Bad weather hits N.Y., rolls unusually in Illinois

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Heavy snow and gusting wind in the East and Midwest closed schools, toppled tractor-trailers and created the rare phenomenon of snow "rollers" blowing across fields in Illinois.

Up to 6 inches of snow and wind gusting to 48 mph in western New York on Wednesday closed schools and prompted authorities to restrict travel as blowing snow cut visibility and caused numerous accidents.

More than 100 schools were closed from Buffalo to Syracuse, about 150 miles to the east.

The storm in New York followed wind-driven snow that created hazardous conditions Tuesday in the Midwest.

Wind gusting to 75 mph toppled utility poles and blew over at least nine tractor-trailer rigs in Iowa.

In Illinois, Tuesday's high wind was blamed for power outages that blacked out some 17,500 customers in the Chicago area and around Peoria, Commonwealth Edison said. Service was restored Wednesday morning.

Some areas saw a rare weather phenomenon where snowballs form naturally and roll through fields like tumbleweeds. Meteorologists call them "rollers" and say they can range from the size of a golf ball to a 30-gallon drum.

Suspect in mailbox bomb cases gets more tests

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- A former college student accused of placing bombs in rural mailboxes in five states won the right Wednesday to undergo more psychological tests that could help with his insanity defense.

Luke Helder, 21, of Pine Island, Minn., has already undergone a battery of tests given by prosecution and defense experts.

The former University of Wisconsin-Stout student told authorities after his arrest in Nevada that he had chosen the mailboxes to outline a "smiley face" on the map.

Public defender Jane Kelly said in a motion requesting the additional tests that she is concerned about Helder's ability to understand the charges against him and to assist in his defense.

Federal prosecutors did not object to the motion, which was granted by U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett.

Kelly had said last year that she would use the insanity defense.

Daycare workers in N.Y. stage one-day strike

NEW YORK -- Teachers and directors at 358 city-funded day-care centers walked off the job in a one-day strike Wednesday, forcing parents of some 50,000 children to either take time off themselves or make other arrangements.

The walkout was called to press the workers' demand for a raise -- a goal Noel Lawlor supports even though she had to ask her sister to watch her 4-year-old son, Dameon.

District Council 1707 and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, which represents the centers' directors and assistant directors, are demanding a 4 percent annual raise, comparable to what other municipal workers have received in recent contracts.

Union officials said daycare teachers and administrators earn about $27,000 to $39,000 a year. Public school teachers start at $39,000.

Search for missing paper carrier turns up body

GERING, Neb. -- Authorities searching for a 15-year-old girl who disappeared while delivering newspapers recovered a body Wednesday, and the girl's sister said it was the missing paper carrier.

Scotts Bluff County Sheriff's Deputy Ray Huffman confirmed that a body had been found but would not say if it was Heather Guerrero.

Her older sister, Elise Guerrero, told Scottsbluff radio station KNEB Wednesday that Heather's body had been found about noon at an abandoned house by Lake Minatare, about 12 miles from her home.

Heather was last seen before 6 a.m. Tuesday when she began her paper route. Her parents called police about an hour later when she didn't return home. Police chief Mel Griggs has said witnesses saw a car speeding from the area.

--From wire reports

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