It’s not unusual for airports to report instrument flight conditions, in which it’s legal to take off and land only if a flight is operated under instrumental flight rules. But it is unusual for the conditions to exist on an otherwise sunny day.

The smoke from the Saskatchewan wildfires came pouring into Minnesota today, closing several airports to flights operated under visual flight rules (VFR).

In the Twin Cities at the moment, VFR flight — landing and departing — is prohibited at downtown St. Paul, Flying Cloud, Anoka, and Crystal Airports where the smoke has lowered the visibility to a little more than a mile. Under FAA rules, pilots who aren’t instrument rated must have at least 3 miles visibility.

Visibility is barely at minimums at St. Cloud, Minn., Duluth, Red Wing, Minn., Lakeville and South St. Paul.

The smoke has no effect, however, at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Airline flights are all operated under instrument flight rules.

Here’s what it looks like at the source:


(Video link)

You’ve got to like a bear with spunk.

One of the three bears (insert obvious joke here) in the Minnesota Zoo’s “Russia’s Grizzly Coast” exhibit picked up a rock and repeatedly slammed it against a window pane until it cracked, the Star Tribune reports.

Robin Ficker, who was visiting from Maryland, said the bears were wrestling a little after 9 a.m. when one of them picked up the rock and went all grizzly.

No one was hurt. The exhibit was closed.

The perpetrator was identified as Kenai.

“He didn’t know what he was doing. He was just being a bear,” the zoo’s animal collections manager, Tony Fisher, told the paper.

We’re seeing the first images of the flooding along the Kinnickinnic River near River Falls, Wis., where almost 7 inches of rain fell early this morning.

The Kinnickinnic is one of the premier trout streams, partly because of its crystal clear water. For now, that’s not the case.

Matthew Tucker, who took some of these pictures, says he was standing in shin-deep water yesterday. Today it would be over his head, he tweeted.

Update 12:35 p.m.: National Weather Service says Kinnickinnic has crested:

Minnesota has its political flaws, to be sure. Most of its important legislation is cut in back-room deals and we find out well after the fact that somehow, someway, an Iron Range lawmaker got a million dollars to replace an outhouse in the middle of nowhere.

Sometimes lawmakers vote for things without having a clue what the impact is and sometimes the impact is tragic, but for the most part their lack of vision is out in the open for most of us to see if we want to take a look. Read more