- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014
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.


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 (https://bit.ly/1yBXzF5https://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.

Today’s phones come with the emergency alert system built in. When there’s an emergency - such as a tornado, a missing person or a hazardous materials spill - cellphones buzz and ring with special tones. Because the messages are sent to every cellphone in the affected area, a resident will get information even if he or she is away from home.

Still, the system has limits.


Holmen woman is 1st repeat Miss Wisconsin

OSHKOSH, Wis. (AP) - A Holmen woman who took home the Miss Wisconsin crown has become the first person to hold the title twice.

Raenna Johnson was named Miss Wisconsin on Saturday night in Oshkosh.

It’s a repeat - of sorts - for Johnson.

Back in 2011, she was named first runner-up to Laura Kaeppeler. But then Kaeppeler went on to win the Miss America pageant - so Johnson assumed the Miss Wisconsin title in January of 2012.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (https://bit.ly/1l1H2jI) that pageant rules allow women who ascend to state titles to compete again after skipping a year. That’s what Johnson did.

The 24-year-old Johnson graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse this year. She studied communications and women’s studies. She’ll compete in the Miss America pageant in September.



2 motorcyclists killed in weekend crashes

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. (AP) - Two motorcyclists have died in separate crashes on Wisconsin roadways.

On Saturday night, a 36-year-old man was killed when he struck a deer while riding on westbound Interstate 90/94 near Wisconsin Dells. Authorities say Todd Hughes of Glenbeulah was ejected from his Harley Davidson when he hit the deer at about 10:30 p.m., and was pronounced dead on the scene.

A 21-year-old Pewaukee man also died Saturday night when his motorcycle left the roadway on Highway 16 near County Highway JJ in Waukesha County. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that accident happened about 7:30 p.m. The man’s name hasn’t been released.

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