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Powerful storm disrupts nation's busiest travel weekend

A powerful storm making its way east from California is causing major disruptions during the year’s busiest travel weekend, as forecasters warned that intensifying snow and ice could thwart millions of people across the country hoping to get home after Thanksgiving.

The storm caused the death of at least one person in South Dakota and shut down highways in the western U.S., stranding drivers in California and prompting authorities in Arizona to plead with travelers to wait out the weather before attempting to travel.

The storm was expected to track east through the weekend, pummeling a huge portion of the country with snow, ice or flash flooding.

Cody Bashore 

Street signs are covered in snow in north Flagstaff, Ariz., Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. A powerful storm making its way east from California is threatening major disruptions during the year's busiest travel weekend, as forecasters warned that intensifying snow and ice could thwart millions across the country hoping to get home after Thanksgiving. The storm has already killed at least one person and shut down highways in the western U.S., stranding drivers in California and prompting authorities in Arizona to plead with travelers to wait out the weather before attempting to travel. (Cody Bashore/Arizona Daily Sun via AP)

The National Weather Service said travel could become impossible in some places.

The weather could be particularly disruptive on Sunday, when millions of holiday travelers head home. Airlines for America, the airline industry’s trade group, expects 3.1 million passengers during what could be the busiest day ever recorded for American air travel.

The weather service issued storm warnings Friday for a swath of the country stretching from Montana to Nebraska to Wisconsin, with heavy snow anticipated in parts of Utah, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.

Strong winds gusting to 90 mph were possible in mountains and foothills, and could reach 65 mph in the Plains, creating poor visibility.

One hopeful traveler asked the weather service Friday on Twitter whether it would be advisable to drive to Duluth, Minnesota, over the weekend. The agency warned: “If you are in Duluth by tonight, you will likely be stuck there until at least Sunday afternoon due to heavy snow and blizzard conditions.”

Northern Michigan University reopened its residence halls, two days earlier than normal for a Thanksgiving weekend, to give students more options as forecasters predicted a foot or more of snow.

“We want to make people aware of what they could be driving into,” campus police Chief Mike Bath said.

The airline industry group estimated a record 31.6 million people will travel over a 12-day holiday period.

Sections of South Dakota were under a blizzard warning and could see howling winds and as much as 2 feet of snow.

Authorities reported a fatal crash after a driver lost control of his pickup on an ice-covered road. A 37-year-old passenger died after the truck slid into a ditch and rolled. The driver and one other passenger survived.

The South Dakota Highway Patrol posted a photo on Facebook of another crash — a semi-truck that veered from Interstate 90 near Rapid City. “Do not travel if you don’t have to!” the agency wrote.

Karlee Wilkinson, a 22-year-old college student in Long Beach, California, missed a Thanksgiving weekend gathering entirely because of snow on the way to her destination.

She, her girlfriend and her roommate left Thursday for what was supposed to be a two-hour drive. But the snow started falling in flakes bigger than she’d ever seen, the highway became gridlocked, and their car kept overheating.

At first it seemed like an adventure: They made snowmen in the highway median. But when the sun set, the temperature dropped, and they decided to turn around and head home.

Their Thanksgiving dinner was chicken nuggets from a fast food drive-thru.

“This is not how this is supposed to go, this is not what an American Thanksgiving is supposed to be,” Wilkinson said. “It can only get better than this. I’ll never have a worse Thanksgiving, knock on wood.”

Festival starts Christmas season in Minden

MINDEN — David Williams of Plymouth, Illinois, was visiting his mother in Gibbon over the holiday when he looked for area activities for the family and came across Minden’s Christmas Traditions Festival.

He brought his children — Drake, 8, Lily, 6, and Quinn, 6 — for photos with Santa, a free movie at the Minden Opera House, and carnival games at the Minden Mall. Children tossed rings on reindeer antlers, threw “snowballs” at targets on a snowman, tried fishing in ice holes, and more.

Drake enjoyed a game of Plinko the most, while Quinn said her favorite was tossing “marshmallows” into a giant cardboard cup of hot chocolate.

David said he was surprised he hadn’t heard of Minden’s holiday festival before, especially since he had visited his mother previously.

“We were trying to find local stuff to do,” he said. “This is pretty good.”

They planned to cap the evening with the crowning of Miss Christmas City and the igniting of the downtown holiday lights. The downtown parade scheduled to follow the lighting event was cancelled due to the weather forecast.

The Rankin family from Omaha was disappointed to hear the parade had been cancelled, but found the carnival to be a fun and relaxing time to spend with family. They were spending the holidays with family in Minden and went to the children’s carnival for the fourth year in a row.

Shannon Rankin said her children — Logan, 8, and Elena, 5 — almost think of their Minden cousins — McKinley Seagelke, 9, and Carter Seagelke, 4, — as siblings. On Thursday, they all played in the snow, but Friday was too wet and cold for that. The carnival provided an indoor activity for the kids.

“It was nice to get them out,” Shannon said. “What better way to spend the holidays than with family. It’s small-town fun.”

David and Jaylynn Graham of Minden brought their children, Josie, 7, and Sophie, 4.

Jaylynn said this is the second year the family has attended the Christmas Traditions festival and they enjoy having the activity for the children.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Cooper Grams of Campbell plays a snow dice game at the children’s carnival during the Minden Christmas Traditions Festival Friday.

“It’s a nice little tradition,” she said. “It gets them in the Christmas spirit.”

After finishing the games, children and their parents were invited to enjoy hot chocolate and cookies. Attendees who participated in all the carnival’s offerings could enter their names in for a drawing of prizes at the downtown lighting ceremony.

Kathi Schultz, administrator of the Minden Chamber of Commerce, said the prizes were all donated from area businesses, but there were extra prizes this year thanks to an anonymous donation. Every child who were entered into the drawing was also given a gift bag.

“No one goes out empty-handed,” she said.

Volunteers helped run the games through the event.

Conner Ramsey, 13, of Minden was recruited by his mother to help run the Plinko board. His friend Alex Alkire, 13, of Minden was also at Conner’s house and agreed to help too.

Alex said he has participated in the carnival himself when he was younger and it was nice to be able to give back. He said the festival is a good way to bring the community together for a fun time.

“All the prizes are donated, so that’s cool,” he said. “It’s great the community has helped us build this up.”

The day’s activities ended with the crowning of Miss Christmas City on the opera house balcony, followed by the lights around the courthouse and downtown streets being lit for the first time of the season.

On Saturday, activities will continue with “Family Fun Under the Lights” on the east side of the square with an escape room and the Christmas Train will be open from 1-4 p.m. Reservations for groups of up to six people for the escape room can be made online at www.mindenne.org.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Molly Leising, 5, of Arapahoe plays a Grinch-themed game Friday at the children’s carnival during the Minden Christmas Traditions Festival.

Saturday will bring the season’s first performance of “The Light of the World,” the traditional Christmas pageant staged on the north and west sides of the square at 7 p.m. The 30-minute performance includes a cast of local volunteers with sound piped through the square on a public address system. People attending should dress for the weather and bring blankets and/or lawn chairs if they wish.

Subsequent pageant performances are 7 p.m. on Sunday and Dec. 8. Pageant admission is free.

Other festival events will include a holiday art, craft and vendor fair from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 7 at the Minden Mall and Minden Opera House; the Christmas City 5k Run/Walk and Little Elves half-mile run the morning of Dec. 7; the Minden Rotary pancake feed the morning of Dec. 7; a Christmas City Tap Takeover on Nov. 30 and Dec. 7 at Breakaway Bar and Grill, 305 N. Minden Ave. and other participating establishments; and gift wrapping and a bake sale by the women of Holy Family Catholic Church in Heartwell from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 8 at the opera house.

More information on the holiday season in Minden is available on the Minden Chamber of Commerce website, www.mindenne.org, or from the chamber office at 308-832-1811, or the Minden Opera House website, www.mindenoperahouse.com.

Council discusses bidding again after receiving just one bid for several items

Having received just one bid each for three items pertaining to the city landfill department, members of the Hastings City Council again discussed during their meeting Monday the city’s bidding process.

Council members discussed the bidding process during their March work session after receiving only one bid for a loader.

Councilman Butch Eley asked that the council discuss the city’s bidding process at that time.

Early in his tenure in Hastings, City Engineer Dave Wacker worked to standardize the city’s bidding process. Bid notices now are available on the city’s website as well as in the Hastings Tribune.

Bidders fill out the planholder’s submittal form for active bids on a link through the engineering department’s page on the city’s website.

Councilman Chuck Rosenberg raised objections Monday because the council received a single bid each for an alternate daily cover tarp machine, heavy-duty industrial horizontal wood waste grinder and a tracked waste handler dozer.

Purchase of the tarp machine, which covers daily waste at the solid waste landfill, was unanimously approved because of the uniqueness of the item and because it was just $43,244.

The bid was from Southwestern Sales of Rogers, Arkansas.

The tarp machine replaces the cover machine the city had been using for about 15 years, which deployed a biodegradable film made of cornstarch at the end of each day that dissolved when new materials were added.

The manufacturer of that cover machine went out of business and the city has already used up all the replacement parts.

“We’re having to change to a different method out there,” Wacker said.

However, when the council approved accepting the single bid from Morbark LLC of Winn, Michigan, for the horizontal wood waste grinder, Rosenberg and Eley dissented.

The grinder was $927,415 — $812,415 after a $115,000 trade in value for the 2005 wood grinder the city currently uses.

The city opened bids Tuesday for tree trimming across the city.

The waste will be disposed of at the solid waste landfill.

“This is a crucial piece of equipment,” Wacker said.

Rosenberg had suggested postponing taking action on the bids for these items until the city could get more bids.

“I would never spend that kind of money without getting a second bid,” he said.

Councilwoman Ginny Skutnik said she didn’t think the city needed to wait for more bids.

“We can’t control how many bids we get in,” she said. “We, not that long ago, went through the process Mr. Wacker uses to notify and solicit bids.”

Rosenberg disagreed.

“I can go on the internet and in half an hour find six different companies that sell that same product,” he said.

He wanted the city to reach out to potential vendors.

“A lot of these vendors don’t know we’re looking for this,” he said. “If I’ve only got one bid and my bid is for a half-a-million-dollar piece of equipment, I’m going to see if I can get other bidders.”

He said he wanted to be as responsible as possible with city funds.

These landfill items are paid for from the landfill proprietary fund, which is not supported by tax dollars but user fees.

The landfill services a six-county area.

City Administrator Dave Ptak and City Attorney Clint Schukei met with Wacker before the meeting agendas were published.

“We anticipated your questions and concerns with regard to the low number of bids we received on these three items,” Ptak said.

He asked Wacker if he looked on state bid, general service administration and other entities available for municipal purchases.

Ptak said he was satisfied with the explanation he received from Wacker that Wacker did his due diligence trying to find other bidders.

“I think this is a specialized piece of equipment as far as what we’re looking at,” Ptak said of the horizontal wood waste grinder.

It would not be a wise move to rebid the wood waste grinder because the bidder’s number is already public, which would work against that bidder to bid the item again.

“Now everybody who might be interested now knows what that bidder has put out,” he said. “Who knows what that creates, if we even get an other bid or whether this bidder doesn’t bid again.”

Council members voted 5-3 to approve the purchase of the 52,000 pound waste handler dozer from NMC Cat of Doniphan, which bid $458,800 with a $106,750 trade-in for a total amount of $352,050.

Councilmen Rosenberg, Eley and Scott Snell dissented.

Rosenberg said the dozer was not a particularly specialized piece of machinery.

Several other manufacturers also sell equipment with similar specifications and availability.

“We should have at least reached out,” he said. “We have three equipment dealers in a 30-mile area, if we didn’t get a bid from all of those I’d be calling them personally.”

Superior hospital planning $21 million expansion, renovation

SUPERIOR — A $10 million Health Care Revenue Bond issue approved by the Superior City Council has cleared the way for an expected $21 million addition and renovation project at Brodstone Memorial Hospital here.

The council approved the bond issue Nov. 12. This action was taken to provide a lower interest rate for the nonprofit hospital, with the city granting its approval as a “pass-through” government entity.

The bond will be administered by the Central National Bank in Superior. There is no liability to the city, and Brodstone will be liable to pay back the loan in its entirety to the Central National Bank.

The bond issue was readily approved following a City Council public hearing.

No one appeared at that hearing to question or oppose the bond issue.

The project plans will include a remodel to the existing hospital complex and construction of an addition that will attach to the east side of the present building. B-D Construction of Kearney has been selected as the building contractor.

At this time, the project timeline remains fluid and subject to revision altough a formal ground breaking is planned for spring 2020. The site preparation work is expected to begin in mid-February.

The plan provides for 17 new patient rooms, an infusion center and an enlarged emergency room.

When this construction is completed, the present emergency room will be remodeled to serve as a freight unloading and supply storage area as well as provide for an in-facility laundry.

Currently, much of the hospital laundry is being sent out for processing. The plan is to bring that work back into the hospital, which will save time and expense currently being used for the service.

The new emergency room will be about triple the size of the present facility. It will have two separate trauma rooms and three patient rooms. If there should be a major catastrophe and the number of patients coming in at one time warrants, the seven infusion rooms located nearby can be used for emergency room overflow.

The infusion center will not be limited to chemotherapy treatment, but will be available for other medical procedures such as blood transfusions. Planners expect the infusion center also will provide space for family members who accompany patients.

The capacity of the hospital will remain at the present 25 beds. The existing eight rooms near the surgical area will be remodeled, and the 17 new rooms will be used for both swing bed and acute patients.

With an increasing number of hospital services being provided to outpatients, 17 still is the largest patient census the hospital has had in recent years.

Many areas within the present hospital structure will be remodeled. When the work is completed, the hospital will have private surgical preparation rooms for incoming patients.

“This new work must comply with newly revised hospital building codes adopted in 2018,” said Treg Vyzourek, the hospital’s administrator.

He added that among those regulations are the required space between hospital floors.

The new rooms will have the 8- to 9-foot-high ceilings common in today’s construction, but the code will require nearly 6 feet of open space above the ceilings to provide passageways for wiring and mechanical needs.

Vyzourek described the new code as an “eye opener” when considering today’s hospital construction costs.

Public forums are being planned to inform community residents about the project.

At those meetings, area residents will be able to hear from Brodstone leaders on the project, as questions and view renderings of the current plans.

The meeting schedule is as follows:

Dec. 11: Vestey Center in Superior at 3 p.m. and Superior Country Club at 6:30 p.m.

Dec.12: Nelson Community Center at 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 18: Lawrence American Legion Hall at 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 19: Edgar Community Center at 6:30 p.m.

“It is their hospital and we want them to understand why the work is necessary,” Vyzourek said of residents in Superior and the surrounding area. “Our project is about safety, privacy and security for our patients.”