No foul play in mine death, but also no answers
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Authorities say preliminary autopsy results have failed to shed more light on how a worker died underground in a Montana precious metals mine.
No foul play is suspected.
Federal mine safety regulators said Thursday that a closure order remained in effect in the area of the Stillwater platinum and palladium mine where 45-year-old Mike Rued died.
Amy Louviere with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration says the rest of the mine near Nye has been released from the order.
Rued was found unresponsive in the Stillwater Mining Co. mine late Tuesday.
Stillwater County Undersheriff Charles "Chip" Kem says the cause of death could not be determined based on initial autopsy results. Kem says it could take several weeks for the results of toxicological tests to come back.
Record low temperature set in Great Falls, Denton
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A National Weather Service meteorologist says the cold snap hitting much of the West has set or matched record low temperatures in parts of Montana.
Dave Bernhardt says temperatures in Great Falls were recorded at minus 22 on Wednesday and minus 26 early Thursday. Both readings broke records going back to 1972 and 1980.
Denton also set a record at minus 23 Thursday morning and Havre's minus 27 reading matched a record that has stood since 1936.
Bernhardt says temperatures dropped below minus 30 degrees overnight in places along the Hi-Line, the Little Belt Mountains and in pockets of the southern valleys.
A southerly jet stream is allowing arctic air to settle in across much of the West and Midwest. The cold snap is expected to last through the weekend.
Cold drives up number of homeless seeking shelter
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The bitter cold is driving homeless people into shelters at record numbers.
Eran Fowler-Pehan, executive director of the Poverello Center in Missoula, says 119 people checked into the center's shelter this weekend.
She says is the highest number in more than 30 years the center has operated, and similar numbers of people have shown up each night this week.
Fowler-Pehan says the shelter has beds for 68 people, but it doesn't turn anybody away.
People are left to find space on the floor for themselves and their bedrolls.
She says the center also is sending outreach teams to find homeless people and persuade them to stay indoors instead of in tents.
Frigid temperatures break pipe in Montana Capitol
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Frigid temperatures are being blamed for a frozen pipe that burst and flooded parts of the Montana State Capitol building.
A pipe burst on the first floor of the historic building near the post office early Thursday morning as temperatures fell to minus 11.
The state says there was minor flooding in the cafeteria, media rooms and some bathrooms.
Most of the building remained open for business and public meetings as workers dried the soaked areas. The state said the cafeteria will be closed for the rest of the week.
The domed Capitol building was completed in 1902 after six years of construction and has undergone renovations over the years. Historic paintings by Western artist Charles M. Russell and others were undamaged in the flooding.
SUPREME COURT-WATER DISPUTE
Mont.-Wyo. water trial wraps up after 25 days
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Attorneys have wrapped up a marathon 25-day trial in which Montana sought to prove neighboring Wyoming took too much water from the Yellowstone River basin.
An initial decision is expected in mid-2014 from the U.S. Supreme Court appointee overseeing the dispute. The high court will have the final say.
Montana claims Wyoming has violated an interstate agreement nine times since 1981 by taking more than its share of water from the Tongue River, a Yellowstone tributary. The state says that's left farmers' fields dry.
Wyoming counters that Montana officials formally requested more water only twice. In both instances, attorneys for Wyoming argue that there was no clear evidence of harm.
Farmers and ranchers on both sides of the border are dependent on the Tongue River for irrigation.
FORT BELKNAP-WATER SUPPLY
Judge signs off on Fort Belknap water plan
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A federal judge has approved a plan to fix years of problems with how the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation's drinking water has been treated and monitored.
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen on Monday approved the agreement between Department of Justice and tribal officials. It requires the tribal utility company to increase staffing levels, pay in advance the cost of operating the water-treatment plant and follow strict reporting requirements.
The tribal government was fined $1,500 for what the Environmental Protection Agency described as years of violations despite corrective orders dating back to 2004.
The EPA found the tribal government repeatedly failed to treat, report and monitor the water supply for excessive levels of bacteria, parasites and sediment.
EPA officials say the agreement has been in the works since 2009.
Search resumes for missing plane in Idaho
BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Teams on the ground and in aircraft are searching again for five people who were aboard a plane that disappeared Sunday in the mountains of central Idaho.
Crews are looking for a single-engine Beech Bonanza piloted by Dale Smith, a 51-year-old software executive from San Jose, Calif. Smith was traveling from eastern Oregon to Butte, Mont., Sunday when he reported engine trouble over Idaho's vast backcountry.
Passengers on board included Smith's son and his wife, along with Smith's daughter and her fiance.
Officials say ground crews that have been searching the backcountry rested overnight near the remote town of Yellow Pine. They will focus Thursday on drainages east of the Johnson Creek landing strip.
Commanders seeking to take advantage of clear skies are also dispatching five airplanes.
Photographer pleads guilty to 'sexting' with girl
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - A Missoula portrait photographer has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor obscenity counts for exchanging sexual text messages and photos with a 17-year-old girl for months after he took her senior pictures.
The Missoulian reports 33-year-old Dax Cody Kuehn entered his pleas Monday in Justice Court in Missoula County.
The girl told investigators that Kuehn started flirting with her when he shot her senior pictures in August 2012 and over the next several months they exchanged sexual text messages and, eventually, naked photos of each other.
Deputy County Attorney Jason Marks said the reason Kuehn wasn't charged with a felony was because no photos of the girl were found on his phones.
Marks said he will seek a probationary sentence when Kuehn is sentenced on Dec. 10.
Kuehn declined comment.
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