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Bitter cold in Midwest, Northeast to ease during weekendSubmitted: 02/14/2020
Bitter cold in Midwest, Northeast to ease during weekend
Story By Associated Press

Photos By MGN Image

MINNEAPOLIS - Bitterly cold temperatures persisted from the Northern Plains to parts of the Great Lakes and northern New England, with schools in some Upper Midwest communities canceling classes for a second day Friday.

The National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory for parts of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri on Friday and several New England states. Wind chill readings in northern Minnesota dropped to about 30 degrees below zero (minus 34 Celsius) early Friday as the coldest air of the season lingered.

In Minnesota and elsewhere, warming shelters were filled beyond capacity. Outreach workers and law enforcement hit the streets to make sure those without a home were safe.

Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchison was among those checking on those living on the streets Thursday night.

"Our goal, Minneapolis, everybody's goal is to make sure we don't have any fatalities," Hutchinson told KMSP-TV. The sheriff and outreach workers directed the homeless to shelters and passed out winter gear.

In Omaha, Nebraska, the death of an 80-year-old man may be attributed to the cold. Police found the body of Robert Freymuller on Thursday near the assisted-living center where he lived. His death is being investigated, but police said he was not dressed appropriately for the weather. The wind chill had dropped to minus 26 degrees (minus 32 Celsius) at the time.

The National Weather Service expected the dangerously cold airmass to give way to more moderate temperatures over the weekend.

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 IN OTHER NEWS

RHINELANDER - Employees with AirPro Fan and Blower Co. in Rhinelander showed their neighborly spirit Saturday morning.

"We just felt there was such a need for right now," said Administrative assistant Lori Miller.

The company purchased food items to fill 500 bags from Trig's grocery and gave them away to community members in need from 10 a.m. until noon.

Airpro Fan and Blower Co. President Keith White said this gesture is simple and helps those with short term needs.

"We wanted to do something simply favorable and love our neighbors," said White

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WAUSAU - Michelle Neathery thought soap would be a retirement hobby.

Now it's her full-time job.

"I started to decide making this more of a business, coming back, selling to the public," Neathery said.

Neathery started making scented soaps on the side in 2003 while working other full-time jobs.

But after the United Health Group eliminated her department a few weeks ago, Neathery began devoting even more time to Little Bull Falls Soap Works.

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WISCONSIN - Gov. Tony Evers issued his "Safer at Home" order on March 24, but according to a recent survey by Unacast.com, Wisconsinites received a mediocre grade when it comes to social distancing.

The interactive map breaks down the entire nation on a county-by-county basis and assigns a letter grade for how well people appear to be practicing social distancing. 

According to the data firm company, Wisconsin received the grade of "D" after studies show that residents of Wisconsin only cut down their travel by about 19%.

In a blog post by CEO and Co-founder Thomas Walle: "If we don't take these measures, tens of millions will be infected, many will die, along with anybody else that requires intensive care, because the healthcare system will have collapsed."

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RHINELANDER - With flights well below capacity during the coronavirus outbreak, the waiting area at the Rhinelander-Oneida County airport is empty, at a time when airport director Matthew Leitner says twice-daily flights from Rhinelander to Minneapolis are usually pretty full.

"This time of year, we're usually seeing about 60 percent [full]" Leitner said. "Of course, we're pretty far below that now."

According to Leitner, Rhinelander's airport is far from alone.

"Whether it's Chicago or Boston or Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, everyone's down 75 to 90 percent and I don't think we're an exception," Leitner said.

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THREE LAKES - While schools across the state are closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty and staff at the Three Lakes School District work hard to keep the student-body well-fed.

"We feed kids here," said Food Service Director Tina Halverson. "That's what I've done for 20 years. Now we're just doing it a little differently."

Staff deliver breakfasts and lunches to students around the district by bus.

"We have runners, we have packers, we have assemblers, we have extra helpers," said Halverson. "We have it down to a really good system right now."


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ONEIDA CO. - Friday, Gov. Tony Evers called on the State Legislature to send an absentee ballot to every Wisconsin voter ahead of the April 7 Presidential Primary. However, Republican state leaders say the plan is simply not feasible.

About 1,400 absentee ballots were requested in Oneida County during the 2016 presidential primary. This year, that number has jumped to 4,000, as more people are looking to avoid voting in person.

Next Thursday, April 2, is the last day to request an absentee ballot from your municipal clerk. Oneida County Clerk Tracy Hartman encourages people to request it earlier than that. Under current laws, the ballot must return to the polling location by election day, on April 7.

"If you wait till April 2nd to request it," said Oneida County Clerk Tracy Hartman. "And if something happens with the mail and its delayed a day, your ballot may not get there. So we're encouraging everybody to get their requests in as quick as possible."

You can request an absentee ballot by going to MyVote.wi.gov. For now, there will still be in-person voting, despite the Safer at Home order.


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NORTHWOODS -
Blood centers across the country saw thousands of cancelled blood drives and donations due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Community Blood Center of Wisconsin initially lost more than 700 units of blood the last two weeks but donations are now on the rise. 

"There's always going to be a need for blood whether we are in a pandemic or not," said Community Blood Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Todd Straus.

Blood donations immediately halted with the rise of Coronavirus cases. Turns out, donating is one of the best ways to help out.

"We were looking at a really big shortage. In response we had to put out a big plea to our donors in the community to try and get in blood donors and I am pleased to say the community response has been wonderful," Straus said.

The local Community Blood Center donation surge was so large the blood centers started scheduling blood donation appointments two weeks out so supply stays stable.

"People are good-hearted individuals, especially in our state. Everyone wants to help out. It's just usually we don't think about it at the time but once we put out the message everyone responded greatly," Straus said.

With the high number of donors during the COVID-19 Pandemic, safety standards rose too.

"We've spaced out our appointment slots, making sure we don't have groups of people at the front door," Straus said.

"Everyone is spaced out from a time standpoint and we've also spaced people out physically in our donor centers so we can make sure the six-feet rules are in place," Straus said.

What's also important right now is that donors who have scheduled an appointment, to keep it.

"We know the need is there but it's not just going to be there today. It's going to be there in two weeks as well," Straus said.

The CBC hopes people remember that need for blood is year-round and there is no alternative way of getting this life-saving treatment. 

"I think people are looking for something to do to help. It's really hard to figure out what you can do to help when you have to stay in your home and this is something we are allowed to do. We are an essential community resource that we need to have. Blood donors have to come out and donate blood, we have no substitute for blood donors," Straus said.

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