Big spring storm’s freezing rain already taking out power lines

Power outages are already being reported as the spring storm spreads across the state. A Strib team of Tim Harlow, Paul Walsh and Bill McAuliffe says: “[F]reezing rain in southwestern Minnesota has unplugged electricity in nearly all of Worthington and surrounding communities. In response to the troubling weather in the state’s southwest corner, Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety has partly activated its Emergency Operations Center. This allows the center to ‘coordinate resource needs with several state agencies including MnDOT, the Minnesota Department of Health and the National Guard.’ … Along with Nobles County, virtually all of the southern half of Minnesota was under a winter storm warning at midday Wednesday … In response to overland flooding from snowmelt, the NWS issued a flood watch for Wilkin County, in west-central Minnesota, effective through Saturday morning. Water was already over some local roads in the area near Rothsay.”

At MPR, Craig Edwards says: “As Paul [Huttner] has been noting and questioning, the models have not strayed much from putting the Twin Cities metro region in close proximity to the band of heaviest snow. I see no reason to differ from the numbers posted this morning from the NWS Office in Chanhassen. … This system will move slowly and precipitation will last through Thursday. Heavy snow is expected to reach northwest Wisconsin tomorrow. Much below normal temperatures are likely in our neck of the woods through the weekend. An active weather pattern is seen next week as well.” In other words, there’ll be no golfing, or planting, or you name it for quite a while.

And in case you’re inclined … The AP says: “ An advocacy group is out with a new report that illustrates Minnesota’s vulnerability to weather disasters. The report released by Environment Minnesota includes a clickable online map showing that 82 of Minnesota’s 87 counties have sustained federally declared weather disasters since 2007. Those disasters including flooding, tornadoes and severe storms. Only Koochiching County in far north-central Minnesota, and Todd, Morrison, Benton and Sherburne counties in central Minnesota stayed off the federal disaster lists in that five-year period. … Climate change is making such disasters and extreme weather events more frequent, highlighting the need to reduce carbon emissions from power plants and motor vehicles, the group said.”

These are not jobs we’ll be creating … Brian Bakst at the AP writes: “High hopes of a major infusion of money for Minnesota road, bridge and mass transit construction gave way Wednesday, April 10, to the reality that the taxes needed to support those investments probably won’t pass into law this year. Senate Transportation and Public Safety Division Chairman Scott Dibble said he’s looking at a status quo year while transportation advocates regroup for another push in 2014. A bare bones transportation package Dibble has put before his committee doesn’t include a higher metropolitan area sales tax that was to pay for substantial new transit options. Nor does it contain a gas tax increase to fund road and bridge projects.”

Another tough day for Backpage.com … Emily Gurnon at the PiPress says: “Two brothers, two uncles and a woman have been charged in a sex-trafficking conspiracy that targeted vulnerable girls and young women. The Ramsey County attorney’s office and St. Paul police said Wednesday … in a news conference that the two-year operation involved at least 10 victims.The defendants placed hundreds of ads for the girls on websites such as Backpage.com, said County Attorney John Choi. They used eight email addresses, 30 phone numbers and more than 100 credit cards to carry out their scheme, officials said.”

Also in the PiPress, this from Sarah Horner: “[Brian] Vander Lee, of Ramsey, was the last witness called by the prosecution Wednesday in the Anoka County trial against 48-year-old Sgt. David Clifford. The decorated Minneapolis police officer was charged with first-degree assault after punching Vander Lee in the head while off-duty … . Vander Lee recalled from the witness stand ‘bits and pieces’ he could remember of the two weeks he spent in the hospital following the altercation. Nearly 10 months later, he said he is still feeling the effects of his injuries. ‘I am not the same as I was,’ Vander Lee said. Unable to work for three months after the incident, Vander Lee said he has since returned to his job in sales for the Star Tribune newspaper but struggles to assemble business proposals and suffers great anxiety when interacting with clients.”

How did I miss this Strib commentary by DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn, firing back at outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson? “Repeatedly in recent months, outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson has falsely portrayed my work and that of the state House of Representatives on the 2013 Legacy bill. … Why Anderson attempts to grind his ax against Speaker Thissen or the DFL is a question only he can answer. This is an especially peculiar charge given that it took a DFL Legislature to place the Legacy Amendment on the ballot in the face of severe opposition from Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Anderson’s veiled political threat against one party is simply acting in an [uninformed] and irrational bullying manner when viewed in light of the facts. Yes, I may be smaller than him, and a woman, but that doesn’t mean I can be bullied.” No, ma’am. No one ever thought that.

The GleanAnne Marie Rasmussen has been dethroned as the data file most accessed by cops. Marino Eccher and Mary Divine report: “Brooke Bass spent her legal career looking out for the best interests of police officers. They were looking out for her, too, her lawyer says — but in a different way. In the past eight years, more than 100 entities across Minnesota — nearly all of them law enforcement — accessed Bass’s private driver’s license information more than 700 times, her attorney said. That would make her the subject of the biggest privacy breach to date in the state’s increasingly broad and increasingly expensive license-data debacle.” … To protect and serve …

At City Pages, Aaron Rupar offers a photo of Ms. Bass and adds: “If Brooke Bass’s lawyer follows through on his threat to sue agencies for $10,000 for each time they accessed his client’s private driver’s license data, her case could end up making Anne Marie Rasmusson’s look like child’s play. … [Her attorney Kenn] Fukuda wrote, ‘we believe she is entitled to at least $10,000 for each occurrence.’ If Bass ends up suing for that amount for each of the 700 alleged breaches, the total amount he and his client would be seeking is $7 million. By comparison, Rasmusson ended up receiving more than $1 million in settlements for roughly 600 unauthorized look-ups.” Remind me, how much are those public pension “bail-outs” costing?

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