A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.
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NEW LONDON — A lot of Minnesotans go south for the winter to trade 20 below zero misery for sunny and 75 degree bliss. But a New London woman goes so far south each winter that a minus 20 temperature seems downright balmy. Siri Gossmann recently completed her sixth, 3½-month stint at the South Pole with the United States Antarctic Program, working outdoors driving big equipment at a research station in temperatures that dipped to 50 degrees below zero and saw a windchill of minus 92 one day. And keep in mind — Gossman was there during the summer months.
FAIRFAX — A Fairfax man who allegedly held two women hostage at gunpoint, assaulted a police officer and threatened to take people he didn't like "to hell" with him is in the Renville County Jail. Dane Michael VanderVoort, 32, faces nine felony charges in connection with a March 16 incident at a residence in Fairfax.
OLIVIA — Ronny Ray Oleson, 59, of Olivia, is being held in the Renville County Jail on $100,000 unconditional bail on charges that he sexually assaulted a young girl over a nearly two-year period. Oleson made his first court appearance Monday. He is charged with two felony counts — criminal sexual conduct in the first degree and criminal sexual conduct in the second degree. The alleged victim was under the age of 13 at the time of the alleged assault.
OLIVIA — An Olivia teenager charged with sexually assaulting young girls who attended his mother's home day care made his first court appearance Monday. Trent Anthony Uhlenkamp, 16, appeared before Judge Dwayne Knutsen in the Renville County Courthouse in Willmar. Wearing blue jeans and a polo shirt, Uhlenkamp sat between his mother, Peggy Jo Uhlenkamp — who is also charged in connection with the case, and Curtis Reese, a public defender.
GRANITE FALLS — Joshua James Kenney, 32, of Granite Falls, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to a felony weapons-related charge in connection with a standoff with law enforcement this winter in Yellow Medicine County. As part of a plea agreement, Kenney pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm after being convicted of a crime of violence. A second felony charge of assault in the second degree was dismissed.
WILLMAR — Working quickly as a cold rain fell Thursday afternoon, Candido Zelaya filled sandbags and loaded them in the back of his car. He's going to use the 50-pound bags around his southwest Willmar house where water from recent rains and melting snow has caused minor flooding in his basement. "There's a lot of water going in," said Zelaya, who's hoping the sandbags will prevent more water from coming in as the spring thaw continues. Zelaya isn't alone.
WILLMAR — Wearing badge number 224 for the Willmar Police Department meant everything to Jared Wosmek. It's a badge he wore for 18 years — working first as a patrol officer before moving to the special city gang unit and finally working in the coveted role of detective. Being a police officer was a job that fulfilled Wosmek's goal to "serve people and be there to make a difference." He loved the job and for the first six or seven years, he thought being paid was just a bonus for doing work he loved.
WILLMAR — Cancellations and postponements of a number of weekend activities have already been announced ahead of a whopper of a storm predicted to hit the state Saturday and Sunday with a foot of new snow. As of Thursday afternoon, all of central and southern Minnesota was under a winter storm watch from Saturday through Sunday morning, but Tyler Hasenstein, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, said that watch could turn into a strong winter storm warning.
WILLMAR — The storm may be over but the cleanup from Sunday's blizzard will continue all week as road crews attempt to cut back huge snowdrifts along state and county roads. Slogging through the snow Sunday was a "brawl" for plow drivers who put in long hours trying to keep roads open during the "knockdown, drag-out" storm, said Tim McCoy, maintenance supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Transportation District 8 office in Willmar. Now comes the job of removing eight-foot-tall snowbanks alongside the roads, using heavy equipment to push snow into fields.
WILLMAR — Abandoned vehicles left in the middle of highways, snow drifts 10- to 12-feet tall on county roads and travelers needing to be rescued despite "no travel" advisories were some of the issues county and state road crews and law enforcement officers found Sunday. Many churches cancelled services Sunday, which kept some people at home, but there were still plenty of travelers who eventually needed help.