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Record snow leading to ice dams, leaking issues

Trouble in the form of icicles is hanging from eaves and rooflines across the Chippewa Valley and elsewhere in Wisconsin, posing a wave of problems caused by water that is already damaging some structures.

Record snowfall in Eau Claire and other locations in this part of the state has piled on roofs, causing collapses of barns, sheds and other buildings. Those heavy snows on top of one another (the region has received about 60 inches of snow since Feb. 1) have also caused significant ice dams at many properties, buildups that can lead to water leaks that can damage structures.

Kim Carey is experiencing an ice dam double-whammy. The ceiling of the office where she works at Bolton Refuge House, a downtown Eau Claire shelter for domestic abuse and sexual assault victims, and that of the agency’s executive director, Pat Stein, were leaking water Tuesday, thanks to ice dams along that building’s roofline.

Large icicles along the building’s north side were broken off in recent days, but the site’s southern end is nearly completely walled off by a sheet of icicles that have joined together and resemble frozen waterfalls.

“When you look at that wall of ice,” Carey said of the building’s north end, “it’s amazing ... When you look out the windows on that side, all you see are these giant icicles.”

Icicles at the site are dripping from melting snow on the Bolton House roof, she said, and leading to ice and water under the snow, which then flows toward the building and leaks inside.

Carey’s Eau Claire home is being impacted by melting icicles as well, she said. A similar phenomenon there has prompted leaking water that is damaging parts of the house, including a hickory wood floor installed just two years ago.

“You can hear this pop, pop, pop,” Carey said, “and then you see that the wood floor is buckling. It’s really sad to see.”

Other homeowners and owners of commercial buildings said they’re experiencing similar ice-induced troubles. Eau Claire resident Pam Swanpole pointed to giant icicles lining one side of her northside home as the likely culprit of water leaking through a ceiling inside.

“We cleaned off snow up above the eaves as best we could,” she said of a recent effort to clear some snow from her home’s roof, “but we still have the problem.”

The plethora of icicles has meant busy times for roofers and other building contractors who remove snow and ice dams. Stacia Moreland, office manager with Chem Master Carpet Cleaning and Restoration of Eau Claire, said the company has been flooded with calls from homeowners and businesses seeking to have snow cleared and ice dams removed. Chem Master removes snow from roofs and uses steamers to thaw ice dams.

During one recent day, the company placed 31 callers seeking those services on a waiting list because demand outstripped the number of available workers. Moreland said she has referred callers to other providers so they can receive service as promptly as possible.

“We are getting so many calls for this,” Moreland said Tuesday. “The phone just keeps ringing.”

That has been the case for other businesses offering to clear roofs and melt ice dams as well. Ken Attinger, head of operations for Eau Claire-based TEK Roofing, said he recently was receiving calls from homeowners seeking snow and ice dam removal services about every five minutes.

The company is a commercial contractor but has been assisting homeowners with those tasks as much as possible because of the high demand, he said.

“We’re doing what we can because we know the community needs the help,” Attinger said.

Because of that need, those whose buildings aren’t already leaking water are placed on a waiting list, he said.

“If you’re not leaking right now, you’re not going to be a priority for a week or two,” he said.

Leak issues

Swanpole’s roof-clearing effort is exactly what experts recommend when it comes to preventing ice dams. Ridding snow from roofs is one way to prevent ice dams and icicles from happening, they said.

Ice dams are ridges of ice that form along roof edges and prevent melting snow from draining. The water that backs up behind such dams can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas.

Those dams tend to form when the portion of the roof over an attic becomes warm enough to melt the underside of the layer of snow on a roof. Water trickles between the layer of snow and shingles until it reaches the eaves, which stay cold because they extend beyond the side of the house. There, water freezes, gradually growing into an ice mound.

Dams and icicles that subsequently form can damage gutters, siding and shingles, then provide a means of water leaking into structures. Dislodging icicles from roofs can allow more snowmelt to drain, Attinger said, but large icicles can damage siding or windows as they fall.

Removing ice dams from rooflines can be problematic, he said, because doing so often damages shingles. Hiring a crew to use steamers to do that work is a preferred method, he said, but that price tag totals hundreds of dollars or more and is not affordable for many.

Oftentimes the most practical option may be to remove snow from a building’s eaves so as temperatures warm melting snow can flow more easily from roofs and not be impeded by ice dams, he said.

With temperatures expected to reach the mid-30s this weekend, Attinger and Moreland said they’re concerned about melting snow resulting in more icicles, ice dams and leaks. Carey said she’s worried too.

“When it gets warmer, I fear a lot of other people are going to have water problems too,” she said.


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New York Times best-selling author talks about girls and sex

Although women report feeling entitled to sexual exploration now more than they ever have before, they don’t necessarily feel entitled to enjoy sex, a New York Times best-selling author told a crowd Tuesday night at UW-Eau Claire.

“As parents, teachers, advocates and activists, we have raised a generation of girls to have a voice, to expect egalitarian treatment in the home, in the classroom, in the workplace,” Peggy Orenstein said during her presentation titled “Girls & Sex: Navigating a Complicated New Landscape.” “Now it’s time to demand that intimate justice in their personal lives as well.”

The talk, which was part of the university’s Forum lecture series, was based on Orenstein’s 2016 book of the same title. “Girls & Sex” focuses on research Orenstein conducted about girls and their sexuality. For three years, she interviewed women ages 15 to 20 about their sexual experiences, though she largely focused on current college students or college-bound students.

Despite the fact that many of these girls appeared to be confident of their intelligence and success, Orenstein found that same confidence did not apply to their bodies. That stems from a lot of societal factors, Orenstein said, including a media culture dominated by what’s considered “hot,” mythologies created by the porn industry and the “hookup” culture on college campuses and in social media.

Now, women feel simultaneous, conflicting feelings of a right and a pressure to be considered hot or sexy from the perspective of men.

“For girls today that idea of ‘hot’ is often sold as a form — and often the ultimate form — of personal power, self expression and confidence,” Orenstein said.

So when their bodies don’t align with what’s promoted in the media and pornography, women don’t feel they’re good enough. And that then impacts their ability to enjoy sexual encounters, Orenstein said.

That idea of body shame and women expecting less from their sexual experiences also stems from the way young girls are taught about their bodies, Orenstein said. Starting in infancy, parents are more likely to name baby boys’ body parts, while parents of baby girls “go right from naval to knees, and they leave this whole situation in here unnamed.”

“There’s no better way to make something unspeakable than not to name it,” Orenstein said.

Instead, parents should educate young girls about their bodies and sex, Orenstein said, while also emphasizing that although sex has risks it’s natural, should be enjoyable and it isn’t like what’s portrayed in media and porn.

“I want (girls) to see sexuality as a source of self-knowledge, creativity and communication, despite its potential risks. I want them to be able to revel in their bodies’ sensuality without being reduced to it,” Orenstein said. “I want them to be able to ask for what they want in bed, and to get it. I want them to be safe from disease, unwanted pregnancy, cruelty, dehumanization, violence. If they are assaulted, I want them to have recourse from their schools, their employers, the courts. It’s a lot to ask, but it’s not too much.”


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10-year-old girl deemed incompetent; homicide case placed on hold

CHIPPEWA FALLS — A 10-year-old girl accused of stomping on a six-month-old boy Jaxon Hunter on Oct. 30, causing his death two days later, has been deemed incompetent to stand trial, causing the homicide case to be suspended indefinitely.

Dunn County Judge James Peterson made the ruling Tuesday in Chippewa County Court after hearing from two psychologists who have interviewed the girl in recent months.

Peterson agreed with psychologist Deborah Collins that it is possible the girl could become competent within the next year, so he ordered she be re-examined on a quarterly basis. Peterson set up a return date for July 3 to see if the girl has been found competent at that time.

The girl will remain in the custody of the Department of Human Services for at least the next year.

Assistant attorney general Richard Dufour, who is prosecuting the case, said it is likely the girl will eventually be committed to deal with her mental health issues.

The girl sat quietly throughout the lengthy hearing, but she did speak when asked if she understood what was occurring in court. Dufour noted the girl proved in court she had the ability to control her behavior with no violent outburst.

“We haven’t seen that in court,” Dufour told Peterson. “We’ve been here two-and-a-half hours.”

Both psychologists testified via phone conferencing for about one hour each, and they agreed that the girl was incompetent at this time. They both filed competency reports that were immediately sealed by Peterson.

Defense attorney Laurie Osberg presented psychologist Michael Caldwell, who said the girl is unlikely to become competent in the next year, and added it could take many years. Dufour asked Caldwell if he believes any 10-year-old should be tried in adult court.

“Personally, I think it’s a bad situation when a 10-year-old has to be in an adult system,” Caldwell replied.

Collins diagnosed the girl with post-traumatic stress disorder and disruptive mood {span}dysregulation{/span} disorder, causing her to self-injure herself and be prone to outbursts. The girl is also “struggling with a depressed mood,” Collins said. The girl has a history of below-average cognitive ability and suffers from a lack of consistent formal education.

“She is substantially lacking in her mental capacity, and in her ability to assist counsel,” Collins said.

Collins added that the girl had “trauma early in her life,” displayed emotional problems, and couldn’t regulate her emotions. The girl had been placed in foster care in 2017 because of issues involving her parents, Collins said.

However, with treatment and education, Collins believes it is likely the girl can be deemed competent in the next year.

Caldwell outlined the same concerns in his testimony, saying her “home environment was less than optimal” and that “she missed a lot of (school) days going back to when she was in kindergarten.” Caldwell said she easily became agitated and anxious.

Osberg said it became clear during Peterson’s questioning of the girl that the girl didn’t understand what was entirely happening.

“I don’t believe she is capable of answering the court’s questions,” Osberg said.

The Department of Justice is handling prosecution of the case, after Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell recused himself. Hunter’s father, Nate Liedl, was an employee in the clerk of court’s office at the time, which created a conflict of interest.

Jaxon was born April 6. He was at a daycare, which also serves as a foster home, in the town of Tilden on Oct. 30 when the 10-year-old girl — who lived there as a foster child — was alone inside the house while everyone else was playing outside. The girl told authorities she panicked after dropping the baby, and then she stomped on his head when he began to cry.

Jaxon was transferred to a hospital in Minnesota, where he died Nov. 1 — two days after the attack.

The girl appeared in Chippewa County’s adult court Nov. 5 on a charge of first-degree intentional homicide by someone age 10 or older. She was ordered to be held on a $50,000 cash bond and be placed in a secure detention center.