A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.
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WILLMAR — The National Weather Service in Chanhassen has confirmed that a series of five tornadoes swept across west central Minnesota last week, damaging numerous farm sites and small-town businesses and uprooting trees. All of the tornadoes were ranked as EF-1, with winds that ranged from 88 mph to 100 mph. According to the weather service report, the storm started brewing just before midnight on Sept. 19 in Chippewa County where a short-lived tornado with winds of 88 mph traveled about two miles across the south side of Montevideo.
WILLMAR — One day after Deb Mickle testified before a legislative subcommittee that met in Willmar to hear concerns about the state's new vehicle licensing and registration system, she had to post a sign at the Kandiyohi County License Bureau that the state's system was down — again. "It's very frustrating for us and our customers," said Mickel on Tuesday afternoon. "There are people who need their car tabs and we simply can't sell them right now."
WILLMAR — Some guy driving a 2015 Chevy Silverado left the Kandiyohi County vehicle licensing bureau a happy man the other day after he paid just $51 to renew his vehicle tabs. "Anybody here who knows anything about cars — or a 2015 Chevy Silverado — knows that guy got a heck of a deal because they are much more than that," said Deb Mickle, Kandiyohi County licensing supervisor, during a hearing Monday in Willmar before the House Subcommittee on Technology and Responsive Government.
LITCHFIELD — The termination of a former Litchfield police sergeant — who was charged last year with DWI while off-duty — has been upheld. In the binding arbitration decision published Sept. 5, it was determined the Litchfield Police Department was justified in firing Bryant Blackwell, a veteran peace officer who had at one time been a finalist for the job of Litchfield police chief. Blackwell was fired from his job as police sergeant in January as a result of the 2016 DWI arrest.
BELGRADE – A strong storm rolled across west central Minnesota early Wednesday morning, uprooting trees, downing power lines and causing structural damage at farm sites and in the Stearns County town of Belgrade. The National Weather Service said meteorologists are on the scene to determine if the damage was caused by straight line winds or a tornado.
NEW LONDON — A dangerous stretch of U.S. Highway 71 north of Willmar, where fatalities have happened at high-traffic intersections in recent years, will be improved with a $6 million project scheduled to begin next spring. Questions about the approximately nine-mile project zone were answered Thursday by Minnesota Department of Transportation officials during an open house. "When it's done, it's a 20-year life pavement," said Alan Setrum, engineering specialist with MnDOT's District 8 office in Willmar. "So it should be a nice roadway when it's done."
WILLMAR — Despite being moved indoors because of the threat of inclement weather, a good crowd attended the 20th annual Celebrate Art! Celebrate Coffee! festival Saturday in Willmar. Visual artists from around the region had their artwork for sale while free music and hands-on arts and crafts activities were offered to people of all ages. Sponsored by the Willmar Area Arts Council, the event featured artwork of nearly 20 artists, including painters, potters, wood carvers, doll makers, photographers and jewelers.
NEW LONDON — The 35th annual Prairie Pothole Day drew kids, dogs and hunters to the Stoney Ridge Farm near New London last weekend. The one-day event is used as a vehicle to raise money to improve waterfowl habitat and educate people about the importance of wetlands. "It was a great day and the people there had a really good time," said LeRoy Dahlke, president of Prairie Pothole. Activities included dog jumping and retrieving, a 3-D archery trail, a sporting clay course, black-powder shooting and educational displays about the environment and wildlife.
GROVE CITY — A long list of overdue maintenance projects in the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District will be funded with a $1.5 million bond. The school board agreed last month to use a relatively new tool that allows school districts to issue bonds for long-term facilities maintenance revenue without going to the voters for approval.
WILLMAR — About a dozen tow trucks from the area lined North Business 71 in Willmar on Tuesday afternoon to remind motorists to slow down and move over when they see emergency vehicles on the side of the road. Jason Butler, owner of City Line Towing of Willmar, said tow truck drivers are "on the side of the road every day" and putting their lives in danger.