Nearly week of frigid temperatures for West
DENVER (AP) - A deep freeze gripping parts of the West and Midwest has cancelled Salvation Army bell ringing and holiday parties in Minnesota and forced much of the rest of the country to deal with unexpectedly cool temperatures.
The cold is expected to remain into next week, with lows dipping to minus 30 in parts of Montana and Wyoming.
Citrus growers in California's Central Valley said Wednesday that temperatures haven't dipped low enough to cause any damage. But they continue to take precautions.
The jet stream is much farther south than normal, allowing cold air from the Arctic to reach deeper into the country.
A new storm is expected to develop in New Mexico and west Texas on Thursday and move into Oklahoma and Missouri on Friday. Ice could develop and cause power outages.
Ore. road conditions halt megaload for 2nd night
PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - Wintry highway conditions in northeast Oregon have halted a megaload of oil refinery equipment for a second night.
The giant rig parked south of Pendleton early Tuesday after pulling out of the Port of Umatilla on Monday night.
A storm that blanketed area roads in snow and ice kept it from moving Tuesday night.
Holly Zander, a spokeswoman for moving company Omega Morgan, says the weather is improving but the driving team decided to stay parked Wednesday night as well due to road conditions ahead.
The shipment is bound for the tar sands oil region of western Canada.
The load is 22 feet wide and 380 feet long, so the state of Oregon has limited its travel to night hours.
The trip has drawn protests from environmentalists and Umatilla tribal members. Protesters kept the rig from moving Sunday night.
IDAHO POWER OUTAGE
Power restored to 53,000 E. Idaho customers
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) - Rocky Mountain Power officials say electricity has been restored to more than 53,000 customers in southeastern Idaho.
Earlier Wednesday, a technical problem at one of the utility's substations near Firth caused an outage that effected customers across the region.
Spokesman David Eskelsen says the company was required to disrupt service to about 49,000 Idaho customers shortly after 5 a.m. Wednesday. Additionally Bonneville Power asked the Fall River Rural Electric Cooperative to cut power to half of its customers in the Teton, Island Park and West Yellowstone, Mont., areas.
Many schools affected by the outage were closed as was the Idaho Falls Senior Center. Warming shelters were opened in Rexburg, Rigby, Ammon and Idaho Falls.
Fall River asked customers to continue conserving energy so the region wouldn't face rolling blackouts.
MISSING MONTANA TEACHER-TRIAL
Mont. murder trial delayed for competency tests
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A state judge has delayed a January trial in the killing of an eastern Montana teacher after state health officials requested more time to conduct a competency evaluation on the defendant.
District Judge Richard Simonton did not set a new trial date in his Wednesday order.
Defendant Michael Keith Spell of Parachute, Colo., could face the death sentence if convicted in the January 2012 murder of Sidney High School teacher Sherry Arnold.
Spell's attorneys say he is not fit for trial because of mental disabilities. He was admitted to Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs last month.
Simonton's order extends Spell's stay at the institution until mid-January.
Co-defendant Lester Van Waters, Jr., pleaded guilty under a deal with prosecutors. He has not yet been sentenced.
Former Mont. legislator named HHS regional head
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has appointed former Montana state Sen. Kim Gillan to lead a six-state region.
The Billings Democrat will be HHS' director of Region VIII, which includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.
Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says Gillan was chosen because of her experience in public service and her involvement in health-related policy initiatives.
Gillan said Wednesday she will be based in Denver and will begin her new duties next month.
The 61-year-old Gillan served 16 years in the Montana Legislature. She lost to Republican Steve Daines in the 2012 election for Montana's only U.S. House seat.
She was previously an energy analyst and business consultant and helped devise training programs to prepare women prisoners to re-enter the workforce.
Worker dies in Montana precious metals mine
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Stillwater Mining Co. says a 45-year-old worker has died from unknown causes after being found unconscious at the company's precious metals mine near Nye.
The Billings-based company released a short statement Wednesday identifying the victim as Mike Rued, who had worked for Stillwater since 2007.
The company says Rued was found unconscious underground late Tuesday evening and could not be resuscitated by first responders.
Regulators from the Mine Safety and Health Administration were at the mine Wednesday.
Further details were not immediately available.
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