Despite what you may have heard, Wabasha is not under water.
Torrential rains soaked this Mississippi River town last week, just like everywhere else in Minnesota. But when the sun came out this weekend, the tourists stayed away, alarmed by reports on the Weather Channel and in the papers that warned that the river was above flood stage and rising.
"Above flood stage" isn't the same as "flooded," but still, people canceled weekend plans in Wabasha and Bald Eagle Day at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha attracted far fewer visitors than expected, said Cheri Wright, executive director of the Wabasha-Kellogg Chamber of Commerce.
"Flooding? No, and where?" said Wright, who drove to the Twin Cities this weekend without hitting any high water. "I'm on Main Street and I'm wearing open-toed shoes."
Monday morning, the chamber sent out a press release with the headline: Wabasha Is Not Flooded. Some of the low-lying areas by the river are getting soaked, she said, but not any part of the downtown or any of the major roads.
Still, the calls about flooding were coming in and the visitors weren't.
"I thought it would just blow over, kind of like a bad Kardashian rumor, but it hasn't," Wright said. "We just don't have any flooding."
As proof, she sent in a few pictures of downtown Wabasha Monday morning, showing the swollen Mississippi rolling by, but not over, the sunny downtown.
The city of Brainerd took a big step toward smaller houses.
Monday night, the city council agreed to change the zoning code to allow construction of smaller houses -- as small as 500 square feet -- on the hundreds of odd-sized and otherwise unusable lots around town.
The vote followed several months of debate about how small was too small when it comes to housing. Tiny houses are trendy these days, but opponents worried that they could drive down the property values of their larger-scale neighbors.
The original plan called for houses as small as 400 square feet. Bumping the limit up to 500 square feet put Brainerd on a par with Minneapolis,where houses can be as small as 500 square feet and 350-square-foot efficiency apartments are legal.
“We went from tiny to small,” said Brainerd City Planner Mark Ostgarden.
So far, he said, no developers have approached the city with plans for small house construction.
If anyone does want to build small in Brainerd, there are limits. The houses can only be built on older lots that are too small for the city's standard 750-square-foot minimum for houses. Tiny home builders would also have to secure a special permit from the city.
The only no vote to the plan came from City Council member Dolly Matten, who, according to the Brainerd Dispatch, objected to the idea of houses that could be as narrow as 18 feet wide.
The vote adds Brainerd to the growing list of communities that are embracing smaller homes as a way to make housing more affordable and available. New York recently legalized 275-square-foot apartments. Madison, Wis., plans to use tiny houses to shelter the homeless.
Congratulate Duluth’s hard-working civic boosters. Their online voters swarmed a national outdoors magazine website to win the crown of Best Town in America on Sunday night.
Duluth bested Provo, Utah to gain the title from Outside Magazine by a vote of 66,758 to 54,875.
It was a social media-boosted contest that had even Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken urging Twitter followers to vote for Duluth last week.
Spurred by a #VoteDuluth campaign and website, the city routinely got more votes than any other of the 64 cities originally competing through six rounds of bracket-style face offs that began last month.
As the votes continued to climb Sunday, Mayor Don Ness all but declared victory several hours before the contest ended. Ness acknowledged that title was just an online popularity contest, but credited a change in attitude for the win.
“This contest has been an effective measure of city pride and enthusiasm and people invest in cities that they are confident and optimistic about – they invest in their home, their business, their own skill sets, their careers, etc.,” Ness wrote on his Facebook page Sunday evening, well before the contest ended at 10:59 p.m. Central Time.
For too long, Ness wrote, pessimism hung over the city, with people too ready to accept that Duluth would never reach its potential.
“Is this change real?” Ness continued. “Ask yourself this question…. Do you think Duluth could have won this contest 20 years ago?”
In earlier rounds, Duluth beat out Columbia, Mo; Athens, Ohio; LaCrosse, Wis., Minneapolis and Asheville N.C.
Outside magazine asked voters which town was the best place to live if they love an active lifestyle. Duluth's boosters posted photos of Lake Superior and promoted the area's range of opportunities for activities including hiking, biking, kayaking and skiing. VoteDuluth touted the town’s “outdoor adventures within the city limits.”
Duluth is one step away from winning an online voting challenge for the best outdoorsy town in the country.
The city emerged late Sunday as one of two finalists for the championship in Outside magazine's best town contest. Now it is facing Provo, Utah for the crown.
Duluth beat Asheville, NC with 68 percent of the vote in the final four round, which ended at 11 p.m. Sunday, getting 28,371 online votes compared to 13,391.
City boosters have been promoting a vigorous #VoteDuluth campaign on social media. Mayor Don Ness has been tweeting about it. Monday morning, Sen. Amy Klobuchar put out a tweet saying: "We know @cityofduluth is a great place. Make sure everyone knows! Vote Duluth in @outsidemagazine 's Best Towns 2014!"
Throughout the contest, Duluth has typically emerged as the town with the most votes of any, but it may need to rally more clicks for the finals. In the last round, Provo got 34,981 votes to beat Ithaca, NY, which got 33,342.
The championship round goes until 10:59 p.m. Sunday.
Isaac Kolstad, the former Minnesota State University, Mankato linebacker who was critically injured in a May 11 fight, is a father again.
Kolstad’s wife, Molly, gave birth to a girl Wednesday at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, a spokesman there confirmed.
It is the same hospital where Isaac Kolstad, 24, remains hospitalized in critical condition after suffering a fractured skull and traumatic brain injury.
The Kolstads have a 3-year-old daughter.
The happy news came atop other good news this week. For the first time since being attacked, Isaac Kolstad responded to verbal commands from his neurosurgeon Tuesday, twice following directions to give a thumbs-up sign. Later that day, however, Kolstad's Caringbridge web page asked for prayers, saying there were concerns about pulmonary embolism if blood clots formed and dislodged.
Two men have been charged in the incident that left Kolstad hospitalized: Former University of Minnesota quarterback and Mankato high school football star Philip Nelson, 20, and 21-year-old Trevor Shelley, of St. Peter, Minn. A punch from Shelley allegedly knocked Kolstad unconscious. Nelson is accused of kicking Kolstad in the head as he lay on the ground.
Mayo Clinic Health System director of public affairs, Kevin Burns, said both Kolstad's wife and baby were doing well Thursday morning.