May 24, 2015

Better Business Bureau warns of scams after events like Lake City tornado


Lake City after the tornado.

Clean-up work and repairs are still underway in Lake City after Sunday night’s tornado, while residents there and across Iowa are being warned when storms strike, scammers will be close behind.

Jim Hegarty, with the regional office of the Better Business Bureau, says Iowans always need to be on-guard for a potential rip-off, especially after severe weather.

Hegarty says, “Whether it’s roofing issues, high winds, trees down, damage to your windows or to your siding, you can just sort of expect it won’t be long before there will be folks canvassing your area, knocking on your door, trying to get your business.” Con artists will often try to make themselves appear legitimate by making it sound like they’re local. A best defense, Hegarty says, is to ask lots of questions.

“You need to get everything in writing and don’t make any decisions on the spot,” Hegarty says. “The big one is don’t pay any money up front until you’re absolutely certain you’re dealing with a well-established firm that has a solid reputation in the market, and even then, we wouldn’t recommend making any large payments up front.”

Check references carefully and never sign over your insurance settlement check, he says, and ask for written contracts that give an estimate and a time frame as to when the work will start and finish. You can’t be too careful, he says, and watch out for those offering a one day deal or a discount if you pay up front that day.

“Reputable contractors often won’t ask for anything up front, but at the most, it would be just to cover whatever expenses they might be incurring for the materials they need to buy,” Hegarty says. “Get everything detailed. You want it in a contract. You want to be sure they’re insured and that they’re bonded.” Many scammers are fast talkers who use high-pressure tactics to get you to hand over money. He says many times they do poor work or no work at all and disappear without a trace.

Before hiring anyone to do a home or property repair, call the Better Business Bureau for a reference check.



Clean up effort continues as more cases of bird flu identified

chickensThe Iowa Department of Agriculture announced three new probable cases and one confirmed case bird flu Tuesday. They include the 14th and 15th cases in Buena Vista County, the first in Lyon County, and the fourth case in Osceola county.

Work continues on the disposal of the millions of chickens and turkeys infected with the bird flu. Iowa Agriculture Secretary, Bill Northey, says his department and the U.S.D.A. are helping the facilities safely handle the animals.

“It is a challenge being able to manage all of those sites, but there is depopulating going on. Some farms are completely depopulated, some have just started. Some farms have handled most of the dead birds in a disposal method, a lot of them are still going yet,” according to Northey. The sheer number of birds is the biggest issue with some 21-22 million chickens in laying houses. “Another 600,000 pullets that were growing up to be layers in layer houses. And then the numbers that we have are somewhere around 750,000 turkeys, but we know we have four barns there that I think we don’t have final numbers on — which should take us to around 900,000 — with the farms that we know of,” Northey says.

He says each site is different when it comes to dealing with the birds. “We’re seeing all different methods used,” Northey says. That includes composting, which happens in the buildings for turkeys, they are some that are buried on the farm and some are incinerated or heated. He says more incinerators are coming to help handle the material.

Many of the animals are being sent to a landfill. “There are several landfills that are interested, the D.O.T. will manage the route,” Northey explains. “The landfills are in conversation with U.S.D.A. right now about how they can safely take that material.” Experts say warmer weather tends to slow down the avian influenza, but things have been cooler lately in Iowa. Northey says they are hoping things will warm up and that will help kill off the virus.

“Even when we get some warm weather — and we’ve had some on and off the last few days or weeks — even when we get that, we still may see farms that break. And they may’ve been exposed before that warm weather came and it may not be that that warm weather stops this, it just may be that it lessons the likelihood that it’s able to move and cause issues in other places,” Northey says. The governor declared a state of emergency to help deal with the bird flu outbreak. That declaration is set to expire on May 31st.


Lake City mayor says it’s a ‘miracle’ no one injured by tornado

The roof was damaged at the South Central Calhoun High School in Lake City.

The roof was damaged at the South Central Calhoun High School in Lake City.

Clean up efforts are underway in the Calhoun County town of Lake City after an apparent tornado struck last night. Gary Fahan is mayor of the community of 1,700 in west-central Iowa, where no serious injuries were reported and volunteers are fanned out, tackling a host of chores.

“We’ve got 50 to 70 people in already and of course, all the fire departments in a 20-mile radius are here,” Mayor Fahan says. “We’ve got the SAW crew from the state in here, clearing the main roads going in any direction. MidAmerican is in here on electricity. It may be midnight tonight, they’re hoping to get juice back into town.”

Fahan calls it a “miracle” that no one was hurt as the storm hit about 7:30 P.M. while an awards ceremony was underway at the high school with perhaps 150 people in attendance.

Lake City storm damage.

Lake City storm damage.

“They had baccalaureate going on at the high school in the auditorium and it took the roof off of the auditorium but the kids and everybody got down into the basement and they all come out unscathed,” Fahan says. “We’re thankful for that.”

Fahan says Governor Branstad will be in town this afternoon to survey the damage. The governor’s office has declared a state of disaster emergency for Calhoun County. Volunteers who want to help in the clean-up effort are asked to meet at the Lake City fire station.

(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)


Governor to tour tornado damage in Lake City

Aerial view of Lake City storm damage.

Aerial view of Lake City storm damage.

Governor Terry Branstad will tour tornado damage in Calhoun County later today. “To those living in the storm-affected communities, I want you to know that the state stands ready to assist you in any way that we can,” Branstad said today during his weekly statehouse news conference.

Last night, Branstad authorized the dispatch of a team of state-paid local contractors with chain saws and trucks to reopen a blocked highway so emergency crews could get into Lake City.

“Initial damage caused Highway 175 to be blocked, but about 2 a.m. this morning the road had been cleared and reopened to traffic,” Branstad says. “The saw team that began work last evening did an exceptional job. This morning a new saw team will be in town, helping to clear more debris.”

Power was out in Lake City and other areas hit by the tornado. Emergency 9-1-1 service in much of Calhoun County was also disrupted.


Lake City trying to clean up after tornado


Tornado damage in Lake City.

Clean-up is underway in the west-central Iowa community of Lake City which was hit by a likely tornado around 7:30 last night. Witnesses say the twister was a quarter-mile wide and skipped through a few city blocks in that community of 17-hundred, uprooting trees and damaging homes.

Meteorologist Mindy Beerends, at the National Weather Service office in Johnston, says a team of experts is working to confirm it was a tornado.

“Spotters confirm a tornado touching down in the southern portion of Calhoun County and moving through and hitting the Lake City area,” Beerends says. “We are sending storm survey individuals out there today to determine the extent of the damage and likely the strength of the tornado with that.”

Patterns in the soil that appear to be from a tornado Calhoun County.

Patterns in the soil that appear to be from a tornado in Calhoun County.

South Central Calhoun High School in Lake City was badly damaged when the storm ripped off its roof. Beerends says it’s very fortunate there was a warning sounded of perhaps two minutes in advance of the tornado. “What we have heard is there was an awards ceremony going on in the evening with many people in the high school,” Beerends says. “They heard the warning and they were able to get them down into the basement and to safety. We’re definitely glad no one has been injured or any fatalities or anything of the sort with this tornado.”

As many as 150 people were in the school’s auditorium before the twister struck and none of them were reported hurt. She notes, the storm was very powerful and caused moderate damage elsewhere. “We did have 80 mile an hour winds reported west of Glidden in Carroll County,” Beerends says. “There was also significant hail, baseball- to softball-sized hail, that hit towards the Lake City area after the tornado had occurred.”

There’s a report of a second tornado touching down in Iowa last night — in southern Pocahontas County. Beerends says a Weather Service survey team will also be looking for signs of that twister today, though there are no reports of any injuries or significant damage in Pocahontas County.


Two from Harcourt die in Webster County accident

Ambulance-Back-DoorAuthorities are now releasing the names of the two Harcourt residents who were killed in a two-vehicle accident Friday in Webster County.

The Iowa State Patrol reported a southbound 1989 Ford F-250 pickup truck driven by Colten Bills of Dayton apparently failed to stop at a stop sign striking an eastbound 2001 Ford Taurus driven by 56-year-old David Castenson of Harcourt.

David Castenson was transported to a Fort Dodge hospital where he was pronounced dead of his injuries. A passenger is the Castenson car, 85-year-old Velma Castenson was transported to the same Fort Dodge hospital where she died of her injuries on Saturday.

Bills was taken to the Boone County Hospital for treatment of his injuries. Charges are pending with the accident under investigation.

(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)


Bird flu cases jump to 44 with 7 new probables


Seven new probable cases of the bird flu bring the state total to 44.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture added seven more probable cases to the list of facilities hitby the avian influenza or bird flu. These new cases bring the state total to 44 and includes millions of chickens, turkeys and ducks.

The new cases announced Friday included the first cases in Sac County and Palo Alto County. An undetermined number of turkeys are infected at each of those facilities.

Wright County saw its second and third case. They are in a commercial laying operation with 2.9 million hens and the other with 1.1 million birds. Buena Vista recorded its 11th and 1th cases, both in turkey farms. One has 42,000 turkeys, and the number has not been determined in the other.

The other case is in a turkey farm in Cherokee County. The estimate on the number of turkeys is still pending in what is the fifth case in that county.  All of the birds will be killed once the cases are confirmed.