials across Minnesota are preparing for high waters to crest in the coming days.

“Right now what we’re seeing is a statewide disaster, really,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Sunday. “From International Falls on the Canadian border down to Luverne on the Iowa border, it really covered the whole state.”

The Free Press of Mankato reported that Klobuchar visited an apartment complex in the city, where 39 families were displaced when lower-level units flooded, as part of her tour to survey flood damage around the state.

Many cities are waiting to see if sandbags and levees can hold back more rain. But it’s already too late for some. A handful of homeowners in Henderson had to evacuate on Saturday after a landslide. The Minnesota River has surpassed flood stage there, heading toward a Monday crest.

On the edge of town, a hill slid down into a farm field.

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Weather alerts on cellphones a ‘game changer’

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - When parts of Wisconsin were under tornado warnings last week, many state residents, including Gov. Scott Walker’s wife, learned of the severe weather danger through their cellphones.

Wisconsin Emergency Management spokesman Tod Pritchard said the system that provides those weather alerts has been a “game changer” when it comes to keeping people safe.

“It gets (information) to a device that is right on millions of Americans,” Pritchard said.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1yBXzF5http://bit.ly/1yBXzF5 ) that tornado warnings and broadcast alerts might have been enough to get a severe weather warning out to the public 10 years ago. But an aging population might not hear those warnings, and a person watching Netflix wouldn’t see an alert on television, said Laura McLay, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and systems engineer.

Pritchard and others said the cellphone alerts are a good supplement to warning systems that are already in place.

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