June 30, 2015

Cedar Rapids City Council approves $600 million flood control system

Information from the City of Cedar Rapids explaining the flood control system.

Information from the City of Cedar Rapids explaining the flood control system.

The Cedar Rapids City Council has unanimously approved a “master plan” for the city’s flood control system.

The estimated cost of the flood control system for Cedar Rapids is $600 million and it could be 20 years before it’s done. It will be the largest capital improvement project in the city’s history. More than half of the cost is covered by already-acquired state and federal grants.

Cedar Rapids was inundated with flood waters in June of 2008 and city leaders began drafting this plan a few months later. A third of the estimated cost of the project will be spent designing the 6.5 mile system of flood walls, flood gates and earthen levees and then buying the property for it. The remaining two-thirds will be the cost of the actual construction.

The work will begin in the “New Bohemia” and “Czech Village” neighborhoods of Cedar Rapids.

Southern Iowa tornado called an EF-3

This home was destroyed by the tornado.

This home was destroyed by the tornado.

The National Weather Service is reporting the tornado that ripped through parts of southern Iowa Monday night covered a 25-mile long path and stayed on the ground for just over an hour.

Audio : Pat Curtis reports :45

Meteorologist Craig Cogill says the tornado hit portions of Marion, Lucas and Monroe Counties.

“The peak wind gusts were up around 142 miles an hour. That’s an EF-3 tornado, which occurred at a farmstead southwest of Lovilia,”

Trees damaged by the storm.

Trees damaged by the storm.

Cogill said. At its peak, the tornado had an estimated width of 440 yards. It generally stayed in rural areas, but eventually struck homes and businesses in Albia.

“As it impacted the southwest side of Albia…the top wind speeds we had estimated there were 103 miles an hour,” Cogill said.

Despite all the destruction, there were no reports of injuries.




Volunteers flood Iowa towns to help with storm clean-up

Family, friends and volunteers are joining clean-up efforts in a number of Iowa cities today following severe storms which cruised through northern Iowa Monday morning and through southern Iowa Monday evening.

“You always hear about small towns coming together. Yesterday was a perfect example ’cause everybody just came,” says Gary Husman, the mayor of Marcus, Iowa. “They came with skid loaders, they came with trailers, they came with tractors — and lots of saws.”

The storm hit in Marcus at about 6 a.m. Monday.

“We had some just horrific winds through here. We had complete streets that were impassable,” Husman says. “…I’ve never seen wind take that many trees down.”

At least 10 homes were damaged.

“One gentleman had five trees in his parking fall and they all fell on his roof. His roof was pretty much disconnected from his house,” Husman says. “A couple of other gentleman had their porches ripped off.”

Husman saw between 10 and 20 people helping in each block of his town that saw damage.

“We haven’t got it all cleaned up. We’ve got a long way to go,” Husman says. “It was unbelievable, the people, the response we got, the farmers coming in. The people don’t live in the town, but they have friends and family here.”

The 2010 Census found more than 1100 people living in Marcus, which is about 17 miles west of Cherokee.

(Reporting by Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars)

Governor hopeful federal disaster request for bird flu will be approved

Cleaning a truck used to haul away dead birds.

Cleaning a truck used to haul away dead birds.

Governor Terry Branstad told reporters during his weekly news conference Monday that he has not heard anything yet on his request for a federal disaster declaration for some of the counties hit by the bird flu.

Branstad is confident there’s evidence to sway the president to approve the request. “If you read that entire document, it’ve very comprehensive and it’s very detailed and it’s a very unusual request for a disaster designation,” Branstad says. “But this is a very unusual loss.”

The head of the recovery division for Iowa Homeland Security says there has been only one other such federal request, and it came in 2007 from California after a crop freeze. The request is unique because it asks for resources to help workers in the industry.

“We’re asking for unemployment benefits for people who have been displaced, and we’re asking for financial assistance for some of the family farms and other businesses that may be forced to go out of business,” Branstad says. The governor made the request last Thursday.

“We have requested four counties, the ones that are the hardest hit. I am hopeful that we will get this help,” according to Branstad.

The request covers Buena Vista County with 16 reported cases; Sioux County with 20 reported cases; Webster County with 1 reported case ,and Wright County with 6 reported cases.

A total of 18 counties have been impacted by the bird flu, with more than 33 million birds that had to be destroyed. The last new case of bird flu reported in the state came in Wright County one week ago on June 16th.


State bird flu federal disaster request is only the second of its kind

Patrick Hall

Patrick Hall

The governor has requested a presidential disaster declaration for four counties hit by the avian flu.

Requesting federal disaster assistance is not new for Iowa when it comes to things like flooding and severe weather — but Patrick Hall with the state Emergency Management Division says this request is very rare.

“It’s only happened one other time in FEMA’s history, and that was the California freeze in 2007,” Hall says. California was given federal support then for all those who lost their jobs when the orange crop froze.

Hall says Iowa is looking for the same things, as the federal disaster declaration would make the state eligible for several programs. “Disaster unemployment assistance, crisis counseling, disaster case management, and disaster legal services,” Hall explains. He says with more than 33 million birds that have had to be destroyed, it is going to have a “dramatic impact” on unemployment.

The federal aid would help those in Iowa who are out of work with the turkey and poultry facilities shut down. “What disaster unemployment assistance will do, it will turn on a program for individuals who are self-employed or employed who have not paid into the state unemployment program.  So, it’s helping that sector of individuals,” Hall explains.

Current numbers show the bird flu disaster has put some 500 people are out of work. Hall says that number is expected to dramatically increase. “By August, the projections utilizing how many producers are impacted by this event, we are looking at roughly around 1,500 individuals that will be unemployed by this event,” Hall says. “And that does not include the individuals who have not paid into the unemployment assistance program.”

Hall says those who have lost their jobs can do one thing to be ready if the federal assistance is granted. “Go to apply for unemployment assistance, even though they have not paid into the state unemployment program. It will get their name in the database for them to start tracking,” Hall says.

The governor has asked that Buena Vista, Sioux, Webster and Wright counties be given the federal disaster declaration.  Hall says there is no way to know how soon the state might hear a decision from federal officials on the designation.

All the members of the Iowa Congressional delegation sent a letter to President Barack Obama lending their support to the governor’s request.

Nevada woman injured in fall at Ledges State Park

A young central Iowa woman survived a fall from a cliff over the weekend. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reports 19-year-old Shannon Novak of Nevada was with two friends in Ledges State Park in Boone County when the accident happened Saturday afternoon.

Novak fell about 40 feet from a cliff along the Lost Lake Trail. She was conscious when rescuers reached the scene. First responders had to use a boat to take Novak to an ambulance. She was treated at a Des Moines hospital for injuries to her back and ankle.



Father’s Day turns out to be deadliest holiday on Iowa roads

Police car lightsSunday is Father’s Day and while it’s usually a time reserved for celebrating our dads with gifts of neckties and golf putters, a study finds it’s the most dangerous day of the year to take a drive in Iowa.

Alex Murphy, spokesman for the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau, says new figures show Father’s Day has become the state’s highest single fatality holiday.

“When we started looking through this data, it surprised all of us in the office and we thought if it surprised us, it has to surprise everyone across the state,” Murphy says. “Nationally, the 4th of July is the deadliest holiday on roadways, but then we started looking closer at Iowa’s numbers and it turned out Father’s Day is the deadliest.”

Murphy calls it an “alarming” traffic safety trend. During the past 10 years, Iowa has recorded 19 traffic fatalities and 23 serious injuries in crashes on Father’s Day, Murphy says, “also, on June 22nd, that single day is the single most deadly day on Iowa roadways.”

While New Year’s Eve is also a dangerous night to drive, given the typical winter weather combined with a higher potential for drunk drivers, Murphy could only speculate why Father’s Day has moved to the top spot of the deadliest days list. “It’s nicer out, you have a lot more motorcycles on the roads, many more people are out traveling,” Murphy says. “It’s really hard to attribute it to anything specific but the nice weather could play a role in that, having more people out on the Iowa roadways.”

For travelers this weekend, he reminds Iowans to buckle up, obey the speed limit and other posted signs and laws, watch for pedestrians and motorcyclists, don’t drink and drive, and avoid distracted driving.