Panama Canal expansion could impact Missouri ports

MODOT officials say the widened canal will open more freight shipment opportunities to Missouri.

Franklin School construction proceeds as planned

The $10 million project is being constructed next to the old school. It will open for the 2012 school year.

Dino's Pizza damaged by fire

The Cape Girardeau Fire Department estimates $250,000 in damages, but the building is not a total loss.

Mississippi River Basin nitrate pollution remains high

Nitrates flowing from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico contribute to the formation of areas known as dead zones.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Major General Walsh still undecided on Birds Point

SIKESTON, MO (KRCU) - The Army Corps of Engineers is facing an unprecedented decision – whether or not to blow up one of their own levees to lessen flooding pressure upstream.

The decision comes in the face of near historic levels of flooding on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

A barge full of explosives is waiting near the Birds Point levee, located just south of the town of Cairo, Illinois which sits at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

The Corps has not yet made a decision. Detonation would flood 130,000 acres and displace 200 people.

Colonel Vernie Reichling says that the Corps does not take this decision lightly.

"You know, we don’t want to use the floodway. But if we have to, it has to be at the right time. It’s not about the condition at Cairo gauge. It’s about the condition of the overall system," Reichling said.

Reichling calls the floodways one of the only weapons in the Corps' arsenal, and that Major General Michael Walsh will decide when and if the conditions are right to blow up

“We only utilize it once. So it has to be at the right time if you are going to utilize it,” Reichling said.

The Army Corps of Engineers has three other Mississippi River floodways that it can open up in case of extreme flooding. All three are located in Louisiana.

A decision on Birds Point could come as early as Sunday.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Friday, April 29, 2011

Judge Limbaugh rules in favor of Army Corps of Engineers

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - A federal judge gave the Army Corps of Engineers the go ahead to destroy a levee in rural Missouri. The man-made breach would ease flooding on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers

Judge Steven Limbaugh ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers has legal authority to breach the Birds Point levee, just south of the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a temporary restraining order against the Corps this week to block the detonation. Koster said in a press release that he would like to see the Eighth District Court review the decision.

Corps spokesman Jim Pogue says there is still no decision on whether or not to go ahead with the plan.

"If the leadership decides that we need to move forward, then that decision would be made at that time," Pogue said.

The levee was designed as an "emergency button" that can be used in times of extremely high river levels. The breach will flood 130,000 acres of farmland.An estimated 200 people live in the affected area.

Flood levels are reaching 60 feet at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers at Cairo, Illinois where some of the most severe flooding is taking place.

Judson Childs is Cairo’s mayor.

“There have been lives at stake, and I can say I think the citizens of Cairo will be very proud that he made that decision. It was just the right thing to do,” Childs said.

Childs has twice issued voluntary evacuations this week.

The Missouri Attorney General’s office has hinted that it may seek an appeal.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

While judge considers levee breach, Olive Branch threatened by rising water

OLIVE BRANCH, IL (KRCU) - As judge Stephen Limbaugh mulls a decision on the Army Corps of Engineer’s authority to open a hole in the Birds Point levee, residents in the small town of Olive Branch fill sandbags and try to salvage what’s left above water. 

Many homes and businesses in Olive Branch are already submerged. The Alexander County community has been under a boil water order for a week. Electricity regularly cuts on and off.

Olive Branch is threatened by water from both the Ohio and Mississippi River. About twenty people - young and old - gather at one home on Route 3, desperately filling sandbags to protect one of the most threatened houses.

Some express animosity towards Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster for blocking the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to blow the Birds Creek Levee in order to relieve pressure on Cairo and other towns in Alexander County. One woman implores the Attorney General to put on his boots, cross the river, and help fill sandbags.

Everybody offers thanks to the high school students from Goreville and Meridian who volunteered the previous day.

At Olive Branch’s only store, a handwritten sign is posted on the window. It reads in big letters “We Need Help to Sand Bag on Cypress Drive. We are about to get water in our homes.”

The story’s manager, Kelsi Phillips, says that lunch meat is a popular item right now, along with paper towels, bleach, water, and toilet paper.

But her own house is a lost cause.

“It looks like an ocean. My house looks like a swamp. It’s underwater. I was boating in sandbags. I had to get everything to my mom and dad’s. I can’t find any clothes. It’s miserable,” Phillips said.

The river is not expected to crest until next week. Until then, residents will continue to fight off the advancing the water.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Governor Quinn considers mandatory evacuations

MARION, IL (WSIU) - Residents in several southern Illinois communities are voluntarily evacuating as flood waters continue to rise to potentially historic levels.

During a visit to the State Command Center in Marion Thursday, Governor Pat Quinn says depending on how high the flood waters get, he would not rule out mandatory evacuations for severely flooded areas in southern Illinois.

“We have to make sure that the levees hold if they are in any danger of breaching. And if water is coming towards people in a way that’s life threatening, we will have mandatory evacuation. That’s why we deployed more National Guard service members,” Quinn said.

Quinn activated an additional 200 Illinois National Guard Troops on Thursday to help in the flood fight. That means over 320 guardsmen have been activated throughout southern Illinois...with a heavy emphasis on Alexander and Gallatin counties.

Brad Palmer, WSIU

Judge Limbaugh mulls ruling on Birds Point case

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - A federal judge in Cape Girardeau is expected to make a decision soon on the Army Corps of Engineers’ authority to destroy the Birds Point levee in Mississippi County.

Construction of the Birds Point levee was completed in 1932, and was built to serve as an emergency button to relieve upstream communities from flooding on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

Judge Stephen Limbaugh says that he needs more time to go over what he called the case’s complicated, technical, and esoteric details. He offered no indication of when he will offer a ruling.

Limbaugh added that he was uncertain that he even has authority to rule on the matter, citing a previous decision in the 8th District Court of Appeals.

The levee was only blown up once - in 1937.

Record high river levels at Cairo prompted the Corps to send a barge full of explosives from Memphis to Hickman, Kentucky. Once the river stage at Cairo reaches 60.5 feet, the Corps could decide to denote the explosive on the levee. The river level at Cairo is currently just below 59 feet.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a lawsuit earlier this week that blocked the Corps’ plan.

The states of Illinois and Kentucky joined the Army Corps of Engineers as defendants.

Detonation of the Birds Point levee would lower river levels and decrease the risk of flooding in Cairo and other southern Illinois communities. It would also flood 130,000 acres of Mississippi County farm land. It is estimated that 75 to 90 houses are in the area. About 200 people live there.

An Army Corps of Engineers economist testified that damage to Mississippi County would reach $330 million.

Most of the floodway properties have flowage easements. Owners would likely not receive compensation for their losses.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Thursday, April 28, 2011

McCaskill visits flooded Poplar Bluff

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KRCU) - Senator Claire McCaskill travelled to flood-ravaged Poplar Bluff on Wednesday, where she met with evacuees and first responders at the Black River Coliseum.

McCaskill praised the rescuers and volunteers who are assisting flood victims in the southern Missouri town. But she was concerned that Poplar Bluff’s levees have failed twice since 2008.

"It’s hard for us to do more right now because we’re trying to spend less," McCaskill said. "But having said that, the federal government may end up spending a significant amount of money down here in terms of disaster recovery. So we always would rather spend the money at the front end than at the back end. And that’s the message I’m going back to Washington with."

McCaskill suggested that the federal government provide more resources to struggling communities and that FEMA slightly lower their certification standards for levees.

Matthew Clanahan, KRCU

McCaskill asks President for alternatives to breaching Birds Point

The flooding along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers has placed the Army Corps of Engineers in difficult situation: the Corps is weighing a decision to flood thousands of acres of farmland, or try to save homes.

The Army Corps says it’s going to wait until the weekend before deciding whether or not to intentionally blow up a levee and flood some 130,000 acres of Missouri Farmland.

A law enacted in 1928 allows the Army Corps to blow up the levee at Birds Point to reduce flood risk for the nearby town Cairo, Illinois.

The plan has raised the ire of folks on the Missouri-side of the river.

Senator Clair McCaskill has sent a letter to the President asking for alternative measures, while also acknowledging that decision is difficult.

“The Army Corps of Engineers has a very difficult choice here and while we certainly prefer and are asking them not to blow the levee…ultimately they have got to make a very difficult calculation,” McCaskill said.

Cairo Mayor Judson Childs says people's lives should be considered ahead of farmland.

Adam Allington, St. Louis Public Radio

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - A new Missouri congressional map goes to the governor's desk after it was passed in the House and Senate Wednesday.

The new map would eliminate St. Louis Democratic Representative Russ Carnahan's district.

St. Louis Democratic Senator Robin Wright-Jones refused to sign off on the new map because it only leaves Democrats with two districts.

"I believe that Missouri has been a 50/50 state in its voting patterns and a 6-2 just was not reflective of our real mindset," Wright-Jones said.

Republican Speaker of the House Steven Tilley says the map has enough republican support to override a veto from the governor.

Danielle McCarthy, Missouri Digital News

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Another round of storms hits Poplar Bluff

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KRCU) - Residents of Poplar Bluff, Missouri hunkered down for another round of storms last night. An overnight storm dumped another two inches of rain on the saturated community, but the fragile levee protecting the town survived the downpour. 

The Black River in Poplar Bluff has risen to dangerously high levels which prompted a mandatory evacuation. The teetering levee breached just south of town, pouring floodwater through rural Butler County.

Lieutenant Brian Evans with Sheriff’s Department says that the Missouri National Guard has helped rescue over 150 people from the floodwaters. He describes the scene “surreal.”

“It’s the biggest lake I’ve ever seen, I guess. The bottom part of the county is all flat and it’s farmland. And it’s pretty much covered,” Evans said.

An estimated 7,000 people live in the flooded area. There have been no reported fatalities or major injuries.

At the Black River Coliseum, between 250 and 300 evacuees took cover from the storm.

Among them is Nallely Martinez, who bided her time with her family watching YouTube videos and checking up on Facebook. Like many of the flood victims, she lives in the evacuated zone and misses the comforts of home.

“Yeah, like my drier. We just bought a drier like a week ago. You know? Oh well, if something happens to it, I cannot do anything. At least we’re safe,” Martinez said.

The National Weather Service predicts one more day of heavy rain for Poplar Bluff.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU
Photo: Empty cots are scattered across the Black River Coliseum as flood evacuees line up for dinner. Photo by Matthew Clanahan. 

Kinder's car set on fire

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder's car went up in flames Monday after two men stole the unattended car and set it on fire.

Kinder left the keys inside his car while he was speaking at an event in Cape Girardeau.

The two men tried unsuccessfully to break into a nearby gun shop by ramming the car into its entrance.

They abandoned the car on a county road and set fire to it, police say.

The owner of the gun store says Kinder is actually a customer.

Kinder stopped by to talk with employees the next day and explain what happened.

The car was paid for by the "Friends of Peter Kinder" campaign in 2009.

Police have arrested one of the men and are still looking for the other.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Levee ruptures in Butler County

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KRCU) - Residents of rural Butler County, Missouri are fleeing to higher ground after a rupture on the Black River levee. The breakage occurred just south of the community of Poplar Bluff.

The levee failure is spilling floodwater across agricultural lands and farm houses in this rural southern Missouri County. Missouri National Guard troops and the Butler County Sheriff’s Department are evacuating all residents in the floodwater’s path.

Poplar Bluff deputy police chief Jeff Rolland says that rupture is easing tension on the fragile Black River levee that threatens the community. But he cautions that the town could still be in danger.

"That levee is so saturated with water that it is still very unstable. Any more torrential downpours could cause it issues also," Rolland said.

Residents in low-laying neighborhoods were evacuated yesterday. More severe thunderstorms are in the forecast.

The Missouri National Guard and the Butler County Sheriff’s Department have rescued 25 people in this rural agricultural area about 150 miles southwest of St. Louis.

At least 300 people are using a Red Cross shelter following a mandatory evacuation of Poplar Bluff’s low-lying neighborhoods.

Detective Scottie Phelps says the breach has temporarily improved conditions in the community.

"Here in town it’s not too bad," Phelps said. "There’s still some standing water but it’s not too bad. You can pretty much get around town. And like I said, that goes back to the levee break. Whenever that broke, it relieved a lot of the water here in town."

The National Weather Service is forecasting more rain for southern Missouri this evening, which would add additional pressure to the already fragile levee protecting Poplar Bluff from the river.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Residents evacuate low-lying Poplar Bluff neighborhoods

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KRCU) - Residents of Poplar Bluff fled to higher ground Monday as the city issued a mandatory evacuation of its low-lying southern neighborhoods.

City officials decided that the Black River levee was bound to fail, and took action to remove residents from their houses.

The Black River levee is leaking but it did not rupture overnight.

The police department is reporting 59 water rescues Monday night. Most of the rescues were people who were trapped in their homes.

Captain Don Trout says that there are currently 259 people in the Black River Coliseum, which is serving as an evacuation shelter.

As many at 1500 residents fled their homes for higher ground, according to Jim Hoyt, a Poplar Bluff pastor.

He says that he has seen homes with a foot or two of water. Any neighborhood near the Black River been impacted by the floods.

"It has not only crested the edge of the river, but it has gone, probably, I would guess, a mile inland," Hoyt said. "And it’s filled every yard and every basement and it’s gotten up in to homes that entire way. I mean, it’s pretty bad."

At least 150 residents have taken shelter at the Black River Coliseum. Hoyt says that the facility is also in a flood-prone area and has become difficult to access.

“It’s unfortunate that our largest facility in town is kinda’ right in the middle of the flooding zone. So it’s really hard to get to the actual place where they are staying,” Hoyt said.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon activated the National Guard yesterday to assist with emergency response efforts.

The troops’ effort will include assisting local emergency response teams with threats to levees near Poplar Bluff and other southern Missouri communities.

About 200 are in Poplar Bluff to assist emergency responders.

The National Weather Service is forecasting more rain through Wednesday.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Region pummeled by more severe weather

Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois communities braced for yet another round of torrential rain last night as thunderstorms rumbled across the region.

The storms left more water on already saturated ground, increasing the risk of flash floods. River crest prediction were raised.

Flooded streets were reported in Jackson, Cape Girardeau, and Anna, Illinois.

Funnel clouds were spotted west of Marble Hill, where the roofs were blown off of barns, trees were splintered, and at least one trailer was snapped in half.

Law enforcement agents also reported a funnel cloud near Doniphan in Ripley County.

And a possible tornado was spotted west of Poplar Bluff, where more rain fell on the already flooded city.

Few evacuations reported in Cape

Cape Girardeau Emergency Management Director Mark Hasheider says that there have been few residential and commercial evacuations in Cape.

Due to the buyouts following the 1993 flood, few residences are left unprotected by Cape’s river wall or levee. Hasheider says that most of those homes fall in Cape Girardeau’s Red Star district, north of the casino site. There are also some residences in the Meadowbrook area near the interstate.

Roads near the river and creeks are the most susceptible to flooding, Hasheider says. Due to saturation, areas that do not normally flood could quickly become inundated.

The biggest challenge for Cape Girardeau’s Emergency Management Team, he says, is to convince people to never drive through standing pools of water on roads and to use extreme caution when driving in or near flooded areas.

Koster files suit against Army Corps of Engineers

Missouri’s attorney general is filing suit in federal court to prevent the U-S Army Corps of Engineers from detonating a levee.

The Army Corps was to decide Tuesday afternoon whether it would blow the Birds Point levee near New Madrid.

The Associated Press is reporting the Corps has chosen to delay that decision.

Attorney General Chris Koster says he wants a federal court to review the Corps’ proposal to detonate the levee before it can move forward.

"There are no good options at this point, I understand that, but before we create a manmade detonation that is going flood 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland, we want to make sure the Corps can legitimize in federal court its decision," Koster said.

The Corps believes breaking the levee will take a significant amount of water out of the river and relieve upstream pressure on the levee protecting the Illinois town of Cairo.

The Corps plans to meet again today to discuss how to move forward.

Resident of Cairo were advised to flee the city yesterday.

Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio

Monday, April 25, 2011

More severe weather is on the way

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - More rain continued overnight, putting stress on storm drains and contributing more water to an already swollen Mississippi River.

Meteorologist Kelly Hooper with the National Weather Service in Paducah, Kentucky says that there were no severe storms overnight, though flash flood warnings exist for much of the area. Most areas received another half inch of rainfall.

And more severe weather could be on the way.

Hooper says that another line of powerful storms will affect the area tonight … and the storms should be more severe than this weekend’s storms.

“What’s happened is this cold front has stalled over the area. Impulses in the upper levels are rotating through, creating these daily or nightly rounds of thunderstorms, or both in some cases. But coming tonight they’re going to try to push that front on through us, and that’s going to create more favorable wind profiles to get some rotating storms, or possibly some tornadic storms,” Hooper said.

Forecasts show that most of the severe weather will occur in areas south of Cape Girardeau … from West Plains to the Bootheel.

Hooper says flash flooding typically occurs when we receive an inch of rain per hour. The ground is so saturated now, though, that the National Weather Service is receiving reports of flash floods with half-an-inch per hour.

There is an end within sight. The rain should stop by Thursday morning.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Lambert Airport resumes 70 percent of flights

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - The director of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport says it’s “amazing” that the tornado-damaged facility is up and running as well as it is.

Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge says when she first surveyed the damage from the EF-3 tornado Friday night, she would not have expected to be able to handle 100 flights just 36 hours later. That’s about 70 percent of Lambert’s usual capacity.

“We had so much support and so many people pulled together and everyone went by the playbook as to who’s got to do what and organized stuff,” she said.

Hamm-Niebruegge says the heavily-damaged C Concourse remains closed indefinitely. “We took the four carriers that were there and relocated them. So it should not be an economic impact to us in terms of revenue because the airlines should be fully functional on their new homes," Hamm-Nierbruegge said.

She says the airport is structurally sound.

Insurance should pay for most of the repairs, she says, and the airport will also be looking for any state and federal assistance.

Rachel Lippman, St. Louis Public Radio

Army Corps of Engineers initiate Phase II floodfight

The Army Corps of Engineers has initiated a Phase II flood fight along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

A Phase II flood fight is initiated when the river gauge at Cairo reaches 52 feet. The rivers at Cairo are now at 53. The expected crest is 58 ½ feet.

The river stage at Cape Girardeau was at 38.8 feet at 3 p.m. yesterday with a forecasted crest of 44.5 feet. Flood stage at Cape Girardeau is 32.0 feet.

In a press release, Colonel Vernie Reichling of the Memphis District says, quote, “We are anticipating near-record flood levels in many parts of the Memphis District. We have not seen levels predicted this high since 1937,” end quote.

A phase two flood fight entailed greater monitoring of river levels, checks for leaks and sand boils along levees, and establishing field offices in Cape Girardeau and Dyersburg, Tennessee. The Caruthersville office will also have additional personnel.

Cairo airport struck by tornado; Cape airport to resume flights to STL

The airport at Cairo, Illinois was hit by a tornado Saturday night. The tornado ripped apart the hanger and damaged the office and at least one airplane, according to the Associated Press and The Southern Illinoisan newspaper.

The Cape Girardeau Regional Airport will resume flights to Lambert International Airport on Tuesday, according to a press release.

Cape Air flights will use Concourse D.

The Cape Girardeau Regional Airport was not affected by storms. Local operations are normal.

Friday, April 22, 2011

River levels rising

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Mississippi and Ohio Rivers are both on the rise, and continued rain this week will increase the likelihood of flooding.

The Army Corps of Engineers has switched to a Phase One flood fight, which means that they have personnel on call to open up field operations in flood prone communities.

Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Jim Pogue says that the usual lineup of river towns should keep an eye on the rising river.

"Cairo, New Madrid, Charleston, down around Dyersburg in Tennessee. Those are the traditional areas that are problematic where we have to do a lot of monitoring. But generally what we look at are agricultural areas that aren’t protected by the levee system," Pogue said.

River levels are expected to rise by one foot each day until the rivers crest on April 30. The rivers will crest at 52 feet at Cairo.

Pogue says that areas south of the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers are at the greatest risk for flooding.

"The thing that makes this a little unusual is we’re expecting the river to come up very fast," Pogue said.

The Army Corps of Engineers will provide emergency assistance to communities in the event of a flood.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Missouri Senate passes bill to reduce size of House

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - The Missouri Senate passed a bill that would eliminate 60 state Representatives after the next census. The bill would cut the number of Representatives from 163 to 103.

According to bill sponsor and St. Louis County Republican Senator Jim Lembke, Missouri has the fourth-largest House in the country.

Lembke says downsizing will save money and provide a more efficient government.

"This is about having a manageable statehouse and across state government, making changes that would save taxpayers money. This would save taxpayers about five million dollars a year," Lembke says.

Opponents of the bill say cutting Representatives would cause leaders to be less in touch with their constituents.

Republican Clay Senator LuAnn Ridgeway says this reduction would harm the relationship between Representatives and their constituents.

"In this time of term limits, we need to keep our representatives as close to the people as possible. By diluting the number of representatives, and increasing the number of people they would representative, it is of necessity that it would be harder to stay in touch with the people," Ridgeway said.

If the Houses were to pass the bill, the decrease in House size would not take place until after current members are term-limited out of office.

The idea of cutting the size of the House has been around for years, but typically stalls in the House.

Meghann Mollerus, Missouri Digital News

MDC to start bear trapping program in Southeast Missouri

The Missouri Department of Conservation will begin a bear trapping program in Southeast Missouri.

Black bears once thrived in the region, but were largely driven out of the state by the 1950s.

Arkansas reintroduced black bears in the 1960s. It is thought that many of the black bears currently found in Missouri are descendents of these Arkansas bears.

The MDC conducted a trapping program last year in Southwest Missouri with the University of Missouri and Mississippi State University. The Southeast Missouri program will partner with the same universities.

This study will provide information such as movement patterns, population densities, habitat preferences, male to female ratios, and overall numbers of Missouri bears, according to an MDC press release.

McMullen to head Cape Alternative School

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Cape Central Middle School math and science teacher Scott McMullen will be the new director of the Cape Alternative Education Center. He will assume the position after the end of the current school year.

McMullen graduated from Cape Central and Southeast Missouri State University. He received his Masters degree from William Woods University.

McMullen is replacing Carla Fee, who was recently appointed principal of Cape Central Junior High School.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Confirmed tornado struck Patton

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PATTON, MO (KRCU) - Repair crews are rushing to fix roofs and haul off debris in several communities across Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois following Tuesday night’s powerful storms. 

In the Bollinger County town on Patton, metal roofing rests twisted across pastures and massive trees lie toppled. Power was lost through much of the area.

The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down southwest of Patton Tuesday night.

Weather Service senior meteorologist Chris Noles says that the tornado’s path was a mile long and 100 yards it length, where it leveled trees and power lines and shore the roof off of a barn.

Noles says that the EF-0 tornado produced 80 mile per hour winds, which complicates separating tornado damage from straight line wind damage.

“With this broad swath of wind damage that we had across Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois Tuesday night, an EF-0 tornado’s wind speeds are pretty much right in line with the wind speeds we saw Tuesday, on the order to 70, 80, 90 miles per hour,” Noles said.

Residents of Patton say that they feel fortunate that nobody was harmed in the tornado.

Sonya Fulton suffered damage to the exterior of her home. The tornado blew bricks off the side of her garage and bowed her garage door. It also lifted her porch off the ground, she says.

Like many Patton residents, her roof lost shingles. Fulton’s husband was busy putting tarps on the roof.

Court clerk Dana Mayfield says that trees were twisted out of the ground and crashed onto her porch, and the walls of her storage shed look like they were squished together by a pair of giant hands.

Bob and Teresa Eachus feel fortunate that their Thousand Oaks Winery escaped any major damage. Like many of their neighbors, they were without power Wednesday afternoon, but a generator kept their food and beverages cool.

Bob noticed some similarities between Tuesday’s tornado and the inland hurricane that struck in 2009.

“The Patton area which got hit hard two years ago by that big storm looks like it did it again today. We did notice a lot of roofs off. We noticed a lot of barns blown apart. Tin all across the fields. A couple of travel trailers that were overturned. But we were very fortunate and we are thankful for that,” Eachus said.

More storms will be advancing through the region today and this weekend. Meteorologist Chris Noles says the storm is still developing and at the moment does not appear as capable of severe weather. However, he cautions that it could still produce isolated patches of hail and could even stir up occasional powerful storms and perhaps even another tornado.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

SEMO Red Cross and St. Francis Medical Center receive MFH grants

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - St. Francis Medical Center and the Southeast Missouri chapter of the American Red Cross received grants from the Missouri Foundation for Health on Wednesday.

A two-year, $100,000 grant was given to the Red Cross to provide basic support for services and assistance to victims of disasters based on their needs, educating the public on prevention and survival, and training volunteers, according to Cheryl Klueppel, the executive director for the American Red Cross - Southeast Missouri chapter.

"We are so pleased and grateful to the Missouri Foundation for Heath for recognizing the need and recognizing the support that the American Red Cross can provide in the Southeast Misssouri area to help address and support some of the health needs in the Bootheel area. So we are very grateful," Klueppel said.

This is the second time the Red Cross chapter received the grant. The Red Cross chapter serves 11 counties from Perry County to the Bootheel.

St. Francis Medical Center's grant totalled $149,959.

Part of the grant money will be used to continue their youth programming at local schools, where they train high school students to go to elementary, middle, and high schools and talk to students about tobacco use, according to Terry Baker, the Tobacco Prevention Manager at St. Francis Medical Center, said.

“Advocating for healthier communities and to really show the students and the community that tobacco use is not a norm in our communities. Most people don’t smoke. And kind of establish that and help reduce the initiation of tobacco use among our youth,” Baker said.

It will also be used to implement Project Smokebusters in several area schools.

The local grants are part of a $7 million round of funding approved by MFH’s board.

Rachel Weatherford, KRCU

Egyptologist comes to Southeast

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Dr. Sara Orel of Truman State University visited Southeast Missouri State on Wednesday afternoon to present a lecture titled “Saints, Snakes, and Survey in Upper Egypt.”

The accomplished Art Historian spoke about her time in Egypt where she surveyed quarries and tombs of the ancient Egyptian Civilization.

“Over three seasons we documented twelve quarries and mapped over one hundred tombs, planning several of the tombs in more detail,” she said.

Dr. Orel explained how she and her team surveyed Egyptian resources and surroundings. From their findings, they deduced reasons for settling in certain locations as well as proposed tactical choices the landscape provided for defense as well as comfort.

Daniel Rohr, KRCU

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

MDC makes final preparations for elk

WINONA, MO (KRCU) - The Missouri Department of Conservation has made final preparations for the transfer of 34 elk to the Peck Ranch Conservation Area. 

The elk will be moved from Kentucky on April 30 to the expansive elk zone in Carter, Shannon, and Reynolds Counties.

Department of Conservation agents have been managing the 36 square mile Peck Ranch Conservation Area to improve habitat for elk and other animals.

Wildlife biologist Ryan Houf says that the department has established food plots of clover, alfalfa, orchard grass, wheat, and rye. They have cleared undergrowth through prescribed fire, which Houf says clears off undesired vegetation and improves ecosystem health.

“"It’s our major component of natural community management," Houf said. "We’'ve been doing that for like 30 years. It’s just not elk management, we’re doing natural community management. And elk are just part of that natural community, that native species.”"

Conservation agents led media members through a five-hour tour of the backroads, forests, and glades of the remote Peck Ranch Conservation Area on Tuesday.

One of the highlights was a three-acre holding pen that will hold the animals for several weeks before they are released into the wild. The holding pen contains multiple compartments and eight foot fences to protect the elk. The pen allows the elk to adjust to their new environment.

The elk are currently being held in quarantine in Kentucky, where they are under medical observation. Conservation agents say that they hope in bring in about 150 elk over the next few years …and they believe that the elk zone has enough space and suitable habitat for 450 of the animals.

Photo: One of the elk holding pen's compartments.
KRCU, Jacob McCleland

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Missouri Senate passes prayer in school legislation

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL MEDIA) - A Missouri Senate Committee unanimously passed legislation to allow prayer in public schools and government buildings on Tuesday.

For four years in a row the legislation has made it to the Senate floor, but died there every time.

St. Louis City Democrat Robin Wright-Jones says she has no problem with people praying anywhere.

Wright-Jones voted for the bill in committee and says she does not see any Democratic opposition this year.

"There's just the eight of us and two of us voted for it. I think the others are Roman Catholic men so I don't think they would have a problem, but I don't know for sure," Wright-Jones said.

The House has already passed the bill and the bill's sponsor says he is very optimistic the Senate will pass it too.

Brian Bondus, Missouri Digital News

Violent storm strikes Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The strong winds and heavy rains that pulverized Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois left downed power lines, shattered trees, and damaged roofs throughout the region.

The National Weather Service reports that winds in Olive Branch, Illinois – in Alexander County – reached between 90 and 95 miles per hour last night as the storm rushed through that area.

In Cape County, winds at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport touched 58 miles per hour. In Daisy, a barn was blown over and tree damage is widespread.

Damage was reported throughout Bollinger County. Marble Hill experienced straight line winds between 70 and 75 miles per hour. Most of the damage was reported west and north of Marble Hill, and includes some homes that lost their roofs. An unconfirmed tornado was reported west of Sedgewickville in Bollinger County, as well.

There was an unconfirmed tornado spotting near Randles, southwest of Chaffee.

Near the Mississippi County-New Madrid County line, 70 miles per hour winds were reported to have physically moved vehicles.

The National Weather Service’s Rachel Trevino says that most of the damaged was caused by the straight line winds.

"No confirmed tornadoes. Obviously, that time of night, when it’s dark, we have a hard time identifying anything. Usually you can’t tell if it’s tornado damage unless you put people on the ground. But we do believe that almost everything was straight line winds last night," Trevino said.

Power outages were widespread over night. The lights seem to be turning back on for most Ameren customers, though. As of six o’clock this morning, most of the Ameren outages are occurring in Cape Girardeau and Farmington. 137 Ameren customers are without power in Cape Girardeau. 281 Ameren customers are without power in and around Farmington.

There are also reports of outages in Delta and Oran.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cape City Council to consider rental inspections and licenses

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The city of Cape Girardeau may soon call for landlords to become licensed as well as require rental inspections in hopes to enforce property maintenance codes.

The Neighborhood Protection Program was designed to provide safe living environments for tenants, protect property values, and encourage reinvestment, which Assistant City Manager Ken Eftink believes can be accomplished one block at a time.

"The goal is to protect neighborhoods, basically protecting one block at a time. If you look at a house that is in a dilapidated condition it brings down the values of all the other properties on that block," Eftink says.

Eftink asked for City Council approval last night and will meet with landlords this week before drafting an ordinance.

In other news, the Cape Girardeau City Council voted to authorize the Safe Routes to Schools grant of over $175,000 that will install nearly 5,000 feet of sidewalks around local schools.

The council also passed an ordinance that will require businesses that play outdoor music to apply for a seasonal Outdoor Music Venue Permit.

Matthew Caldwell, KRCU

Governor supports Prop B compromise

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - The Governor backed a compromise to Proposition B headlined by weaker regulations and more than one million dollars added to its budget.

Jay Nixon said in a press release the proposed legislation is a compromise among voters, animal rights groups, and Missouri's agricultural industry.

The agreement would add $1.1 million to the budget and also allow breeders to own more than 50 dogs, a reversal of the original regulations.

Senator Mike Parson sponsored the original bill. He agrees with the compromise, but says he's worried with the interference from the United States Humane Society.

"That's a disappointing fact that people from out of the state of Missouri don't even want to compromise when all the animal rights groups in Missouri are agreeing to this," Parson said.

The US Humane Society opposed the revised proposition.

Parson also says he is unsure if the compromise will have time to pass through both legislative houses by the end of the session.

Executive Director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation Bob Baker says he is pleased with the compromise.

“It gives the dogs much more space and room, it will entitle them to much better access. It will prohibit wire in the flooring, it will provide that they have a veterinary exam compared to veterinary inspection,” Baker said.

The amended bill will have to go through the entire legislative process.

Brian Pepoon and Meghan McGinnis, Missouri Digital News

Aluminum comes to life on Bedell stage

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Theatrics and dazzling performance graced the River Campus of Southeast Missouri State University when the Aluminum Show visited the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall last night.

The performance is a world renowned attraction featuring large scale aluminum puppets as well as dancers clad in the shiny metal complimented by a stimulating combination of music and light work.

The audience-interactive show was created in Israel and quickly gained popularity for its unique use of industrial metals mixed with performance to create a colorful and entertaining spectacle.

The Aluminum Show will continue its tour of the U.S. until June when it begins performances in Madrid’s Teatro Coliseum.

Daniel Rohr, KRCU

Webb City does not enact smoking ban

On the same day that Cape Girardeau residents voted against a smoking ban, the citizens in a western Missouri town chose to approve a similar non-smoking measure.

Yet the city council in the Jasper County town of Webb City chose to not enact the smoking ordinance.

The Webb City ordinance passed by a vote of 452 to 348. Regardless, the City Council chose to not put the non-smoking measure into law, voting against it 5 to 3.

Webb City mayor John Biggs says that council members voted against the measure for individual liberty reasons … and due to low voter turnout.

"It just depends on your point of view," Biggs said. "The people that were for the smoking ban thought it was a great turnout. The people that had a mindset against it thought it was a poor turnout."

Only 12% of registered voters participated in the election. The Webb City measure was a non-binding referendum that Biggs said was intended to guide the vote of the council.

Mayor Biggs voted in favor of the ban.

Russell wins OVC Player of the Week

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Designated Hitter on Southeast Missouri State University’s baseball team walked home with a special recognition on Monday.

Brett Russell won the Adidas Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week award.

During last week’s five games, Russell gathered two hits in each contest and propelled the Redhawks to victory in each contest.

Russell drove in nine runs during his 20 at bats last week.

The Redhawks will take on Arkansas State tonight at Capaha Field at 5 p.m.

Monday, April 18, 2011

USDA grants $14M to Mizzou, Texas A&M for cattle research

COLUMBIA, MO (KBIA) - The U-S Department of Agriculture is giving 14 million dollars in grants to the University of Missouri and Texas A&M in hopes to find the most efficient ways to breed cattle.

Farmers aren’t getting the most out of the feed they’re shoveling into their troughs. That’s the basic hypothesis behind the grant. It will pay the University of Missouri to map the genes of cattle and examine bacteria and microbes in the animals’ stomachs.

Director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Roger Beachy, says this will help identify the all-star cattle. “We’re gonna get a view of what the diversity of all the animal population is and through that they’re going to be able to select those breeds that are higher-use efficiency. By doing that, we will produce more with less,” Beachy said.

Dr. Jerry Taylor in the College of Agriculture is heading the project at MU. He believes that within 5 years this research will lead to technologies that can increase feed efficiency at farms across the U.S.

“Animal agriculture has less funding available to it than, for example, if you’re a human disease researcher and have access to NIH funding. So when you do get a grant like this, these grants don’t come along every day. You have to make the money go as far as you possibly can,” Dr. Taylor said.

Taylor says his work will overlap with the research that will be done at Texas A&M, which will focus on studying Bovine Respiratory Disease. Researchers say the disease costs farmers in the U.S. almost $700 million a year

Ryan Famuliner, KBIA.

Emerson suggests barring taxpayer funds IPCC

Representative Jo Ann Emerson (MO-R) joined legislation on Friday that would bar taxpayer funds for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In press release, Emerson calls support of the IPCC a “wasteful idea” and that “We ought to hold the publication of scientific data to the highest standard, especially when there is an implied endorsement of the quality of data on climate change by the government.”

Emerson cites criticism of the IPCC for fabricating scientific data on climate change.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-R), who presents Missouri's 9th Congressional District, sponsored the bill.

Missouri lauded for reduction of recidivism rate

The state of Missouri is receiving praise for improving its rate of criminals who return to prison three years or less after their initial release.

A recently released Pew study applauds Missouri for its decrease in prison recidivism, one of three states to do so.

Adam Gelb is ​ the director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Center on the States.

"The overall message is that while the national number is fairly flat, some states like Missouri are making significant progress in putting research about what works into action and cutting their return to prison rate. So I think what other states can take from Missouri is that this is not an intractable, unsolvable problem," Gelb said.

Missouri decided to follow the research and began laying out a plan in order to decrease their recidivism rates by using more effective and inexpensive ways to monitor offenders and using new strategies and technologies, instead of throwing them back in a prison cell, Gelb said.

"Our hope is that policymakers in Missouri and elsewhere will start to see that it’s time for a triumph of sound science over sound bite," Gelb continued. "It’s going to move beyond the tired old debate between treatment and punishment. The research shows you get the best impact when you combine the carrot and the stick."

Missouri has succeeded by bringing down their rate by 10 percent in three years.​

Rachel Weatherford, KRCU

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring into Dance combines movement, sound, and sculpture

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Percussionist Taylor Stanton is accustomed to teamwork. As a member of the Southeast Missouri Orchestra’s rhythm section, he has to keep his ears open to sounds of his fellow musicians. But for the new Spring into Dance recital, that collaboration goes beyond music.

Listen to the story. 

“It was a joint collaboration between Dr. Reynolds, Dr. Strauss, some people in the Art department, and all of the heads of the Dance department too,” Stanton said. “It’s one big collaboration between all three departments.”

Spring into Dance is a dance production that features lives music from the Southeast Missouri Orchestra, choreography by Southeast dance instructors, and original sculpture pieces by the Department of Art.

The production will continue through Sunday.

This year’s production consists of two acts, the first featuring choreography by Southeast faculty and students, as well as renowned guest choreographer, Susan Quinn. The second act features 20th century works by Gustav Holst’s The Planets.

Holst’s work was composed from 1914-1916 during the war-torn years of World War I. The sense of destruction and subsequent rebuilding is sensed through the music, and reinforces every move performed by the dancers.

Instructor of Dance and Choreography, Philip Edgecombe describes how the interdepartmental collaboration sheds a new light onto how important working with others can be to enhance artistic creation.

“I think overall with the collaboration we are accomplishing something that would have been impossible,” Edgecombe says. “The joy of having live music, I think the joy of having original art created for the pieces, and original choreography coming together somewhat harmoniously, but also sometimes not, I think that creates something kind of exciting.”

Four of the nine works of Holst’s opus will be performed, including Mars- Bringer of War, Venus-Bringer of Peace, Mercury- the Winger Messenger, and Jupiter- the Bringer of Jollity.

Mars begins with strong and powerful orchestral movements, followed by the harmonious melody of Venus and the swift, stream-lined sounds of Mercury and closes with the joyous music of Jupiter.

Each movement underscores the progression of war, from times of hardship and battle followed by peace, and the inevitable rebuilding and healing brought about through the passage of time.

Associate Professor of Art, Chris Wubbena, and his team of students have been toiling away for several months to complete several large-scale elements for the performers to utilize during the show.

The sculptures range from about five feet tall to twelve feet tall and are very interactive. Some will be suspended from the ceiling while others glide effortlessly across the floor, all providing a stunning visual element to the performance.

Not only does he believe that each own department has an important job to create something compelling, but the combined artwork of all three departments is vital to the show.

“I also think the end result and the creation of artwork is important,” Wubbena says. “Maybe that is the most important thing. Creating something that is powerful, impressive, and inspiring. All those things, but using the different means of student collaboration and faculty collaboration. Those things, I think, add to that experience in the end.”

The hopes of the students and faculty of the production are not only to create an impressive display of performance and music, but to inspire future performers and artists to put their heads together and work with others on projects down the line.

Wubbena feels that while collaboration between departments is challenging, a compelling result that makes an audience feel inspired is the end that justifies the means.

“If I would have to say something is the most important, I would have to say the overall artwork, in general, and what it leaves the viewer with at the end is probably the most important,” Wubbena says.

Spring into Dance shows at the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus from Thursday April 14th through Saturday April 16th at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday April 17th at 2 p.m.

Daniel Rohr, KRCU

Photo courtesy of Southeast Missouri State University

Southeast names new head women's basketball coach

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Southeast Missouri State University women’s basketball team has a brand new coach. 

The Athletics Department introduced Ty Margenthaler to the community yesterday.

Margenthaler has been an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin for the past five years. He comes from a family steeped in coaching tradition: both his father and brother are coaches at the collegiate level.

Flanked by his wife, two sons, parents, and in-laws, Margenthaler thanked Southeast President Ken Dobbins and Athletic Director John Shafer for selecting him as the new coach. But Margenthaler plans to hit the ground running in his new job.

“I’m excited about the outreach to the local communities in recruiting efforts. That’s going take place, quite honestly, right away. I’m hitting the road tomorrow to going up to Chicago to start the recruiting process. So I’m really looking forward to that.”

Margenthaler signed a four year contract for just over 82 thousand dollars per year.

The university declined to extend the contract of last year’s head coach, John Ishee, after a disappointing 8-21 season.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

GOP supermajority splinters in Mo. Senate

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - The top Democrat in Missouri's House says the standoff within the Republican supermajority is slowing down important legislation.

Mike Talboy watched as Missouri's legislature fractured.

The House's Republican leaders decided not to have floor debate on Monday, saying there's nothing to do.

Talboy says he's never seen that before.

"It's disappointing that we get to some sort of standoff where we decide that we're going to adjourn early. It is what it is at this point," Talboy said.

In what House Republicans portrayed as a snub, they say their counterparts in the Senate refused to work out differences over redrawing district lines.

Because of that, House Republican leader Tim Jones says there's nothing for the House to do on Monday.

"If the Senate had responded to our request on the redistricting map, we would very likely have had something to do," Jones said.

Both chambers have confined St. Louis City to a single district, eliminating Russ Carnahan's seat. Regardless, rural Senate Republicans are complaining about the way the redistricting lines are drawn.

Senate Republicans have also stalled a measure to give tax breaks to businesses who create jobs.

The same with allowing Ameren Missouri to charge ratepayers to build a second nuclear power plant...

...Spending nearly $190 million in federal funds for education...

...And accepting a quarter-billion dollars in stimulus money.

Lawmakers have less than a month, until May 13, to pass these measures.

Two high-profile bills, extending unemployment benefits and rolling back dog breeding restrictions, have already passed.

Theo Keith, Missouri Digital News

Domestic violence victim speaks on state Capitol lawn

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - A victim of domestic violence brought her story to the state Capitol lawn to urge lawmakers to strengthen domestic violence laws.

For Carol Cromer, she says life with her husband was a nightmare.

Before his suicide, he stalked her every move.

He sent her threatening messages.

He even set fire to her car and to her home.

"It had been five very long years of living in constant fear. It had consumed my life so long, that I was unsure of what it would be like to live life normally again," Cromer said.

She says keeping him behind bars was nearly impossible as he would place bond everytime.

"These individuals are incapable of changing their own lives," she said. "They do not value their own lives. Therefore expecting them to value someone else's life is incomprehensible and ignores the possiblity of a potentially fatal outcome."

Earlier in the week, the Missouri House referred a bill to committee that would ban people found guilty of a domestic violence crime from possesing guns.

Attorney General Chris Koster says he is pushing for comprehensive legislation to strengthen domestic violence laws.

Elizabeth Hagedorn, Missouri Digital News

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Prescribed fires bring ecological advantages

DAISY, MO (KRCU) - Birds chirping, dogs barking, sun shining, breeze blowing; spring had finally arrived at Ed Graves' farm just outside of Daisy, Missouri.

Listen to the story.

Graves is originally from the St. Louis area where he worked in law enforcement for 30 years before moving to Southeast Missouri five years ago when his wife retired. After searching all over the state, they finally decided on Southeast Missouri to enjoy retirement and a past time they've shared for years.

"For 30 years we've been running bird dogs, Brittanies,” Graves says. “And I field trial them and train them, so we were looking for an area where we could help out the quail population and in turn help the dogs."

Graves and local private lands conservationists had been watching weather patterns and forecasts for weeks, trying to find a day with ideal temperature, humidity, and wind to safely conduct a prescribed burn. Finally that day presented itself in the form of a beautifully balmy, typical Southeast Missouri April day.

Before the burn was to be conducted, Graves and the conservationists put together a burn plan, which is basically a short, how-to document on how to conduct a burn, according to private lands conservation David Hasenbeck with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

“It's based upon the management goals we want to achieve and it basically lists safe weather parameters and safe conditions that we want to burn under to accomplish the goals of the fire,” Hasenbeck says.

The burn plan for the Graves' farm was fairly simple: Remove all unwanted vegetation, allowing new, more desirable vegetation to take its place which would foster an ideal habitat for quail.

Prescribed fires destroy undesirable species of grass such as fescue and debris such as leaf liter while helping native grasses to flourish.

Wildlife benefit from prescribed burns, according to Hasenbeck. Quail, deer, and turkeys are just a few species that thrive in areas that practice prescribed burns periodically. That’s why Graves decided to conduct a burn on his land.

“It’s a necessary thing to do,” Graves says. “It was done long before we ever got here.”

Fire gets rid of leaf liter and dead plants that can be found on the forest floor. Removing dead ground cover exposes seeds and nuts, allowing wildlife better access to these food sources. Fire also helps eliminate hardwood saplings, allowing more light to penetrate to the forest floor which encourages native grasses to grow.

Hasenbeck, is a firm believer in the effectiveness of a prescribed burn but he believes that a healthy level of respect fire's power is essential.

“Prescribed fire is probably the lowest cost and biggest bang for your effort management tool that you can do in the Southern Ozarks,” he says. “It's applicable to a lot of different situations but once again it just comes with some risk and you need to be aware of those risks prior to conducting the burn.”

While prescribed fires are excellent management tools, they can also become dangerous very quickly. Burning on days when the weather conditions are not ideal or burning without enough resources or people can cause a prescribed fire to become a wildfire.

Joe Garvey is the Forestry Supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation and he knows all too well about the possible dangers of a prescribed burn.

“A prescribed fire is just a wildfire kind of contained,” Garvey cautions. “Sooner or later one could get away from you and that’s a humbling experience. Once you light that thing extreme caution and respect is paramount.”

Fortunately, all the proper precautions were taken and the burn at the Graves' farm was successful. No one was injured and fresh new grasses and wildlife should be enjoying the newly cleared land in just a few weeks time.

Katie Long, KRCU

Constitutional Amendment would protect voter-approved initiatives

St. Louis area Representative Scott Sifton is working to bring a new amendment to Missouri’s Constitution. The so-called Voter Protection Act would require a three-fourths majority in both the House and Senate to amend or repeal a voter-approved measure, such as Prop B or the clean energy law.

Sifton, a Democrat, has organized a Voter Protection Alliance that includes proponents on both the left and the right, such as the Humane Society of the United States and Americans for Tax Reform.

Sifton says that he understands that legislators should vote the will of their district, and that is precisely why amendments to Proposition B have passed the House and Senate. That’s also why he believes that voter-approved laws need protection.

“The folks that show up for work here to cast votes are doing their best to represent their constituents. That’s what they are elected to do. They’re doing their job. Which is why the Constitution should say, if the voters say one thing and the legislature says another, the tie should really go to the voters,” Sifton says.

The Voter Protection Alliance plans to obtain enough signatures to put the amendment on the Missouri ballot in November 2012.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Mo. House rolls back Puppy Mill law

When voters approved the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act”, commonly called “Proposition B”, few guessed the issue of puppies would so divide state lawmakers….they were wrong.

The dog-breeding issue has pit urban vs. rural, with rural lawmakers largely opposed to greater regulation.

The House voted to on Wednesday roll back portions of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, commonly called “Proposition B”.

Barbara Schmitz is the Director of the Missouri Humane Society. She says the move is slap in the face of state voters.

"Well, it’s a travesty that both the House and the Senate have voted in support of a measure that would roll back something that the voters just spoke to a few months ago," Schmitz said.

Schmitz says the bill remove requirements for cage size, access to water, and regular veterinary care. "SB113 unfortunately goes through and systematically strips away the increased protections that Prop B provides," she said.

Governor Nixon’s office has given no indication if he will approve or veto the measure.

Adam Allington, St. Louis Public Radio

Koster brings charges against Caruthersville woman

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has brought Medicaid fraud charges against a Caruthersville woman.

Koster brought four felony charges against professionally licensed counselor Kristi M. Smith. She is charged with four counts of Medicare fraud, one count of forgery, and one count of stealing by deceit, according to a release from the Attorney General’s office.

Missouri’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit revealed that Smith had billed the state for over 32 hundred dollars in 2009 and 2010.

Smith could receive up to 7 years for each of the six violations.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wyoming couple on coast-to-coast horseback journey cross through Cape

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - A young couple from Wyoming crossed the Emerson Memorial Bridge yesterday at noon on horseback as they attempt to ride across the entire United States from California to Delaware. 

Richard and Jeanette McGrath have been riding for 13 months. They are accompanied by five horses and a dog that began following them in Kansas.

The McGraths are taking their cross-country trip to raise money for their non-profit organization, called Hearts Up Ranch. Hearts Up helps people who have suffered from emotional trauma - such as war veterans or rape victims - by taking them by horseback into the wilderness.

Jeanette McGrath says that getting people out of their comfort zone and encouraging an attachment with the animals often gets people to open up and share things that they may have never even told their counselors.

“And that has nothing to do with our ability. That’s simply getting them out, getting them with the animals, out of their comfort zone, and getting them out in God’s creation, and then just letting it flow,” Jeanette said.

The McGraths are trying to raise two million dollars for their organization. They plan to ride towards Anna, Illinois today. They intend to ride across Southern Illinois for the next few days and then cross in to Kentucky at Cave-in-Rock.

The McGraths typically travel 15 to 20 miles per day.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Herman Cain campaigns in Jefferson City

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - Tea Party activists showed suppport in favor of a presidential hopeful Herman Cain on the state Capitol's front-lawn.

The former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City and radio talk show spoke to a crowd of around 200 about his agenda to lower taxes and strengthen state's individual rights.

Although Cain is not a Tea Party candidate, Tea Party activists came to show support for his platform.

"I have people asking me all the time. Do you think this Tea-Party 'thing' is going to go away? What 'thing' are you talking about? You talking about these people wanting to take back their government? No, it's not going away. It's gonna get stronger and stronger," Cain said.

Cain says he feels confident that a conservative agenda will prevail in 2012.

"And I happen to believe that we are going to succeed in taking our government back. We are going to succeeed at taking control of the Senate. We are going to succeed at putting a conservative in the White House," Cain said.

Herman Cain faces a potentially packed field of Republicans to challenge President Obama next year.

Emily Kissee, Missouri Digital News

Redistricting plan would split Jefferson County between 3 Congresspeople

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - As part of the House's redistricting proposal, Missourians in Jefferson County would be represented by three different members of Congress.

The Senate has failed to vote on the House's redistricting plan because of opposition by several Missouri Senators.

Most opposing Senators say the Republican Senate's plan is a better alternative than the Republican House's. But Democratic Jefferson County Senator Ryan McKenna says he opposes both plans.

"For my county to be the only county in the State now to have three congressmen and women is a hard pill for me to swallow," McKenna said.

Republican Senator Bill Stouffer says this is one time politics should be put aside.

"This map doesn't have a chance to go through this body," Stouffer said.

Senators must come to a decision by the end of the day Monday for the Governor to have to act on the plan before they adjourn for the year.

Andrew Weil, Missouri Digital News

Mo. House passes unemployment benefit legislation

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - Governor Nixon's signature is all that's left before 10,000 Missourians get their unemployment benefits restored. The Missouri House sent legislation to the governor to extend unemployment benefits by a vote of 138 to 13.

The bill came from the Senate where a Republican filibuster had held it up for weeks.

The delay made benefits expire on April 2 for 10,000 long-term unemployed Missourians.

Republican Representative Barney Fisher from Western Missouri says it was time for the bill to reach the governor.

"We had to accept them really and concur in what the Senate did. I don't think their changes were drastic. I think they were reasonable and it was time to pass that bill and get it to the governor," Fisher said.

Democrat leader Mike Talboy says the House needed to pass the bill or fear "sending this over to, whether there called the four horsemen of the apocalypse or as I've dubbed them, the lunatic fringe," Talboy said.

Future unemployed Missourians will see their benefits cut by six weeks, a concession the House made to the Senate.

Governor Nixon's spokesman says the bill will now go under an "expidited review process."

Brian Bondus, Missouri Digital News

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Koster files amicus brief that questions individual mandate

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed an amicus brief in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that questions the Constitutionality of the Obama Administration’s Health Care law.

Koster joined the state of Florida in questioning the individual mandate.

Missouri voters passed a referendum last year that prohibits the federal government from requiring people to purchase health insurance.

Republican state Senator Jason Crowell reacted favorably to Koster’s decision.

“He is a Democrat. He is our state’s chief law enforcement officer. And he’s putting his duties as chief law enforcement officer over his affiliation as a Democrat and I applaud him,” Crowell said.

Crowell also recognizes that Koster’s amicus brief will have little to no impact on the court’s decision. An amicus brief is a so-called ‘friend of the court’ statement that outlines the issuer’s thoughts on a case. Therefore, Missouri did not join Florida’s lawsuit, as both house of Missouri’s legislature encouraged Koster to do through non-binding resolutions.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Redistricting map passes Senate committee

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - The conflict between urban and rural interests took center stage in the re-districting debate.

The Senate redistricting committee passed the House-proposed map by a vote of 4-3.

Citizens and Senators voiced their concerns over the new map.

Senator Robin Wright-Jones voted against the map. She says Blacks outside of St. Louis and Kansas City would lose their voice in Congress.

“I see that the two Democratic districts are both basically skewed to the eastern or western sides of the state,” Wright-Jones said.

Others say the map would combine too many urban and rural areas. Lafayette county resident Kay Hoflander says the map will dilute the interests of her rural county.

Under the proposed map Lafayette and two other rural counties will be included in a congressional district with urban Kansas City.

But Senate Committee Chair Scott Rupp says it will be difficult to make everyone happy with the map.

“When you have to find the population you're gonna have to share some of the urban and suburban areas where the people are,” Rupp said.

The Committee Chair says the close vote out of his committee means the bill could meet hard opposition on the Senate floor.

Megan McGinnis, Missouri Digital News

Elk to arrive in Missouri on April 30

The first group of elk that are part of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s elk restoration project are scheduled to arrive in the state on April 30.

The 34 elk will complete their 90-day quarantine and final health testing in Kentucky before being transported by a semi-driven livestock trailer to Missouri.

The elk will be released from Kentucky pending approval by the Missouri Department of Agriculture. The elk also have been fitted with ear tags, microchips and GPS collars.

After their arrival in Missouri, the elk will be held in a pen at Peck Ranch Conservation Area for up to two weeks, before being released into the wild.

Peck Ranch is part of a 346-square-mile elk restoration zone in Shannon, Carter, and Reynolds counties.

Missouri DNR receives grant for trail projects

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources announced earlier this week that they have received more than $600,000 in grant funding from the Recreational Trails Program.

The department selected 10 trail projects that would receive the money. Johnson’s Shut-Ins received $87,588 to build an accessible trail to the local park store. St. Joe State Park also received funding from the grant. The money they received will go toward trail renovation, off-road vehicle education and trail restrooms. Money will also be given to the Ozark Trail Association for educational maps.

The Recreational Trails Program is a federally funded grant program that awards money for trail restoration and development.

Katie Long, KRCU

Cape Girardeau man injured by trash truck arm

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - A Cape Girardeau man was allegedly injured yesterday in an accident involving a trash truck arm, according to the Southeast Missourian newspaper.

At 10 a.m. the man went out to put out his trash. He noticed trash had spilled and stopped to pick it up. As he was doing so, the trash truck arm lifted him up​.

Heather Brooks, assistant to the city manager, said that the city is investigating the incident.

“At this point in time we are not providing any information. We are in the process of investigating it. We haven’t been able to necessarily confirm all the details of the situation,” Brooks said.

According to the Southeast Missourian, the man was taken to St. Francis Medical Center with injuries to his arm, neck, and leg.

Rachel Weatherford, KRCU

Monday, April 11, 2011

Storytelling Festival bring downtown crowd to Cape Girardeau

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Master story tellers captivated the audiences during the 4th annual Cape Girardeau Storytelling festival this weekend.

More than 630 people attended the festival in downtown Cape, which featured 6 of the top story-tellers from around the country.

Chuck Martin, co-producer of the festival and executive director of the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau was very pleased with the outcome of this year’s festival.

"You know what I think for me the highlight is to see so many people coming from all over, certainly the Midwest and spending time in our community," Martin said.

The festival also brought nearly 2500 middle school students from around the area which Martin feels is important in spreading the idea of story telling and oral tradition to a younger generation.

Martin hopes to expand the storytelling festival in the future to include several additional one day events, much like the ghost story telling event in October.

Matthew Caldwell, KRCU

Parks & Rec and SEMO team up for disc golf course at Capaha Park

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department, Southeast Student Government, and Recretion Services at Southeast are teaming up to build a disc golf course at Capaha Park. The three entities are sharing the cost of the project.

The disc golf course will use baskets and frisbees in a ten-hole golf course spread out over 4000 feet at Capaha Park. The service will be provided free of charge, but the players will have to supply their own frisbees according to Troy Vaughn, director of Recreation services at Southeast Missouri State University.

"You don't have to be a great golfer to come out and do this. Men and women alike will enjoy it. If you even have a disability there's even some opportunities there," Vaughn said. "There's so many different, unique things that you can do with this. For kids as young as four or five they can get out there and walk and play with moms and dads and brothers and sisters."

The disc gold course will be open during the park’s regular hours. Vaughn says that the course will open in late April.

Rachel Weatherford, KRCU

Nilson establishes prize for aspiring authors

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Author and editor Wedel Nilsen is providing a prize for aspiring authors who wish to have their work published by the Southeast Missouri State University Press.

Anonymous judges will read the submitted manuscripts and choose those to move to a pool of finalists, which will then be judged by a last critic.

The submissions must be of strong academic quality and also must be works of fiction. The contest is a nation-wide opportunity to U.S. residents.

The winner will receive a cash award of $1000, will have the opportunity to present the novel at a University reading, as well as a publishing deal with the SEMO Press.

Daniel Rohr, KRCU

Friday, April 8, 2011

Governor Nixon announces new small business funding in Jackson

JACKSON, MO (KRCU) - Governor Jay Nixon visited Main Street Flooring in Jackson on Thursday to announce 27 million dollars in new federal funding for small and mid-sized businesses.

The funding will come in the form of low interest loans.

Nixon said that the funds will help small businesses at every stage of the financial continuum, from starting, to expanding, to reaching maturity.

The governor spoke with a group of Southeast Missouri entrepreneurs representing the construction, real estate, technology, and entertainment sectors.

“I think you have some entrepreneurs here who have solid idea that if we can give them the tools to move forward with their business plans, they’re going to grow,” the governor said. “We were kind of inspired by these local businesses as we looked around the state at what these models were. And I just also want to reflect to people that small and mid-sized towns are a great place to live and I think that shopping locally and working with local businesses is a really good thing.”

The application period for the loans begins today at

In other news, Nixon says that the state is prepared to temporarily weather a federal shutdown. He says that federal dollars help fund many Missouri programs. Action plans have been developed just in case the government indeed shuts down.

“If that occurs, hopefully we will not have to implement those. There’s a lag time in some situations of a couple of weeks or as much as thirty days on some of the various programs. So we’ve already been meeting to prepare if that occurs. I’m hopeful that they’ll get a deal up there and continue to move forward,” Nixon said.

Nixon specifically mentioned that vital programs such as public safety should not be interrupted.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Employment in SE Missouri at 10%

The February unemployment rate in Southeast Missouri hovered at 10%, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

Cape Girardeau County’s 7.9% unemployment rate was well below the state average of 9.4%.

The only other Southeast Missouri county below the state average is Perry County, with an unemployment rate of 7.1%. Perry County’s unemployment dropped by two-tenths of a percent between January and February of this year.

St. Francois County has the highest February unemployment rate in Southeast Missouri at 12.1%. Iron County has the second highest unemployment rate in the region at 11.8%, but its unemployment rate dropped by nearly a percentage point between January and February.

Boone County’s 6.6% unemployment rate is the lowest in the state. Taney County has the highest at 22.4%.

Filibuster ends in Missouri Senate

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - A group of Senators opposed to a plan to accept federal funds to extend unemployment benefits for Missourians, ended their filibuster Thursday after accepting a compromise with Senate leaders.

As part of the deal, Senate leaders say they will cut $250 million from federal stimulus projects for Missouri. The plan also cuts the maximum weeks of state unemployment benefits from 26 to 20.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Tom Dempsey says states do look to the federal government for some funding.

"You know, it just means difficult decisions at all levels and I'm just glad that we were able to take one step forward today," Dempsey said.

Republican St. Louis County Senator Jim Lembke was part of the filibuster. He says the United States is a country in crisis.

"We're talking about shutting our federal government down yet we're talking about continuing to take money they've borrowed from China. This is a great victory for the taxpayers of Missouri today," Lembke said.

Senate Leader Rob Mayer says while Lembke succeeded in sending back federal funds, he questions the effectiveness of the message.

Andew Weil, Missouri Digital News

Mo. Senate passes late-term abortion bill

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - Following a similar House vote just weeks ago, Missouri Senators passed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks unless the fetus is determined non-viable by two physicians.

The bill would prevent women from getting a late-term abortion if a fetus is determined viable.

If a physician says the fetus is not viable, the doctor must get a second opinion of another physician before performing the abortion.

Dexter Republican Senator and bill sponsor Rob Mayer has been working for years on late-term abortion legislation.

"We were very pleased it was third read and passed out of the Senate. It makes sure, in most cases, viable children are saved from abortion," Mayer said.

Jackson County Democratic Senator Jolie Justus said lawmakers should not be involved in a woman's decision whether to carry to term a fetus that has a fatal abnormality or has already died.

"What they are doing is basically interfering with the practice of medicine by passing this bill, because this is a decision doctors should be making with their families, and we should not be interfering with that here in the legislature," Justus said.

Despite Justus's opinion, the bill passed 27 to 5 with no floor debate.

Meghann Mollerus, Missouri Digital News

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Illinois Senate President like performance based funding

CARBONDALE, IL (WSIU) - Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says he believes performance based funding is a good idea.

Cullerton's comments came during a stop Tuesday at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where he toured an autism center that receives about 4-million dollars a year in state funding.

Cullerton says he was impressed with how the autism program utilizes its state funding.

The Senate President says the legislature will need to provide the state's public universities with some leeway under a performance based funding model. Cullerton says the last thing he wants is for public universities in Illinois to have to raise tuition to make up for potential funding losses as a result of a performance based model.

He says Workers Compensation Reform is the most important thing the General Assembly can do this year.

Cullerton says it's also the best thing the state can do to improve Illinois' business climate. He admits changing workers comp will be extremely difficult, but it needs to be done, especially the fee schedule that is second highest in the country.

Cullerton says any meaningful change will require bipartisan support. He says it is difficult for Democrats to vote against doctors, hospitals, unions and lawyers... but it must be done and the Republicans will need to meet them half way.

Governor Quinn is proposing cutting payments to medical providers who treat people injured on the job. The governor estimates that alone could save the state 500-million dollars.

The proposals come amid a federal investigation into possible Workers Compensation abuses at the Menard Correctional Center and into the actions of arbitrators.

Cullerton says he hopes the General Assembly will be able to provide the governor with a line-item budget this year.

The past two years lawmakers have succumb to partisan bickering and have not been able to agree on a budget plan... instead giving the governor a lump sum and letting him determine how to prioritize spending.

Cullerton says, right now, both Republicans and Democrats are actively involved in the budget process.

Cullerton says Senate Democrats believe the governor needs to cut about one-billion dollars out of his FY'12 budget proposal. At least one Republican plan is calling for about five times that amount.

Jeff Williams, WSIU

Democrats and Republicans point finger at other party for budget delays

A possible government shutdown may be in the cards and Democrats and Republicans are busy blaming each other.

When asked why the Democratic budget plan was not finished at the beginning of the last fiscal year, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill points the finger at bipartisanism.

"There is an equal opportunity for blame here on why we did not get the budget done last year," McCaskill said. "The Republicans were not wanting to help with that process. They wanted to blame us for not getting a budget and they wanted us to hold off so they could try to put their priorities in place which you’re seeing happen right now. This was part of their strategy."

However Missouri Senator Roy Blunt feels the problem has been caused by poor negotiation when the House was under Democratic control.

"We’re dealing with issue that they could have resolved any way they wanted to last year," Blunt said. "So their negotiating position is dramatically impacted by their unwillingness to deal with these issues when they were totally in control."

Daniel Rohr, KRCU