December 1, 2015

November ends up in top 10 of weather records in two areas

Harry Hillaker

Harry Hillaker

The just ended month of November is entering the records books as unusually warm and wet. State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says preliminary figure show last month was the 8th wettest and 10th warmest November in Iowa over 143 years of record keeping.

The statewide average temperature for the month was 41.7 degrees, 5.1 degrees warmer than normal. The warmest temperatures were recorded on November 2nd.

“Des Moines, Glenwood, and Shenandoah all reached 79 degrees,” Hillaker said. “On the cold end of things, we had a couple of dates where we got down below zero. Spencer was the first to do that, minus-four degrees on the 21st. On the very next morning, Waterloo and Stanley…got down to minus-five degrees.”

The first 10 days of November were extremely dry, but the remainder of the month involved a lot of rain and snow. The statewide average snowfall total for the month was 6.1 inches, more than double usual amount for November. Last month enters the record books as Iowa’s 13th snowiest November.

“In fact, that one big storm we had on November 20-21 brought more snow than any other single November back to 1991,” Hillaker said. Rock Rapids, in far northwest Iowa, received over 15 inches of snow in that storm. The other unusual weather event during the month involved 13 tornadoes touching down across south-central and southeast Iowa on Veteran’s Day.

“If those numbers hold up, that looks to be a record for the month of November,” Hillaker said. “Ten years ago, in 2005, we had 12 tornadoes recorded on almost the same day, November 12.”


Davenport police charge two after finding mobile meth lab

Christopher Ray Hicks

Christopher Ray Hicks

Two men are in the Scott County Jail after an unusual drug bust. Davenport Police arrested 33-year-old Christopher Ray Hicks and 38-year-old Collin Bundy Loader on Friday.

Officers say the men were riding in a vehicle around the Isle of Capri Casino in Bettendorf that contained a methamphetamine lab.

In addition to meth-making materials, police seized over 5 grams of the drug from the vehicle.

Collin Bundy-Loader

Collin Bundy-Loader

Hicks and Loader are each charged with one count each of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to commit a felony.


Former SW Iowa land owners selected for Practical Farmers award

Dale and Sunny Nimrod on their farm near Decorah

Dale and Sunny Nimrod on their farm near Decorah

Three siblings who grew up on a farm in southwest Iowa will be honored early next year for their actions in selling the property.

Dale Nimrod says his father died of cancer not long after purchasing the farm, near Stanton in Montgomery County, in 1944. Nimrod’s mother stayed on the 240-acre farm and raised her children — with help from neighbors and the community.

In 2005, the Nimrod children decided it was time to sell the property. “We were looking to give back to that community that helped raise us in the absence of my dad,” Dale said. The Nimrod family hoped to find a young family that would appreciate “the land, the community, and the church.”

They settled on Mark and Melanie Peterson, a couple raising five children. “When we sold it to them, two of (the children) thought they may want to go into farming,” Dale said. “Mark was determined, if they wanted to farm, he’d have something they could work on.”

The farm was sold to the Peterson family at a below-market-value price. “We were willing to sell it on its economic value, its productivity value, not whatever its market value is – which is not very relevant, I don’t think, to anything,” Dale said. “So, we had (Mark) fill out some forms from Iowa State, like the kind of forms you’d fill out if you’re going to take out a farm loan, so he could see what he’d need to do in order to  make the payments and we set the payments accordingly.”

The 75-year-old Nimrod taught chemistry for many years at Luther College and lives on a farm near Decorah with his wife Sunny. He and his siblings, Faith and Vance, were recently selected as the 2015 winners of the Practical Farmers’ Farmland Owner Award.

The award will be presented to the Nimrod Family at the Practical Farmers of Iowa’s annual conference on January 22 in Ames. According to the organization, the Farmland Owner Award is given to non-operator landlords “who use their land to advance stewardship and help get the next generation started on the land.”



Oldest known Iowan to turn 111 next week

Emma Hough

Emma Hough (courtesy Upper Iowa Univ.)

A northeast Iowa town will host a birthday party next week for the state’s oldest known resident. Emma Hough of Sumner will turn 111 years old on December 2.

Connie Rochford is helping organize a celebration. “Everybody who lives here, ever since she turned 100, knows when her birthday is and they always send her birthday cards and things,” Rochford said. “Being 111, we wanted to do something a bit more than just send a birthday card.”

A community celebration, with birthday cake, is planned from 1 to 2 p.m. on December 6 at the Hillcrest Home in Sumner. Hough is a resident of Hillcrest and until recently walked the halls and grounds on her own.

She now uses a wheelchair, but Rochford says Hough is still in good health. “She’s doing better than some 60 and 70 year olds,” Rochford said.

One of the keys to Hough’s long life is she works to keep her mind sharp, according to Rochford. “She keeps busy doing jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, and reading,” Rochford said.

Hough grew up in Sumner and graduated from Upper Iowa University in 1926. Last month, she was a guest of honor in Upper Iowa’s homecoming parade.

Hough married her husband, Charles, in 1928. They were together for 53 years before he died in 1981. Rochford said, on Hough’s 101st birthday, she hopped on a camel and took a ride in a Lamborghini. That same week, she also handled a boa constrictor. These days, her adventures mostly involve rides in a golf cart around Sumner.

Nature trail in southwest Iowa garnering attention

Cover of 2016 Iowa Travel Guide featuring Wabash Trash Nature Trail

Cover of 2016 Iowa Travel Guide featuring Wabash Trash Nature Trail

A trail that covers nearly 63 miles of rural landscape in southwest Iowa will soon be getting some big time exposure. A photo taken along the Wabash Trace Nature Trail was recently selected in a contest to grace the cover of the 2016 Iowa Travel Guide.

Rebecca Castle of Shenandoah is a longtime enthusiast of the trail. “You kind of feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere and for some it, you kind of are,” Castle says.

The Wabash Trace started taking shape in the early 1990s as the trail was converted from a former railroad line. “It was one of the earlier rail-trails in Iowa and it goes through such rural areas. You go through towns like Mineola, Silver City, Malvern, and down to Imogene,” Castle says. The trail runs between Council Bluffs, near Iowa’s border with Nebraska, down to Blanchard on the Iowa/Missouri border.

There are many ways to experience the Wabash Trace, including cross-country skiing or even horseback riding on the equestrian trails that parallel parts of the trail. “I would say bicycling is the number-one use of the trail, but we also get a lot of walkers, joggers, bird watchers, and even people out there — in season — just picking berries,” Castle says.

The new Iowa Travel Guide, featuring the Wabash Trace on the cover, will released early next year. The Iowa Tourism Office distributes more than 100,000 copies of the Iowa Travel Guide each year. It can be found at Iowa’s welcome centers or ordered online.

Judge issues ruling on Medicaid management

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

A ruling from an administrative law judge issued late Wednesday afternoon recommends Iowa dismiss one of the four contracts awarded to companies that were chosen to manage Iowa’s Medicaid program.

The Branstad administration wants to implement the managed care plan on January 1. It would privatize the state’s $4.2 billion health care program for the poor and disabled. The unsuccessful bidders for the contracts filed the legal challenge.

The judge’s ruling questions the contract awarded to WellCare, a company that had three former executives sent to prison last year on fraud convictions. A statement released by Governor Branstad’s office expressed confidence that the plan to transfer management of the Medicaid program would “remain on schedule.”

Health care providers and patients have complained that the January 1 target date for privatization is unrealistic.

Gov. Branstad’s office issues statement on Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decision on Medicaid Modernization

(DES MOINES)  – Gov. Terry Branstad’s Communications Director, Ben Hammes, issued a statement on the ALJ’s decision on Medicaid Modernization that was released late Wednesday afternoon.

The ALJ’s decision allows Medicaid Modernization to move forward.  The decision emphasizes that the process was both “thorough and methodical.”  We continue to evaluate the next steps in the administrative review of the procurement process and remain on schedule to implement our plan on January 1, 2016.

Unique I-80 interchange to open next week (video)

A new interchange set to open next week on Interstate 80 features something new to the state.

Iowa Department of Transportation district four engineer Troy Jerman says the “diverging diamond” interchange will provide access to western areas of Waukee and West Des Moines. “This interchange is the first-of-its-kind in the state. Other states have had them for years, but this is the first one in Iowa,” Jerman said.

The new interchange, located about 3 miles west of the Jordan Creek Parkway interchange, is scheduled to open Tuesday (December 1) at noon.

The diverging diamond design has at least a few benefits, including less landuse, increased vehicle capacity, and improved safety. “It takes some of the left turn conflicts out of play, which is where many crashes happen,” Jerman said.

The new interchange allows for “free-flowing” turns, instead of left turns, for drivers entering or exiting the interstate. Drivers crossing I-80 are directed to the opposite side of the road, then directed back to the original driving pattern.

Jerman isn’t worried about the “new-to-Iowa” design confusing motorists. “They’re pretty self-explanatory, just don’t try to over think it,” Jerman suggests. “As people drive through them, they get through and then realize ‘hey, I just went through that new diverging diamond.’ It’s not terribly complicated to drive through.”

Construction work on the interchange began around one year ago with a total cost of $50 million. It’s designed to relieve congestion at major interchanges in West Des Moines and Waukee, two of the fastest growing cities in the state.