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Xcel: 95% power returned after weekend storms

Storms likely again Tuesday night; Minnesota challenges Iowa for gay-marriage dollars; Minnesota history buffs march off to Gettysburg; Minnesota Zoo announces baby bongos; and more.

Xcel Energy said it has returned power to 95 percent of Minnesota customers who were knocked offline by the weekend storms, reports Paul Walsh of the Star Tribune.  “More than 600,000 homes, businesses and other buildings [were without power] in the Twin Cities and elsewhere starting Friday evening. As of 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, about 16,000 were still yearning for power to charge cellphones and power everything from televisions to coffee makers. The vast majority of those are in the west metro. … Meanwhile, the clearing of downed trees pressed on in neighborhoods in Minneapolis, St. Paul and several suburbs. Crews have removed at least 800 trees in Minneapolis, while that total has topped 500 in St. Paul.”

Meanwhile, over at the Updraft blog at Minnesota Public Radio, Paul Huttner said Tuesday night has the potential to be messy: “The Weather Lab awoke to some pretty alarming wording from [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center] today highlighting the risk for another ‘Linear MCS’ or Bow Echo rumbling across southern Minnesota later [Tuesday]. Looking at the variables, I agree there is a good chance for some severe storms later today. Not to be overly dramatic here, but there are a few things we should all do now to be ahead of the storm threat later today and this evening, including keeping plans flexible tonight in anticipation of severe storms. … Fully charge your cell phone and prep any other power-sensitive devices. … Keep an eye out for watches and possible warnings later today and tonight.

The Huffington Post reprinted an Associated Press story about how Minnesota will now compete with Iowa as the Midwest destination for gay wedding tourism: “A Minnesota law legalizing gay marriage goes into effect on Aug. 1. ‘Weddings are a good business. That’s an exciting part of it,’ St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said. … Just how this shift will [affect] the Iowa wedding industry is hard to predict. Although the states are similar in many ways, Minneapolis-St. Paul is a metro area that nearly equals Iowa’s total population, and the Twin Cities airport offers more frequent and often cheaper flights than Iowa airports. There also is a surge in enthusiasm following Minnesota’s change in law. Those factors might prove attractive to an out-of-state couple looking for a place to wed. Still, Iowa gay rights advocates said there is support in the state for gay couples and that travel to Iowa would continue.”

“A contingent of 90 Civil War buffs, elected officials and others from Minnesota is headed next week to Pennsylvania to help mark the 150th anniversary of the battle at Gettysburg, but some involved got an early send-off Tuesday from Gov. Mark Dayton,” writes the Associated Press in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Dayton hosted a handful of Civil War re-enactors at the Capitol and signed a proclamation as he reflected on his state’s role in the conflict. The First Minnesota Infantry Regiment was deeply involved in the Gettysburg fight and suffered significant casualties. … The Minnesota History Center is midway through a six-month exhibit putting the state’s presence in the war in context. … Among the state’s prized artifacts is a blood-stained, bullet-pierced Confederate flag from a Virginia regiment — one that Virginia has tried repeatedly to reclaim. ‘It was taken in a battle with the cost of the blood of all these Minnesotans. It would be a sacrilege to return it to them,’ Dayton said.”

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The GleanNoted bongo “expert” Paul Walsh of the Strib writes that “the Minnesota Zoo announced Tuesday the births of a male bongo antelope on June 6 and a female 10 days later. Bongo antelopes, native to rain forests with dense undergrowth across tropical Africa, are known for their auburn or chestnut coats with 10 to 15 vertical white stripes running down their sides. The births bring the zoo’s bongo antelope collection to seven, with the other five being adults. Zoo visitors will have to be patient. The calves are still getting used to their exhibit and are not always visible. … Conservationists say they can run faster than 40 miles per hour. No wonder, given that their natural predators include leopards and lions. Conservation groups put the worldwide population of bongos at no more than 28,000, leaving them just short of being classified as a ‘threatened’ species.”

Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, has apologized for a tweet he sent that referred to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as “Uncle Thomas,” reports the Pioneer Press. “Thomas, who is black, was part of a 5-4 majority Tuesday that invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act meant to deter racial discrimination in elections. ‘Uncle Tom’ is a connotation to describe someone subservient to another and has its roots in ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ a book about slavery. [Winkler] deleted the tweet. He told the Associated Press he realizes it was ‘too hot for the issue’ but didn’t intend it to be racially derogatory.”

John Fitzgerald is subbing this week for Brian Lambert.