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News from the week of January 8, 2003

2002 weather was predictably unpredictable

When it came to weather, 2002 was a year of extremes. There were extreme highs, extreme lows—and some in-betweens.

It was again a wet year in Southwest Minnesota, as 27.65 inches of precipitation were recorded in Tracy. Though not as rainy as 2001, when nearly 30 inches of rain fell, 2002 precipitation was about two inches above historical averages.

In 2000, precipitation totaled 27.13 inches. 1999 was a dry year, with only 20.67 inches of precipitation recorded. Precipitation levels were normal in 1998 and 1997, when 25.81 and 25.53 inches of rain were recorded.

2002 year started out with above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation during the month of January, according to data recorded in Tracy and at the Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton.

The average high for the month was 32 degrees in Tracy, and 33 in Lamberton, compared to the historic average high of 22. The average low was also considerably higher—14 in Tracy compared to the historic average of 2 degrees. The highest temperature recorded in Tracy during the month was a balmy 55 degrees on Jan. 25, with the coldest temperature an overnight low of –4 on Jan. 2.

Spring seemed to come early in February, when temperatures were again well above average. The average high for the month was 37 degrees in Tracy, and 39 at SWROC. The historic average high for the month is 28 degrees.

But during a month when there's traditionally at least one good snowstorm, only .2 inches of precipitation were recorded in Tracy. The only significant snowfall came early in the month, when two inches fell. Warm temperatures in the 40s and 50s soon melted what little snow there was, however, much to the dismay of winter sports enthusiasts.

The year ended on an unseasonably warm and dry note. The average high in Tracy was 35, eight degrees above the historic average. The average low was 17, nine degrees above normal.

Hopes for a white Christmas were wiped out, as precipitation was again virtually nonexistent for the month. Only a quarter of an inch was recorded in Tracy, with no significant snowfall to speak of. Average precipitation for December is just over half an inch.

Orthopedics specialist sees Tracy patients

A new orthopedics specialist is now seeing patients for Shetek Medical Services.

Dr. Paul Liebert is scheduled to see patients in Tracy, Westbrook and Slayton at least twice a month. The orthopedics specialist saw his first patients at the Tracy Hospital outreach center and the Westbrook Health Center Monday. Dr. Liebert is also accepting appointments for Jan. 20 in Slayton.

Dr. Liebert succeeds Dr. William Bell of Sioux Falls, who decided last fall to discontinue area outreach visits. October was the last time Dr. Bell saw patients in Tracy.

Dr. Liebert practices through the Center for Specialty Care, which has clinics in Fairmont, Blue Earth, and New Ulm. A graduate of the Medical College of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, PA., Dr. Liebert has 22 years experience in orthopedic surgery. He completed a four-year orthopedic residency at Cleveland Clinic Hospital, and is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Liebert and his family live in Philadelphia. He commutes to Minnesota for his Center for Specialty Care work.

A nurse practitioner from the Center for Specialty Care is assisting Dr. Liebert with his local appointments. The nurse practitioner—Dawn E. Pedersen, C-FNP—will also see Shetek Medical Services patients on an additional two Mondays a month. The combination will provide Tracy, Westbrook, and Slayton hospitals and clinics with orthopedic services on a weekly basis.

Shetek Medical Services includes Tracy Area Medical Services, Murray County Memorial Hospital (Slayton), and Westbrook Health Center.

Hannasch leaves hands-on legacy

Four years ago, Claire Hannasch attended a bank auction for Tracy's only mobile home park. The park had fallen on hard times, and Hannasch, the newly-elected mayor of Tracy, was worried it would close.

When no other viable buyer stepped forward, Hannasch unexpectedly put in a bid. He went home the owner of a mobile home court.

Today, the spruced up and renamed Cedar Lane Mobile Home Park is home to 20 families, up from the five tenants that existed in 1999. Time has also marched on for the mayor. His four-year term ends next week.

The mobile home park purchase typifies what many describe as Hannasch's hands-on style of leadership. Since taking office in 1999, Hannasch has regularly attended many of the city's advisory boards meetings. He often touches base with city department heads. The mayor is also a member of both the Economic Development Authority and the Tracy Area Medical Service advisory board.

Next week, Hannasch hands over the mayor's gavel to Steve Ferrazzano.

“It's been a real great experience,” Hannasch says. “I've enjoyed working for the city and representing the people as their mayor. My main interest has been to help Tracy grow.” He says he has gained respect for how efficiently the City of Tracy provides services to its citizens.

The mayor, who did not file for re-election, wishes Ferrazzano well.

“A change of leadership is good. It brings new ideas to the table. Steve will do a good job. He's got a lot of enthusiasm and is proud to be a member of the Tracy community. That's is what it takes.”

City Administrator Audrey Koopman says she will miss Hannasch. She calls him “the most progressive and hands-on” mayor she has ever worked under.

“He has had a vision of what he wants for this community's future, and he has done what he could to see that carried out.” Hannasch, who she credited with almost unshakable positive attitude, gave tremendous amounts of personal time to the mayor's job, Koopman said.

“He had his hand on the heartbeat of the city.”

Tracy is home.

Surgery risk pays off with weight loss

But gastric bypass isn't for everyone, woman advises

For Sheila Leonard, the choice was clear. Take the risk and have the surgery or risk not being around to see her grandchildren grow up.

Having struggled with weight problems for years, the effects had obviously taken their toll on her body. She'd already undergone bypass surgery following a heart attack. Simple things most people take for granted, such as getting up out of a chair or rolling over in bed, were a chore.

“I was getting to the point where I couldn't walk up and down the stairs to my office and carry my briefcase,” she said. “I thought, I can't live this way.” Her children urged her to take better care of herself. She had already tried every diet in the book to take the weight off. Nothing worked. “I have absolutely no willpower when it comes to food,” she admits.

Faced with surgery to correct a severe naval hernia, Leonard was told about the option of gastric bypass. Her doctor told her that he could fix the hernia, but at her current weight, it would rupture again. He said both surgeries could be done at the same time, and a number of other problems that stemmed from previous surgeries could be fixed as well. Leonard wasn't led blindly into the surgery. She was required to see a dietitian and psychologist beforehand, and attended group counseling sessions with others considering gastric bypass.

Along with the medical risks, Leonard had to weigh the financial impact as well. “It's expensive,” she said. But Leonard was able to pre-approve the surgery through her insurance company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which paid for the majority of the costs accrued.

After examining all her options, she decided that, for her, the benefits definitely outweighed the risks. “For me, it was, if you don't do this, you're not going to be here anyway.”

Twisters hosting dance event

The Tracy Area High School Twister dance team is hosting a 10-team competition this Saturday, Jan. 11, in Tracy.

Doors open at Tracy Area High School at 10:30 a.m. Competition gets underway at noon.

Between 12-15 routines will be performed in two categories, Jazz Funk and High Kick.

The Twisters will perform twice, presenting routines in both the Jazz Funk and High Kick categories. The Jazz Funk routine will be one of the first to be performed that day, while the High Kick routine will be one of the last.

The competition is the Twisters' main fund-raiser of the year, said coach Vicki Vandendriessche. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children ages 12 and under.

Concessions and T-shirts will be on sale throughout the day.

National FFA officers visit Tracy

Two national FFA officers were in Tracy Tuesday, to speak with local chapter members.

Dustin Clark, of Waxahache, Texas; and Julie Tyson, of Alliance, Ohio, spoke to Tracy FFA members about leadership skills and teamwork.

Paul Skoglund, Tracy FFA advisor, said the visit by national FFA officers was a great honor for the chapter, and a great experience for students. He said he didn't know when a national FFA officer had last visited Tracy.

“It is a big deal to be a national FFA officer,” Skoglund said.

Clark and Tyson are two of only six national FFA officers. Their Tracy appearance was part of a weeklong tour to Minnesota. The pair also visited FFA chapters in Tyler and Marshall Tuesday. They were elected to office in November, at the national FFA convention in Louisville, Kentucky.

Both are college students. Clark is enrolled at Texas A&M. Tyson is a student at Ohio State. Both are regional vice presidents for the national FFA.

Two state FFA officers accompanied the national officers: Kristie Ploehn of Jackson, and Beth Lauwagie of Winthrop. Both are students at the University of Minnesota, where they are majoring in agriculture education.