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Report: 96 of Iowa’s 99 counties are now drought-free

Ag/Outdoor, News, Weather

August 1st, 2014 by Ric Hanson

After a rainy June and a cool July, Iowa’s starting August almost entirely drought-free. A new report from the National Drought Mitigation Center finds only parts of three counties in far southwest Iowa are still in the very lowest level of drought. Center climatologist Brian Fuchs says all of those heavy downpours in June were a big benefit to Iowa, though they came at a cost. “Not only did we get the rain across the state but associated with that was the severe weather with a lot of wind, a lot of hail, even some tornadoes,” Fuchs says.

Iowa Drought map

Iowa Drought map

“The recovery was influenced by these storms which also brought another form of destruction. Yeah, we put a dent in the drought but we had some suffering in other areas as well.” Governor Branstad is asking President Obama to declare 22 more Iowa counties federal disaster areas from damage sustained in storms from June 26th through July 7th. Thirty-five counties statewide have already been designated federal disaster areas for earlier storms, flooding and tornadoes. While 96 of Iowa’s 99 counties are now drought-free, the latest national picture shows drought is still very much a problem for wide sections of the country.

Fuchs says, “There has been some improvement but much of that improvement has been in the Midwest and Central Plains, the area from Nebraska and Kansas and Iowa and Missouri and Illinois where we have had the abundance of moisture but in that same period, we have seen that drought developing and expanding out in the western U.S.” Drought still plagues a large portion of the country, especially the southwestern and western United States, from California and Nevada to Texas and Oklahoma.

Fuchs says, “A little over a third of the country still is seeing some drought and a little over 10% of the country is seeing extreme drought right now.” The latest survey shows parts of three southwest Iowa counties are “abnormally dry,” the lowest category on the drought monitor: Pottawattamie, Mills and Fremont.

Atlantic Fire Dept battles stubborn mattress fire


August 1st, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic Fire Department responded to a reported residential fire Thursday, at around 8:40-p.m. Crews were called to 1307 1/2 Locust Street, and when they arrived, determined  a mattress in one of the apartments at that location, was on fire. They quickly extinguished the flames, pulled the mattress outside and began to ventilate the house. Medivac Ambulance also responded to the scene, but there were no injuries reported.

Not long after crews left the scene at around 9:06-p.m., they were called back, because the smoldering mattress rekindled, and began to start the dry grass on fire. The fire trucks were back in station by around 9:20-p.m.

According to Atlantic Fire Chief Mark McNees, the fire began with a carelessly discarded cigarette. A woman who was sleeping in the apartment was awoken by a neighbor and was able to escape. Damage to the apartment was described as minimal.


July 2014 fifth coolest in past 142 years

News, Weather

August 1st, 2014 by Ric Hanson

State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says the month of July was unusually cool. “Not all the numbers are in yet, but it looks like it will probably finish up the fifth coolest July on record in Iowa and that’s among the last 142 years of data,” Hillaker says. “So fifth out of 142 is obviously pretty unusual.” In Atlantic, the Average High for the month was 78, which was eight-degrees cooler than normal. Average temperatures in July have been about four-and-a-half degrees cooler than normal.

“Which isn’t really a lot, I’d guess you’d say when you first look at it, but during the summer months we just typically don’t really have that much variability from year to year as far as summer temperatures go, so that’s pretty unusual,” Hillaker says. “Oddly enough, though, 2009 ranks as our coolest July on record, so you only have to go back five years to find a cooler one than this one.” The Average Low in Atlantic in July, was 59, which was 4 degrees below normal. Hillaker says so far, the summer of 2014 has been a “rather mild” one.

“There’s still quite a number of places over in northern and eastern Iowa that have yet to reach 90 degrees this year,” Hillaker says. “Still plenty of time for that to happen, but it hasn’t occurred yet in places like Burlington and Cedar Rapids, Mason City, Dubuque and probably a number of other places as well.” After a fairly wet June, rainfall has been sporadic and Hillaker says it’s been relatively dry for the past three to four weeks.

“Crops, for the most part, are progressing pretty well as far as seasonality, not really behind in development, so not any big negatives, I guess, on the cooler temperatures,” Hillaker says. “…We’d just like to see some more rainfall than what we’ve been getting.” In Atlantic, we received just over three-quarters of an inch of rain in July (.77”), which was slightly more than 3.9-inches below normal. Far northern Iowa is “quite a bit dry” according to Hillaker, who says the statewide average for rainfall is more than an inch below what’s normal for July.

(Radio Iowa)

Iowa early News Headlines: Fri., Aug. 1st 2014


August 1st, 2014 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Organizers of the annual Iowa by the Sea Picnic in California say they have stepped up their organizing efforts and expect a bigger crowd this year. The Sioux City Journal reports the picnic began in 1900 in Pasadena and at one time drew more than 100,000 transplanted Iowans and their families. Retired Navy and Cedar Rapids native Commander Don Swenson estimates 200 people will attend the picnic Saturday near the battleship USS Iowa in San Pedro.

MISSOURI VALLEY, Iowa (AP) — A western Iowa state park has reopened after three years of work to repair and improve the park after devastating flooding in 2011. The Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil reports the Wilson Island State Recreation Area near Missouri Valley reopens Monday morning.

LE MARS, Iowa (AP) — An Akron man has been charged with first-degree murder after Plymouth County officials say he told them he caused the death of his mother. The Le Mars Daily Sentinel reports 44-year-old Jonathon Neunaber is jailed on $100,000 bond.

LECLAIRE, Iowa (AP) — Some LeClaire residents are expressing surprise at a police sergeant’s decision to shoot and kill a pelican they had named Wilbur. The Quad-City Times reports the sergeant killed the bird July 17th after the Department of Natural Resources asked that LeClaire police check out reports the bird was diseased and aggressive. On Wednesday, LeClaire Police Chief Shane Themas said police had no choice but to kill the bird.

Hancock double celebration


July 31st, 2014 by Ric Hanson

A double celebration is happening in Hancock this weekend. The city is hosting the annual Old Settler’s Picnic while Botna Bend Park celebrates their 50th anniversary. The party begins Friday night with a free teen dance on the streets of Hancock from 7pm to 10pm with soda for sale on site. Saturday begins with a Men’s softball tournament at the ball diamond at 10am and poker run registration in the beer garden. Vince Guyer, President of the Hancock Old Settler’s Association, says he gets a kick out of the kid’s games.

“The Kid’s races are something we have done for years. There are foot races. They have a shoe kick and several other small events like that. The kids get something whether they win or not. The children really enjoy it. The shoe kick is always my favorite to watch with the kids. It is funny to watch them try and kick their shoes as far as they can.”

The kids faces are held north of the white shelter in Hancock. A dance in the beer garden with live music from ‘Mr. Hand’ finishes off Saturday’s events. On Sunday, the Old Settler’s Picnic serves a pancake breakfast in the Hancock Fire Station at 8am with church service at 10 followed by a parade, a tug of war event and more live music. The picnic finishes with a benefit auction.

If you are more of an outdoor enthusiast Botna Bend Park outside of Hancock is digging in for their 50th anniversary in conjunction with the Saturday fun during the Old Settler’s Picnic. Jon Fenner, Park Ranger at Botna Bend, says activities start at 1-pm “We’re going to have the rededication of Botna Bend Park. It will be a short presentation. We’ll have some things to look at. We’re going to offer some refreshments of root beer floats and soft pretzels, kind of a nice treat on a summer day.”
Following the rededication, visitors will be able to learn all about Botna Bend Park.

“We have Jim Pease with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is going to come out and do a river critter program at 2pm. We will have some guided walks with park staff and talk about the park and bison and elk. It will give people an idea why we exist and what we do around here and why the (Pottawattamie County) Conservation Board exists and why Botna Bend exists. We will have those on going for a couple of hours. Our environmental education staff will do some tree identification programs. They will also have some ongoing activities for kids. They are going to do a beak matching program and there is a nature quest, it’s kind of like a scavenger hunt around the park.”

All activities are free at the park. You also can access the Nishnabotna River to canoe, kayaking, raft or tube down the river or fish at the park. There are only a few openings to go down the river. If you are interested or need more information, contact the Botna Bend Park Office at 712-741-5465.

(Joel McCall/KNOD)

Birthday bash planned for one big Bull!


July 31st, 2014 by Ric Hanson

A celebration for one giant bull is happening in Audubon this weekend. Albert the Bull’s 50th birthday bash is happening in conjunction with the annual Operation T-bone Day’s. Duane Sloth, head of the T-Bone Committee, says there are some special activities planned for Friday night. “We serve hamburgers and birthday cake at Albert the Bull Park (Friday evening). After that, at 7:30 there are figure 8 races at the fairgrounds with fireworks at dusk.” A teen dance will also be held on the city park stage.

Albert the Bull

Albert the Bull

Saturday morning, T-bone days starts with a breakfast and bake sale in the memorial building, craft vendors open up as well as a 5k fun walk through the streets of Audubon. Sloth says tractors of all types are welcome to come and be on display. “We also have a tractor show at 10-am on Saturday morning. Farm tractors, show tractors, pedal tractors, garden tractors, lawn mowers, anything you want to bring in and display. We have always had a great show in the past and hopefully this one is great as well.”

The Audubon City Park will host kid’s games and food throughout the day and over the noon hour live music will be performed by several local bands. The Operation T-bone parade goes through town at 1-pm. Sloth says there is a street dance with another local band near the beer garden this evening “This year’s band for the street dance is Mason’s basement. They have been here in the past, local talent and sure to please.”

The Audubon Fire Hall hosts a big breakfast Sunday morning before taking a break until Tuesday. “The Fat Cattle auction is at the Anita Livestock Auction in Anita. This auction is open to fat cattle from surrounding areas, you do not need to be from Audubon County to participate. If you have a few fat cattle to sell, it’s an excellent place to sell fat cattle. We have all the major packer buyers there. They do a great job for us. Directly after the auction, the T-bone committee will be serving hamburgers to anyone free that shows up.”

Sloth says he hopes those that show up appreciate Albert the Bull. “It is a great tribute to the community and to the cattle industry. There is 20,000 visitors stop to see Albert the Bull every year from every where around the U.S. and foreign countries as well. It is a neat deal to have such a statue on display in our town.”

For more information on Operation T-bone Days, contact the Audubon Chamber of Commerce at 712-563-3780. See the schedule at http://www.auduboncounty.com/webres/File/county%20-%20misc/2014%20T-BoneSchedule%20.pdf

(Joel McCall/KNOD)

Glenwood Resource Center fined after incident


July 31st, 2014 by Ric Hanson

GLENWOOD, Iowa (AP) – The state Department of Human Services says a resident of the Glenwood Resource Center swallowed three batteries and had to be treated at a hospital. The agency on Thursday says it agreed to pay a $2,000 state fine because of the incident, which happened June 2 at the facility for people with intellectual disabilities. The resident was treated at a hospital before being released a few days later.

After the incident, the center notified the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals about the matter and submitted a self-correction plan. The agency on Thursday cited Glenwood for failing to provide required supervision as specified in the resident’s individual service plan.


Iowa picnic in California may draw bigger crowd


July 31st, 2014 by Ric Hanson

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Organizers of the annual Iowa by the Sea Picnic in California say they have stepped up their organizing efforts and expect a bigger crowd this year. The picnic began in 1900 in Pasadena and at one time drew more than 100,000 transplanted Iowans and their families. From the 1940s through the 1960s, Iowa governors and celebrities with Iowa roots often attended.

The Sioux City Journal reports attendance dwindled over time, and last year only about 70 people gathered. Retired Navy and Cedar Rapids native Cmdr. Don Swenson is working to change that. He helped create a picnic website and encouraged university alumni groups to send information to graduates living in California.

Swenson estimates 200 people will attend the picnic Saturday near the battleship USS Iowa in San Pedro.

EPC to consider CAFO rules at Aug. 19th meeting in Des Moines

Ag/Outdoor, News

July 31st, 2014 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES – The Iowa Environmental Protection Commission will consider adopting rules for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) at its Aug. 19 meeting. Commissioners moved the meeting to the Wallace State Office Building Auditorium, 502 E. Ninth St., Des Moines.

If adopted, the rules will incorporate by reference the federal rules that require CAFOs to comply with national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) permits. The Iowa Legislature directed adopting the federal rules. Adoption was also a condition of a work plan agreement signed between the DNR and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Sept.11, 2013.

The federal rules require confinement feeding operations that are CAFOs and discharge to waters of the U.S. to seek an NPDES permit. Generally, confinements are animal feeding operations that are totally roofed. The U.S. EPA defines a large CAFO as one that confines at least 1,000 cattle or cow/calf pairs, 700 mature dairy cattle, 2,500 finishing swine or 55,000 turkeys.

In other business, commissioners will be asked to approve contracts for watershed projects, statewide groundwater analysis and a food waste study.

The meeting begins at 10 a.m. with public comments to follow. The meeting is open to the public.

IA Court upholds murder conviction of a Mills County man


July 31st, 2014 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa Court of Appeals has affirmed the first-degree murder conviction of 38-year old Jason Curtis, from Glenwood. The Daily NonPareil reports the Des Moines-based court denied an appeal of the conviction by Curtis, who was convicted after a jury trial in February of 2013 in connection with the death of his 5-month-old son.

Curtis’ son, Jackson, died July 14, 2011, as a result of head injuries at the family’s Glenwood home. In September of 2013, Fourth District Court Judge Mark Eveloff sentenced Curtis to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Curtis appealed, leading to Wednesday’s decision. Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber says he expects Curtis will seek to have the Appeal Court’s decision overturned.