Sunday, January 14, 2007

Freezing weather grips Midwest

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A crippling winter storm lashed the central part of the nation with another blast of freezing rain, sleet and snow yesterday, causing widespread power outages and tying up highways and airports.

The storm was expected to continue through the weekend, laying down a coat of ice and snow from Texas to Illinois, where an ice storm warning was in effect through tomorrow morning.

“We’re in the middle of this storm,” said Joe Pedigo, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in St. Louis. “Friday was the first of three waves.”

The storm has been blamed for at least six deaths.

Two miners die in roof collapse

CUCUMBER, W.Va. — A roof collapsed in a mine yesterday morning, killing two miners, authorities said.

The miners apparently were caught when a pillar fell, said Ron Wooten, director of the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training.

Dispatchers said the accident scene was up to 1 miles beyond the entrance to the Brooks Run Mining Co. LLC’s mine in McDowell County, about 90 miles west of Roanoke.

Additional details weren’t available. Federal mine safety investigators were on the scene.

Brooks Run is a subsidiary of Abingdon, Va.-based Alpha Natural Resources LLC. The mine began operating in 2004. A call to the mine went unanswered yesterday and a company spokesman didn’t return a message.

Rules waived for border fence

TUCSON, Ariz. — Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff waived environmental rules Friday to clear the way for a border fence to be constructed along the Mexican border.

The move circumvented a series of laws, from the Endangered Species Act to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, outraging environmentalists.

Robin Silver, board chairwoman of the environmental organization Center for Biological Diversity, called Mr. Chertoff’s move “a historic travesty.”

It was not clear when construction on 37 miles of traditional and virtual fencing would begin at the Air Force’s training range in southwestern Arizona. The project also includes radar and other infrastructure, lighting, all-weather and drag roads, expected to cost about $64 million.

‘Secret Santa’ dies at 58

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Larry Stewart, a millionaire who became known as Secret Santa for his habit of roaming the streets each December and anonymously handing money to people, died Friday. He was 58.

Mr. Stewart died from complications from esophageal cancer, said Jackson County Sheriff Tom Phillips, a longtime friend.

Mr. Stewart, who spent 26 years giving a total $1.3 million, gained international attention in November when he revealed himself as Secret Santa. He was diagnosed in April with cancer, and said he wanted to use his celebrity to inspire other people to take random kindness seriously.

“That’s what we’re here for,” he said in a November interview, “to help other people out.”

Mr. Stewart, from the Kansas City suburb of Lee’s Summit, made his millions in cable television and long-distance telephone service.

From staff reports and wire dispatches

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