Spring is a tale of ice and fire, syrup and tow trucks

Ice is causing some consternation in Brainerd.

Chelsey Perkins of the Brainerd Dispatch digs deep this week and comes up with a very thorough and lengthy piece on the effect of ice on shoreline. This is not a small issue in Minnesota because, as we all know, the state has roughly 10,000 bodies of icy water and concomitant shoreline. She says ice and frost heaves are wreaking havoc across the northland this season. Apparently, a lack of snow and dramatic swings in temperature are catnip for ice movement. Chris Pence, Crow Wing County land services supervisor, says he has reports of boathouses on Pelican Lake in Breezy Point and Crow Wing Lake in Fort Ripley tipping over, and “on White Sand Lake in Baxter, shoreline damage is evident in cracked and falling beach walls and heaves in people’s yards.” Dan Neff has lived on White Sand Lake for more than 40 years and he’s never seen the heaves so bad: “I don’t know how guys got their fish houses off the lake,” he said.

The lack of snow is causing some furrowed brows at the Department of Natural Resources. The St. Cloud Daily Times ran a piece about the DNR warning of an early start to fire season. Forecasts show mild and dry weather continuing for a couple of weeks, and when that’s added to a dry fall and winter, abnormally dry conditions aren’t far behind. In addition to looking for fires early, the DNR says to watch for them often. Fire analysts predict an average to above-average number of fires. The U.S. Drought Monitor lists nearly all of the state as abnormally dry and small areas of north-central and northwestern Minnesota in a moderate drought.

When those pointy-headed Ivy League number crunchers come up with their economic forecasts, they like to take in the weather’s negative effect on the economy vis-à-vis gas prices, airline woes and lost worker productivity, but do they ever think of the tow truck drivers? No. Chris Houck of the Northfield News did, however, and he found that Northfield Police Chief Monte Nelson tallied only a single tow due to winter weather, compared to 18 last winter. “That’s a significant drop,” said Nelson. Northfield saw the number of snow emergencies drop from three to two this season, according to Wanda Playter, administrative assistant for the streets and parks division.

And another thing: Do those same East and Left Coast intellectuals ever think about sap? Probably not, unless they’re looking for something to moisten their gluten-free, GMO-banned, locally farmed, NPR-listening, cardigan sweater-wearing, Mondale-voting flapjacks. But Anne Wessel of the Daily Times thinks about sap. She writes that the recent warmup has maple syrup producers shivering. Apparently, 2015’s conditions are similar to 2012, one of the lowest production years on record. Steve Saupe is a biology professor at St. John’s University who teaches a class on “maple syruping.” “From a practical weather point of view, I’m a little concerned because weather patterns aren’t suggesting the cold weather we need for sap to flow,” he said. Good sap, according to Saupe, requires nights below freezing and days above freezing to allow gases to create suction in the tree to replace fluids lost in the day, as well as turning starches into sugar, which is pretty much the whole point of “maple syruping,” if you ask me.

Mental health professionals, lawmakers and law enforcement officers gathered Monday in Willmar to decide what to do about mentally ill people who are jailed instead of hospitalized, writes Carolyn Lange of the West Central Tribune. Gov. Mark Dayton provided a dual spark for the issue when he announced a plan to increase mental health funding by $34 million in the next biennium, and also to close the Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services in Willmar and downsize Willmar’s adult Community Addiction Recovery Enterprise facility. Since the state shut down large regional treatment centers, many mentally ill people end up in jail and there is little consensus on how to fix the problem. Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said what is needed is a cohesive plan to provide mental health services to adults and children. Dayton wants to expand capacity, Jesson said, adding that Dayton’s supplemental budget will delay closure of Willmar’s children’s psychiatric hospital until next year.  

At Duluth Marshall students are sending an experiment on frog embryos up to the International Space Station, writes Lisa Kaczke of the News Tribune. Marshall seniors Allison Hall, Anna Nordin and Pentti Hanlon had their experiment proposal, “The Detriment of Microgravity on Xenopus Laevis,” accepted by the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, which means it will be included on a flight to the space station in June. Physics teacher Paul Schonfeld began the program in September. Now the students hope to travel to Florida to see the launch. The experiments will be at the space station for six weeks, returning in July for the students to analyze. The trio is sending African clawed frog tadpoles into space to study mutation during reproduction in weightlessness.

Experts are giving the eyeball to a plan to build a high-speed rail line between Rochester and the Twin Cities, according to a report from the Associated Press printed in the Austin Daily Herald. Experts are conducting an environmental review that will look at the social, economic and environmental impacts of eight potential routes, as well as not building the project. The Zip Rail study area covers a 100-mile corridor between Rochester and the Twin Cities. The proposed end points include downtown Rochester, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and Union Depot in St. Paul. Since there are no continuous tracks between the Twin Cities and Rochester, the plan will include land for new tracks.

A drug task force in northwest Minnesota arrested three people in Detroit Lakes with what police describe as a pound of meth worth as much as $85,000, according to the Fargo Forum. Nicolle King, 39, Mark Knudsen, 30, and Michael Pickus, 60, are all facing two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. The Forum’s report says that the Detroit Lakes Police Department was contacted by the Drug Enforcement Agency that a FedEx package had been intercepted by police in California. The story says, “Officers obtained a search warrant for the package, which contained a coffee can that was covered in spray foam. Inside the coffee can were three cellophane-wrapped quart-sized zipper lock bags among coffee grounds. The three bags contained methamphetamine, weighing approximately 19.9 ounces. Police removed 18 ounces of meth and replaced it with ice melt, a substance that appears similar to meth.” An agent with the Becker County Sheriff’s Department then made the delivery and the arrests were made.

The second annual August Schell Brewery and Bernick’s Bacon and Beer Festival will be from noon to 10 p.m. June 6 in a parking lot in Bemidji, according to the Bemidji Pioneer. The event, a fundraiser for the United Way of the Bemidji Area, will feature Bemidji’s best local bacon and a collection of microbrews. A news release says “entertainment will include the Bemidji Cooperative Association Pig Races, live music, jalapeno bacon eating contest, dunk tank, corn hole tournament, face painting, Glazed and Amused activities for children, a 1,000 pound pig and the August Schell Best Bacon Dish Contest.”

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