Posted Saturday, February 15, 2014 --- 4:57 a.m.
FROZEN GREAT LAKES
Great Lakes become nearly covered with ice
CHEBOYGAN, Mich. (AP) -- It's been so bitterly cold for so long that the Great Lakes are almost completely covered with ice for the first time in 20 years.
The last time they came this close was in 1994, when 94 percent of the lakes' surface was frozen. As of Friday, ice cover extended across 88 percent. That's according to the federal government's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Sections of the lakes harden almost every winter. But scientists say that over the past four decades, the average ice cover has receded 70 percent, probably in part because of climate change.
The deep freeze is more than a novelty. It may help replenish water levels by limiting evaporation. It also could help sustain some species of wildlife.
5 accused Milwaukee firefighters disciplined
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Five Milwaukee firefighters accused of vandalizing a firehouse last September won't be fired.
The Milwaukee Fire Department says two of the firefighters who failed to properly prevent or report the vandalism will be demoted. All five will serve unpaid 30-day suspensions and take remedial training.
Nine firefighters were suspended Sept. 30 after Engine House 32 was found vandalized. It was the last shift before the firefighters were expected to be transferred to other firehouses.
Since an internal investigation began in October, two firefighters have taken early retirement and two probationary firefighters were fired. Last month, an investigation board recommended the remaining five firefighters be fired.
But a department news release Friday said that most of the vandalism and disorder was committed by people who have already left.
Northern Wisconsin mine opponents plan protest
MELLEN, Wis. (AP) -- Opponents of a proposed open pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin plan to gather Sunday to protest a new 600-foot restricted zone at the site.
Paul DeMain, one of the organizers from the Lac Courte Oreilles Harvest and Education Project, tells Wisconsin Public Radio the protest will be peaceful. But he says once they gather on the edge of the off-limits area, it's possible one or two individuals might cross into the forbidden zone as an act of civil disobedience.
DeMain says he has already informed Iron County Sheriff Tony Furyk and District Attorney Marty Lipske.
Governor Scott Walker signed a law in December allowing Gogebic Taconite to create 600-foot restricted zones around private roads on the site near Mellen to prevent protesters from harassing mine workers.
Eau Claire area man dies in NW Wisconsin lake
TOWN OF DELTA, Wis. (AP) -- Authorities in northwestern Wisconsin have identified a 68-year-old man who died after falling through the ice while on his way to fish with a friend.
The Bayfield County sheriff's office names him as Laverne Fletty of the Eau Claire area.
Rescuers responded Thursday morning to a 911 call about a person through the ice on Basswood Lake in the Town of Delta. The caller said he and Fletty were trying to get onto the lake to go fishing when Fletty, who was ahead of him, broke through the ice.
The caller wasn't able to get his friend out of the water. Rescuers pulled him from the water but he was already dead.
Authorities say Fletty apparently was crossing over a channel in the lake with an active current below.
Whitehall Police Department may move to school
WHITEHALL, Wis. (AP) -- The Whitehall Police Department is considering moving its headquarters to the public school in the western Wisconsin community of about 1,600 people.
Superintendent Mike Beighley and Chief Jeff Schaffner have been discussing the move for about a year.
Schaffner tells the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram he doesn't know of any other Wisconsin school district that has a police department headquarters at a school. But in his words, "It's way too good of an idea not to do it."
The schools superintendent and police chief say they agree that basing officers at the school would provide better security, improve relations between police and students, and deter criminal activity at the school.
Preliminary plans call for the police department to relocate to a classroom that will be vacated because of new construction.
Details disclosed in investigations of ex-NFL star
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Prosecutors say former Green Bay safety Darren Sharper, who has been charged with raping and drugging women in California, is under investigation in connection with five more rapes and 11 druggings in other states.
Sharper appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday but his arraignment was postponed until February 20th at the request of his lawyers.
Prosecutors immediately filed a motion to raise his bail to $10 million and outlined details of other alleged assaults and druggings in Las Vegas, Tempe, Arizona and New Orleans.
Sharper has not been charged in the other jurisdictions and remains under investigation.
The 38-year-old played in the NFL from 1997 to 2010, mostly with the Packers. He played in two Super Bowls, one with the Packers as a rookie and a second with the New Orleans Saints.
WISCONSIN FLU DEATH
43-year-old Wausau man dies from flu
WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) -- Health officials say the flu death of a Wausau man highlights the need to get vaccinated.
Jeremy Whipps Senior died February 4th, two weeks after he was diagnosed with the H1N1 virus. He was 43.
Judy Burrows, program manager at the Marathon County Health Department, tells the Wausau Daily Herald you wouldn't expect someone that age to die from the flu. But for some reason, she says, H1N1 is affecting younger, healthy people very hard.
The first U.S. case of H1N1 was recorded in 2009. While the World Health Organization declared an end to the H1NI pandemic in 2010, the Centers for Disease Control says it's still widespread in adults and children throughout the country.
State health officials report the flu is not currently considered widespread in Wisconsin, however.
Copyright 2014: Associated Press