More blizzards? Why, as a matter of fact, yes

Eyeballing that snow? You’re not the only one. John Myers of the Duluth News-Tribune reports that the number of blizzards has doubled in recent decades. Ball State researcher Jill Coleman that from 1960-94, the U.S. averaged nine blizzards per year but since 1995 that number has jumped to 19 blizzards per year. Not surprisingly, most blizzards are found in “blizzard alley” in the Dakotas and western Minnesota, where almost all counties averaged at least one blizzard per year during the study’s 55-year reporting period. While better reporting is part of the reason for the rise, “shifts in global temperature and a more open Arctic Ocean can significantly alter storm tracks (and) add more moisture into the atmosphere.” She also noted that blizzards occur in cycles that peak every 11 to 14 years and a secondary peak every 4 years, and the average blizzard is about 32,000 square miles, about the size of South Carolina.

The requirement for vegetative buffer strips between farms and waterways will not apply to privately owned drainage ditches, Gov. Mark Dayton says. Dave Orrick of the Worthington Daily Globe reports that Dayton announced the decision after meeting with Republican lawmakers last week. The buffer strips are to protect water from agricultural runoff and erosion via year-round rooted vegetation along the state’s lakes, rivers and publicly managed drainage ditches. Dayton said he dropped the private ditches part after “threats” to his spending proposals; Speaker Kurt Daudt denied any threats, saying maybe that idea came from lawmakers speaking out of turn. 

Insert your groundhog joke here: On Feb. 2, 1996, Tower set a state record for lowest recorded temperature: 60 degrees below zero. John Myers of the News-Tribune takes a trip down memory lane and writes that the previous record was of 59 degrees below zero at Federal Dam near Leech Lake 93 years ago. In 1996, Kathy Hoppa, then the National Weather Service observer near Tower, recorded the temperature at 9:10 a.m. at the official Weather Service weather station in her backyard. Down the road in Embarrass, weather observer Roland Fowler thought he might have had the record but his National Weather Service thermometers malfunctioned when the temperature hit 53 degrees below zero; it was so cold the alcohol separated in one thermometer.

Speaking of cold weather, some from other states are agog at the fact that for several months each year, students at Bemidji State University find extra parking on Lake Bemidji. Kyle Farris of the Bemidji Pioneer writes that students have been taking advantage of the extra parking space for years. “I wait until you see the really big trucks (on the ice) because if the guys want to risk their really big trucks, I’m fine,” said Sara Janssen, who drives a Mazda 6.  

A report of a suspicious vehicle last Saturday led Rochester police to ultimately uncover a trunkful of dimethyltryptamine, a hallucinogenic drug made with mimosa tree bark. Kay Fate of the Rochester Post-Bulletin writes that when police came to the car parked Saturday in the 2100 block of Second Street Southwest, they found a 21-year-old male who seemed “out of it.” The officer spotted Mason jars in the car containing a brownish liquid with reddish crystals. The driver allowed a search of the trunk, where the officer found the elements to make DMT — which merited a call to the hazmat team, whose members removed the jars. The Winona man was released to his mother.

The Southeast Minnesota housing market continues to steam ahead, writes Daniel Borgertpoepping of the Faribault Daily News. The Southeast Minnesota Association of Realtors finds that 6,000 homes were sold in 2015, up from 5,000 in 2013 and 2014. That, along with a lower number of homes on the market and greater buyer interest, has driven home prices up to create a seller’s market, Borgertpoepping writes. The median sales price also rose nearly 8 percent to $155,000 from 2014 to 2015.

Some town in the middle of the state says it has an identity problem. Jenny Berg of the St. Cloud Daily Times reports that a survey found that people in Waite Park believe the city lacks a distinct identity. Nearly 75 percent of residents of the city, adjacent to St. Cloud, see the city as integrated into St. Cloud’s municipal area rather than an independent identity. The survey, conducted by Rich MacDonald, an economist at St. Cloud State University, found that Waite Parkians like their livable neighborhoods, businesses and open spaces. Respondents said the greatest challenges are rising crime rates, growing diversity, too many apartments and traffic congestion. The city council is thinking about creating a new tagline and logo for the city. The current logo has images of a smiley face, baseball player and train, among other things. The current tagline is “The city with a smile.” 

Southern Minnesota has enjoyed the area’s lowest unemployment rate in more than a decade, but the number of unemployed rose last month. Jeffrey Jackson of the Owatonna People’s Press writes that the Department of Employment and Economic Development found that Le Sueur County saw an increase from 3.4 percent in November to 5.3 percent in December. Freeborn County went from 3.3 percent to 3.6 percent, Mower County from 2.4 percent to 2.7 percent, Nicollet County from 2.0 percent to 2.3 percent, Steele County from 2.5 percent to 3.0 percent, Rice County from 2.6 percent to 2.4 percent, Goodhue County from 2.7 percent to 3.5 percent, Dodge County from 2.8 percent to 3.5 percent, and Waseca County from 3.4 percent to 4.5 percent.

An independent investigation found no other accusations against former WSU men’s basketball coach Mike Leaf. The Winona Daily News  reports that WSU President Scott Olson said investigators “found no evidence of discriminatory act … any kind of abuse of students at all.” The investigation also concluded the university and athletic department acted appropriately. The investigation did not address the complaint itself — made by a current player who accused Leaf of making multiple advances on June 20. The investigation cost WSU $25,073.

John LaDue, the 19-year-old accused of plotting an attack at Waseca High School, will be placed in a state-operated facility after he’s released from jail. The Austin Daily Herald reports that LaDue was to return to his Waseca home to live with his parents until officials found room for him at a state-run facility, but the state was able to find a bed Wednesday, hours before LaDue was set to walk out of jail.

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