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Wicked waves bring out Lake Superior surfers

ALSO: Red River on the rise; unemployment drops across Southern Minnesota; ‘model student’ expelled for having knife in purse; and more.

Big waves have once again drawn surfers to Lake Superior.

Along with wind and rain this week came big waves on Lake Superior that chopped at the remaining ice on the lake. That can only mean one thing … Surfin’ safari!!!! That’s right, the double-full-body-wetsuit crowd hit the waves at Stony Point between Duluth and Two Harbors, and the Duluth News Tribune was there to get the video. The Trib accompanied the video with a weather story Monday by Brady Slater: The National Weather Service in Duluth reported winds as high as 57 mph at Knife River; Minnesota Power reported nearly 4,700 people were without electricity at 5 p.m., and Lake Country Power reported about 1,600 customers without power; Fox 21 News lost power at 4:50 p.m. causing it to scuttle its 6 p.m. news broadcast. “It was a bummer,” said news anchor Diane Alexander.

You knew this story was coming: The Fargo Forum’s Patrick Springer reports that the recent rain is causing rivers and streams to rise and the National Weather Service predicts the Red River of the North will flood with a crest of 28.5 feet — well above the moderate flood stage of 25 feet – on Saturday and Sunday. This means the bridge connecting 12th Avenue North in Fargo with 15th Avenue North in Moorhead will close when the river hits 28 feet. At 22 feet, the North Broadway Bridge closes. Springer writes that field work will slow down as well: Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota state climatologist, said soils have thawed to a depth of about 20 inches, but between there and 40 inches is a band of frozen soil. It could take another 10 or 15 days for the deeper soils to thaw.

Al Strain got ahold of the statewide unemployment figures released by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and found that unemployment is down across Southern Minnesota. “Faribault’s jobless rate held steady at 7.4 percent while Northfield’s dropped to 5.2 percent from 5.6 percent in February. Rice County’s unemployment rate decreased to 5.9 percent in March after sitting at 6.1 percent in February. Rice County’s unemployment rate was nearly a full percentage point lower than March of 2013, when it was at 6.8 percent.” Owatonna’s unemployment rate once again dipped below 5 percent; Steele County’s unemployment rate also declined to below 5 percent; Freeborn County’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent; 4.7 percent in Mower County; 6.1 percent in Dodge County; 4 percent in Nicollet County; and 8.3 percent in Le Sueur County. The rate went up in Waseca from 6.6 percent to 6.9 percent. Clark Sieben said the Minnesota economy is continuing its recovery. “After extreme winter weather and a slow start to the year, March gains indicate renewed strength in the economy and continued growth in the months to come,” she said.

Here are follow-ups to two stories reported last week:

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The school board at United South Central schools in Wells voted to expel model student Alyssa Drescher for bringing a pocket knife to school, reports Sarah Stultz of the Albert Lea Tribune. Drescher, a junior, said she had the knife, which has a three-inch blade, in her purse after helping her boyfriend’s family cut hay bales over the weekend. A drug dog spotted a scent in her purse during a routine school search. The scent turned out to be from lotion Drescher was preparing to use for prom. The board struggled with the issue, knowing that Drescher gets good grades, participates in extracurricular activities and has never been in trouble before, yet also wanting to send the message that it’s wrong to bring a knife to school under any circumstances. The board meeting was attended by about 50 of Drescher’s friends.

On a better note, the Hermantown School board has reinstated cheerleading, although cheerleaders will have to find their $2,500 budget themselves, writes Jana Hollingsworth of the Duluth News Tribune. Last week the board voted in favor of cutting $250,000 from the budget, which included the end of the cheer program. The board had acted on the recommendation of activities director and dean of students Beth Clark, who said she added it to the budget cuts only because the advisor was quitting and the cut wouldn’t affect the pay of any staff member.

Over in our talent department, we have two new stories:

The first is by Amanda Dyslin of the Mankato Free Press, who talked with a 6-year-old Eagle Lake boy whose book, “The Minnesota Pond,” won a national contest and will be punished this fall. He won the PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest. The Loyola Catholic School kindergartner’s book is about three geese who really like their pond, but when an obnoxious duck moves in, they dislike his chatty, grubby, noisy ways. Soon, they leave to find another pond, but they can’t find one that’s any nicer than the one they left. They go back to the pond, point out the error of his ways to the duck, who agrees to change and everyone settles into life in the pond. For his efforts, Eli Mons will be honored Saturday at the Mall of America with a winner’s breakfast and private reception and awards ceremony, followed by a celebration in the rotunda. In addition to the Mall of America celebration, a mascot from PBS Kids will be coming to Loyola in the fall in honor of Eli, too.

There are three new entries in the crummy news department:

The wet and windy weather will close Highway 169 as workers try to remove ice floes from Lake Mille Lacs, the Brainerd Dispatch reports. “With heavy winds and spring ice out, ice flows off Lake Mille Lacs can cross both lanes of the road in as little as 15 minutes,” said Jon Beaufeaux, MnDOT acting maintenance supervisor. “The ice flows will likely continue until the wind dies down or shifts direction.”

The Owatonna People’s Press is reporting that the number of sexually transmitted diseases in Steele County is on the rise. STDs – or chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — rose 10 percent between 2012 and 2013. Amber Aaseth, Steele County Public Health director of nursing, said lower use of condoms, greater use of more effective birth control and the 2011 loss of the Owatonna Planned Parenthood clinic all contributed to this rise in STDs.

And then there’s this item, reprinted in full from the Albert Lea Tribune: “A vehicle was struck by lightning Sunday afternoon on Interstate 90 two miles west of the Alden exit. The Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office said the driver of the vehicle, Blair Leigh Becker, 26, was checked out by emergency medical crews but was not injured. Her husband came to pick her up, and the car was towed. The lightning strike was reported at 3:40 p.m.”