September 2, 2014

Former spacewalker looks to the Moon, Mars

Clay Anderson aboard the International Space Station

Clay Anderson aboard the International Space Station

Retired astronaut and Iowa State University instructor Clay Anderson says he misses space and hopes someday all Iowans will have the opportunity to reach orbit.

Anderson calls space a wonderful environment and a beautiful place. Anderson, who got his master’s degree at ISU, admits to gazing skyward from time to time.

“I look at space very longingly now,” he says. “I typically look at sunsets or a meteor shower or the Moon or space and just go, good gosh, I sure wish I could go back there.”

He flew two missions aboard space shuttles to the International Space Station, including a five-month stay there in 2007.

“I’m just very privileged,” he says. “I’ve lived a life where I had a lot of good luck and some good timing, I worked pretty hard and had some great people helping me along the way.”

Anderson, a 55-year-old Nebraska native, says NASA ended the space shuttle program years too soon.

“Our shuttles were capable of flying a lot more,” Anderson says. “I don’t like being beholden to the Russians who have to take American astronauts to and from the space station. The other thing I don’t like is, I think we should be going to the Moon next to establish a base, to learn how to live and work off the land, like we plan to do on Mars.”

Anderson says it makes more sense to get that experience on the Moon which is a journey of three days away versus six to nine months away on Mars. He believes there will be commercial space travel in the years ahead, making rocket rides more accessible to the general public.

“I hope it’s not just really wealthy celebrities that are doing it,” Anderson says. “We have Lady Gaga getting ready to go and Sarah Brightman, the opera singer, is going to go and that’s all great, but I want it to be people that can buy a ticket and perhaps spend two or three days or a week on a space platform where they get to see exactly what I got to see.”

Anderson, a faculty fellow at ISU in aerospace engineering, is working on book about his adventures.


High winds, hail, heavy rain cause damage across state

Many Iowans will be spending this holiday cleaning up the aftermath of strong thunderstorms that struck overnight. Large tree limbs fell on some houses in Sergeant Bluff in far northwest Iowa.

Woodbury County Emergency Services Director Gary Brown says there was some rotation in the storm, but no funnel cloud was produced. “It looks like that storm produced some microburst or down drafts coming out of the front of the storm with winds in excess of 70 miles an hour,” Brown said. “That’s consistent with the kind of damage we’re seeing in the Sergeant Bluff and Sioux City area.”

Daniel Rosales of Sergeant Bluff had a tree in his family’s front yard fall through the front of their home. “Me and my dad and my little sister were home and the power went out,” Rosales said. “You couldn’t see anything outside and as it passed through, we heard a thump. It was until (the storm) passed that we noticed there was a tree in the front of the house.”

The National Weather Service reports the high winds knocked over semis on Interstate 29 in Woodbury County. There have been no reports of injuries from the storms in Sergeant Bluff or Sioux City. In nearby Dakota City, Nebraska, two people sustained minor injuries when a tree fell on their camper.

Flash flooding occurred over portions of western and central Iowa. A weather spotter in Crawford County reported 3.6 inches of rain fell in just over a two-hour period. Large hail fell in Carroll and Buena Vista Counties. In Guthrie County, winds of up to 80 miles an hour toppled trees and power lines.

by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, additional reporting by Pat Curtis, Radio Iowa

Rock Valley woman identified as victim of two-car crash

The Iowa State Patrol has released the name of the woman killed in two-vehicle crash in northwest Iowa on Friday night. The woman has been identified as 51-year-old Susan R. Bliek of Rock Valley.

The crash happened about 11:30 p.m. The patrol reports a car driven by 18-year-old Jacob Kennet of Le Mars was westbound on county road A34, about two miles north of Inwood, when he drove through a stop sign. Kennet’s vehicle struck the car driven by Bliek, which had been southbound on Highway 182.

Bliek was pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in the Kennet vehicle, 34-year-old Timothy Farmer of Iowa City was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. For now, no charges have been filed.

by Scott Van Aartsen, KIWA

Ex-teacher faces more child sex crime allegations

A former high school English teacher in Montezuma who was charged last year with inappropriate sexual contact with four students now faces more charges.

This past June someone told authorities 28-year-old Derek John Bates had committed sexual acts with two more students. These incidents allegedly occured two years ago, during the spring and early summer of 2012. Authorities interviewed the two students, who said the incidents occured off of school grounds. Bates was arrested Friday and charged with two counts of sexual abuse in the third degree and one count of sexual exploitation by a school employee.

Bates had been a teacher at the school from the fall of 2009 ’til October of 2012 when he resigned after being charged with drinking alcohol in a classroom with a 17-year-old student. Last summer Bates was charged with third degree sexual abuse and other sex-related charges based on the testimony of four other students.

Life jacket use recommended for final summer days on the water

It’s the last summer holiday weekend and the last chance for many to spend time on their boats. Lou An McCraken of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says you should be sure to have a life jacket on hand for everyone. She says it’s not enough just to have it in the boat, you need to put it on.

“It’s not a burden to wear a life jacket if you find a good comfortable Coast Guard-approved life jacket…you’ll want to wear it to keep you safe and for everyone in your family who you care about,” McCraken says. McCracken is a Natural Resource Specialist who works on the Mississippi River.

McCracken says each year a number of boating accidents claim lives because someone fell into the water and underestimated their swimming ability. And sometimes swimming isn’t even an option, especially on rivers like the Mississippi. “You could have bumped your head, you could have had a medical condition that caused you to fall out, you pass out for any number of reasons, you may have hit something submerged that bumps you out of your boat,” McCraken says. “The Mississippi River is always changing, it’s such a dynamic river.”

McCracken says 9 of 10 people who drowned in lakes and river last year were not wearing a life jacket. She also says because the Mississippi is such a vast body of water, conditions vary on different sections of the river. What may be safe in one location could pose a danger elsewhere.

Iowa priest returns from bicycle ride across the U.S.

Kevin Richter

Kevin Richter

A Catholic priest from northwest Iowa man is back at home after spending most of his summer bicycling across the United States.

Father Kevin Richter of the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Le Mars rode 3,836 miles as he crossed 14 states in 68 days. “The most miles I covered in a day was from Bismark, North Dakota down to Selby, South Dakota,” Richter said. “With a good tail wind behind me, I rode 120 miles that day.”

He averaged 68.5 miles a day. Richter said, during the toughest stretch of the trip, he covered only 28 miles on one day through the Appalachian Mountains.

“For half of Kentucky and half of Virginia, you just keep going up hills and down hills,” Richter said. “That gets weary after a while and nearly broke me at one point.”

Richter divided his journey into two halves, traveling east from Le Mars to Yorktown, Virginia. From there, he flew to Portland, Oregon and rode his bike back to Le Mars. Oddly enough, Richter said the worst weather he rode through was in Iowa, on June 9. “The day I left, when I was riding between Lawton and Bronson, it was raining hard. I think that was it,” Richter said.

Richter took a summer sabbatical to make the trip. On many nights, he either camped out under the stars or slept in motels. On a few occasions, he would spend the evening at a church or with host families. Richter made the journey by himself, had 13 flat tires, and lost 25 pounds.

Story and photo by Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars


DNR posts warnings at 7 state beaches

Swimming is not recommended in at least seven of Iowa’s state park lakes for the last holiday weekend of the summer. Mary Skopec is the beach monitoring coordinator with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Right now, we have five beaches that are not recommended for swimming due to E. coli bacteria advisories and we have three beaches that are not recommended for swimming based on algal toxin levels that we see,” Skopec says.

Recent heavy rains have contributed to a rise in E. coli bacteria by washing manure spread on farm fields into the lakes.

The beaches where swimming advisories are posted are at Union Grove State Park, Denison Beach, Black Hawk State Park, Backbone Lake, Lake of Three Fires, Prairie Rose Lake, and McIntosh Woods on Clear Lake.

The DNR tests the water each week and posts the results on their website.