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Climatologists worry about warm forecast south of Iowa

News, Weather

May 18th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The National Weather Service is predicting Iowa’s early summer temperatures and rainfall will be near normal, but two Iowa-based climatologists say they’re somewhat concerned about the weather impact on Iowa’s crop-growing season. The N-W-S forecast predicts warmer than normal temperatures south of Iowa and Illinois in the extreme southern cornbelt. State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says he doesn’t want to see the warm temperatures seep into Iowa.  “A little bit of concern though, you know the last week oh about a week and a half now has been quite dry across Iowa, and very dry to the southwest of us. Kansas, Oklahoma has turned very dry in the last few weeks. Don’t like to see that area so close by you know to see drought expanding this time of the year because very often it keeps on expanding as time goes on,” according to Hillaker. And Iowa’s May temperatures are already running about six-degrees above normal.

“Which is quite a large departure for this time of the year, historically you look back at years that brought us unusually warm Mays — pretty large percentage of the time its also brought us above normal temperatures for June and July,” Hillaker says.  Iowa State University climatologist, Elwyn Taylor, is also worried about the long-range forecasted above normal temperatures in the southern corn belt. “That’s slightly discouraging.I don’t like to see July and August on the warm side of usual. The plants use more water, they mature faster and so they don’t get as many days in the sun to put on the weight that we harvest and sell.” The long-range forecast is for normal precipitation through June. Hillaker says the La Nina and El Nino influences are subsiding and shouldn’t affect Iowa’s summer weather.

(Dar Danielson/Radio Iowa)

Man and woman arrested in Winterset in connection with Des Moines shooting deaths


May 18th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

(updated 11:54-a.m.)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Police say a disgruntled former worker at a Des Moines trucking company shot and killed two current employees.  Police have identified the victims of the Thursday night shooting in south Des Moines as 30-year-old Serif Hidic and 49-year-old Robert Smoot. Both were found dead after police responded to a 911 emergency call at an address used by Seibert Trucking. Police arrested 39-year-old Ronald J. Hawkinson in Winterset Thursday night and charged him with two counts of first-degree murder.   Also arrested is Hawkinson’s girlfriend, 41-year-old Rhonda Plew. Police aren’t saying exactly how she’s involved but that investigators believe she aided Hawkinson.  She’s charged with accessory after the fact. She is in the Madison County Jail.  Hawkinson is in the Polk County jail.

Survey: farming helps economy grow in rural states

Ag/Outdoor, News

May 18th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – The economy remains strong in rural areas of 10 Midwest and Plains states because of the health of agricultural businesses there. The overall economic index on the new monthly Rural Mainstreet survey rose to 58.5 in May from April’s already healthy 57.1. Any score above 50 on the index suggests growth in the months ahead.  Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says even though the May numbers are positive, he believes the region’s economic growth will slow in the months ahead as the global economy weakens and crop prices decline.  The survey covers rural areas of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The survey focuses on 200 rural communities with an average population of 1,300.

Fire destroys home in Atlantic early this (Friday) morning


May 18th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

(updated 10:43-a.m. 5/18/12)

Firefighters from Atlantic and Marne were called to the scene of a fully involved house fire in Atlantic early this morning. The call was dispatched at 3:09-a.m., for a structure at 600 Oak Street. The house was formerly known as the Hockenberry-Mullen Funeral Home. The structure was vacant, but authorities said young people had a tendency to use it as a hang out.

House fire 600 Oak Street in Atlantic (Ric Hanson photo)

Witnesses said the flames started on the upper floor of the east side of the home, in an area that served as an apartment above the garage. The flames quickly engulfed the upper floor, and embers, fanned by brief, strong gusty winds from time-to-time along with thick gray smoke, flew through the air. Firefighters doused a house across the street to the north with water, to prevent that structure from catching fire. A neighbor who lives nearly a full block to the north said she could see embers flying by her house.

Firefighters nearly had the flames contained, when the area above the garage collapsed, sending another round of flames into the air. Crews remained on the scene this morning.

Atlantic Fire Chief Mark McNees said local firefighters were on the scene for about 6-hours. Debris from the homes’ remains continued to smolder late into the morning, and was expected to do so for several hours. There were no injuries, and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Assisting at the scene were officers with the Atlantic Police Department, Cass County Sheriff’s deputies and Medivac Ambulance.

Moments after the 2nd floor east side collapses


Ag/Outdoor, News

May 17th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Thursday, announced Jim Sievers has been named as the new supervisor for the Iowa DNR field office in Atlantic. Sievers, a long-time environmental specialist for the DNR field office in Washington, IA, will assume his new duties on May 25th.

Jim Sievers

He graduated from Iowa State University in 1985 with a degree in fisheries and wildlife biology and has served in the Washington field office for 22 years, the last 12 as the lead worker in wastewater and animal feeding operations. Sievers has a wide-range of experience in all of the DNR’s environmental program areas and has been extremely successful throughout his career in working with businesses, municipalities and citizens in complying with regulations.

Barb Lynch, chief of the DNR’s Field Services and Compliance Bureau, said Sievers also brings administrative experience to the position, having helped fill in as supervisor of the Washington Field Office when the supervisor there, Dennis Ostwinkle, was deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Army in 2004 and 2005. The Field Services and Compliance Bureau consists of six field offices throughout the state with a primary task of helping people to understand environmental services programs and assist in complying with regulations.

New benefits available to Veterans for education costs


May 17th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs report effective this past Tuesday (May 15th), unemployed Veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 can apply for new benefits to cover education costs for up to one year. A program made available through a joint Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Labor (DOL) focuses on retraining 99,000 Veterans for high-demand jobs.  As part of a provision of the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, the Veteran Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) allows qualifying Veterans to receive up to 12 months of assistance equal to the full-time Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty rate, currently $1,473 per month. 

Veterans can apply on a first-come, first-serve basis for VRAP beginning on May 15, 2012, for programs that begin on or after July 1, 2012.  Assistance under this benefit program ends on March 31, 2014. To complete an application, a Veteran will need to know his or her direct deposit information (bank routing number and account number), the name and location of his or her school, the program the Veteran wishes to pursue, and the applicable high-demand occupation.

To qualify Veterans must:

  • Be 35-60 years old, unemployed on the day of application, and not dishonorably discharged;
  • Start education or training after July 1, 2012, in a VA-approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school leading to an associate degree, non-college degree or a certificate for a high-demand occupation as defined by the DOL;
  • Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g. Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment);
  • Not be enrolled in a federal or state job training program within the last 180 days;
  • Not receive VA compensation at the 100% rate due to individual unemployability (IU).

Upon completion, the Labor Department will engage with participants within 30 days after their training to help them find good jobs that utilize their newly learned skills.For more information on VOW, VRAP, high demand occupations, and how to apply, Veterans may go to the website at www.benefits.va.gov/VOW, or call VA’s Call Centers toll free at 1-800-827-1000, Veterans may also access the VRAP application online at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov through eBenefits, a joint project between the Department of Defense and VA.

Veterans are also encouraged to visit the nearly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers across the nation for assistance from staff, Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives (LVERS), and Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists. To find the center near you visit www.servicelocator.org. For more information about the Department of Labor’s Veterans programs, go to http://www.dol.gov/vets/

Spring chill damages Iowa crops

Ag/Outdoor, News

May 17th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

DECORAH, Iowa (AP) – A surprisingly chilly April has had an adverse effect on crops in Iowa.     Officials say freezing temperatures last month has damaged crops throughout the state. The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports that horticulture and agronomy experts say up to 80 percent of the apple crop in eastern Iowa has been ruined.  Apple trees blossomed about a month early because of unseasonably warm temperatures in March. But temperatures dipped to the low 20s for several nights in early to mid-April, killing those blossoms. Thousands of acres of corn may need to be replanted in the northern part of the state and Gail Nonnecke, a horticulture professor at Iowa State University, estimates Iowa strawberry production will be reduced by 20 percent.

Alliant Energy warns about phone scams


May 17th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Another major utility company is warning its customers about a potential phone scam. Officials with Alliant Energy said today (Thursday) a small number of their customers have reported receiving calls from individuals claiming to be Alliant Energy representatives. The callers claim a customer’s account is delinquent and demand immediate, full payment to avoid immediate disconnection. The utility company says they do work with customers over the phone to set payment arrangements for delinquent accounts, but an Alliant Energy representative will already have customer account information and will work with the customer to arrange payment through one of the company’s regular payment channels.  A list of these options is available at alliantenergy.com/paymybill. Alliant Energy does not collect payments in person at a customer’s home or place of business. 

Tim Heinrich, Director of Customer Support Services at Alliant, says they already know account details about their customers, and those customers fall behind, they will work collaboratively with them, “To establish mutually acceptable payment arrangements.”  Henirch says if a customer has any concerns about calls claiming to come from Alliant Energy, they should simply hang up and call 1-800-ALLIANT. 

Alliant Energy has received word that similar calls and in-person scams have been occurring with customers at a number of utilities across the country. On Tuesday, KJAN reported officials with MidAmerican Energy was warning its customers about “Past Due” account, phone scams. The company said persons posing as MidAmerican Energy customer service associates or attorneys are calling, claiming the customer’s account is past due, and payment is needed immediately to avoid disconnection. The caller follows-up by asking for your credit card number.

Both utilities are working with local law enforcement to investigate suspicious calls or other activity.

128-lbs of Pot seized after traffic stop in Pott. County Wednesday


May 17th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Department reports a Colorado man was arrested Wednesday afternoon on drug charges, following a traffic stop on Interstate 80 near Council Bluffs. According to Pott. County Chief Deputy John Reynolds, at around 3:30-p.m. Wednesday, Deputy Brian Miller conducted a traffic stop for a vehicle traveling at excessive speed, at the seven mile marker of eastbound I-80. While conducting an interview with the driver, 63-year old Mark E. Domreis, of Aurora, CO., Miller became suspicious Domreis was involved in criminal activity.

After Miller completed the traffic stop, Domreis told him that there was a large amount of marijuana underneath the bed cover of the truck. The deputy deployed his K-9 partner Francisco, to conduct a free air sniff of the vehicle. The dog alerted to the presence of narcotics, and a subsequent search of the vehicle revealed that there were several duffle bags and coolers containing vacuum sealed bags of marijuana.

Approximately 128 pounds of marijuana and one half  pound of amphetamines were ultimately seized. Domreis was arrested on one-count each of Possession with Intent to Deliver Marijuana, Possession with the Intent to Deliver Amphetamines, A tax stamp violation, and, Prohibited Acts. 

Domreis was booked into the Pottawattamie County Jail, where he was being held on $100,000 bond.

Report: Hunger, poverty worse in rural areas of Midwest


May 17th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Despite being the breadbasket of the world, a new report shows poverty and food insecurity are rising faster in rural areas of the Midwest than in urban areas. The report from the Center for Rural Affairs covers Iowa and nine other states. Report author Jon Bailey, the center’s research director, says the poverty comes from scarce jobs and paltry salaries. “The jobs in those communities tend to be low-paying jobs,” Bailey says. “So when you add together low pay for the opportunities that are there and then a lack of opportunities, that’s going to lead to economic challenges like poverty and food insecurity.” Bailey’s report finds rural people who were food insecure accounted for nearly 13-percent of the region’s population in 2010. Rural children who were food insecure accounted for almost 24-percent. He says that issue needs to be addressed.

Bailey says “Rural communities are going to have to work on the access to food in their community and then create an economic climate that allows people to live there and afford what they need to live on in those communities.” Bailey says one of the best ways to help rural areas is through the federal Farm Bill, but he says prospects don’t look good right now. “Unfortunately, in some of the early versions of the Farm Bill, there is literally no funding for initiatives that would help that through the rural development section of the Farm Bill,” Bailey says. “We need to change that. We need to have rural communities help put an emphasis on the need for investment in their futures and in their economies to help create those better and well-paying jobs.” The Center for Rural Affairs is based in Lyons, Nebraska. The full report can be found at “cfra.org“.

(Matt Kelley/Radio Iowa)