Weather

Puerto Rico’s hot winter days and warm nights have played a key role in the global seed business for more than 30 years. So, the devastation wrought on the U.S. territory by Hurricane Maria in September stretches to the croplands of the Midwest and Great Plains.

Fields in Puerto Rico are used for research, development and/or testing of up to 85 percent of the commercial corn, soybean and other hybrid seeds grown in the U.S., according to the Puerto Rico Agricultural Biotechnology Industry Association.

mcgregor damage
Courtesy of Carrie Nolan

After a tornado wrecked McGregor’s historic downtown area in July, most local businesses have recovered and are looking forward to the fall tourism season.

Kristie Austin is executive director of the McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce. She says McGregor is ready for the fall tourism season, and it will be very important for local businesses.

"The two business buildings that were severely damaged and were basically lost have been cleaned up, and a lot of the other buildings that have had roof or other structural things, they’re getting that fixed," Austin says.

corn on truck
pixabay

Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent tropical storm could cause shipping delays and damage to infrastructure that is necessary for Iowa’s agricultural exports.

About 60 percent of soybean and corn exports leave the U.S. from the lower Mississippi River. 

Mike Steenhoek is executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. He says prolonged rainfall along the Gulf Coast is delaying some barge unloading and ocean vessel loading.

Steenhoek says the rain is also washing out railroads and putting stress on bridges.

mcgregor damage
Courtesy of Carrie Nolan

Residents of McGregor in northeast Iowa are cleaning up after an EF-1 tornado (peak winds 110mph) devastated the downtown area Wednesday night.

No major injuries were reported. Some historic buildings have been severely damaged or destroyed, and there were piles of bricks and glass in the street.

McGregor resident Anne Kruse was at a meeting downtown when a window blew in. After the tornado passed, she says she went outside and it was "absolute chaos."

LOUIS / FLICKR

The American Red Cross has dispatched volunteers and resources to areas that were damaged by severe storms, including the Linn County town of Prairieburg which was struck by a tornado.

Leslie Schaffer is the CEO of the American Red Cross of Central Iowa chapter.  She says right now her organization is making sure that the people affected by the storm have their immediate needs met.

IDOT

Iowa seems to have avoided the worst effects of an ice storm that began Sunday evening and still lingers this afternoon, left 1/3 of an inch of ice on parts of Iowa, and sent hundreds of crews onto roads and highways to remove the ice.  As of this afternoon, most of the state’s major roadways were listed in good or “seasonal” condition, or only partly ice or slush-covered.

Charity Nebbe/IPR

Wintry weather brings the risk of blowing and drifting snow to Iowa's roads.

A partnership between the Iowa Department of Transportation and farmland owners to reduce that risk is raising its public profile this year.

For about 20 years, standing corn has helped create a barrier to contain the blowing and drifting snow, preventing it from reaching the highways where it can create slippery surfaces and dangerous driving conditions. Craig Bargfrede, winter operations administrator for the DOT, says it works just as well as temporary snow fences and is a lot cheaper.

submitted photo

Ames is among the central Iowa communities recovering from heavy rains late Thursday night.

Assistant city manager Brian Phillips says parts of Ames received five inches of rain, much of it falling in about an hour.  And he says at least two manhole covers disappeared in the deluge.

"If there's a storm sewer that has a very large slug of water going through it, that can compress the air underneath the manhole cover," Phillips says, "and that compression pushes upward [and] can pop the manhole cover off."

Photo courtesy Brandon Pollock, Waterloo Courier

Updated at 10:15pm Thursday.

Sandbagging continues in communities along the Shell Rock and Cedar Rivers in northeast Iowa  after portions of Butler and Floyd county were hit with as much as a foot of rain last night. To the southeast, people in Cedar Rapids have begun building sandbag levees to protect an area devastated in 2008.

In Butler County, Sheriff Jason Johnson says volunteers who want to assist with cleanup are welcome, but sightseers are not.

Flickr / photolibrarian

Gov. Terry Branstad has issued a disaster proclamation for Benton, Humboldt and Wright counties.

The three counties requested the aid after recent severe weather, saying the demands of the disaster response exceeded local resources.

Dean Borg / IPR

Powerful winds swept through Eastern Iowa in Sunday morning’s predawn darkness, collapsing a house on four people in Walford and ripping the roof from a Vinton apartment building.

Linn County sheriff’s deputies, responding to emergency calls, found Brett Gioimo, 27, trapped inside a pile of rubble that had been his home. He was transported to a hospital.

Ashlee Shill, 28, and two children aged three and four years old were also in the house when it collapsed, but were not injured.

FEMA (https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app)

Floods, tornadoes and other severe weather can cause chaos in a community. With the summer severe weather season under way, the Federal Emergency Management Agency hopes its smartphone app can help people prepare for and recover from all kinds of disasters.

The FEMA app lets you upload photos, find a shelter and check on conditions for up to five different zip codes. Brenda Gustafson, a public affairs specialist in the Kansas City FEMA office, says photos are authenticated before they are shared with first responders.

Iowa gets an early taste of summer toward the end of this week, with temperatures expected to climb into the mid-90’s.  Health officials, animal welfare advocates, and the National Weather Service are issuing warnings in advance of the hot temperatures.

The Iowa Department of Public Health says about 500 Iowans are hospitalized each year with heat-related illnesses.

Flickr / PROWindRanch

Monday marks the start of Severe Weather Awareness Week. And on Wednesday the National Weather Service will hold a statewide tornado drill between 10 and 11 am, provided there is no actual severe weather taking place.

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network

The National Weather Service and the Iowa Agriculture Department say the human touch often beats automation when it comes to measuring precipitation.

State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says volunteers are needed across the state. He says all that’s required is an interest in the weather and a special rain gauge.

“The opening of the gauge is four inches in diameter,  much different than what you’d find at the hardware store, it offers a better catch, therefore more representative of what’s going in. “ he says.

Flickr / Katie Haugland

There’s either a blizzard, winter, or ice storm warning for most of Iowa making travel extremely hazardous. Parts of the state will get 6 to 12 twelve inches of snow.

"We have a big area of low pressure that moving threw the plains and the Midwest," says meteorologist Kelsey Engle at the National Weather Service’s Des Moines Office. "With temperatures cold enough, as well as well enough moisture, that is producing snow across Iowa."

JOHN PEMBLE

*This is an updated version of this story. 

If you don’t have to travel, it's best to stay off Iowa roads today since the blizzard that blanketed parts of the southwest U.S. has moved into the Midwest as a heavy snowstorm. Roughly 5000 Iowa Department of Transportation trucks are out clearing snow from the state’s interstates and highways, most of which are partially or completely covered with snow, ice and slush.

Flickr / Jeff Gitchel

Parts of Iowa are still facing flooding as a result of this past weekend’s rain. The National Weather Service says as rainwater in central Iowa flows southeast into rivers and streams, agricultural fields and low-lying roads will be submerged. 

"The one thing to note though is that the streams widen as they go down stream, so they they can handle more water" says NWS meteorologist Rod Donavon. "The impacts will be lessened as we get down towards the Ottumwa area, for example, on the Des Moines River." 

National Weather Service

National Weather Service Meteorologist Jeff Zogg in Johnston describes the criteria for determining if weather events will be storms or if winter weather advisories are more appropriate. He gives advice about driving in the first snow and offers a look ahead to what travelers may expect for Thanksgiving.  

Flickr / David Morris

Severe weather is moving rapidly from the southwest through Iowa this afternoon. The National Weather Service has issued tornado warnings, and severe weather has damaged buildings, trees, or knocked out power in several Iowa counties. 

Flickr / Phil Roeder

The jet stream responsible for Iowa’s unseasonably warm November weather isn’t going to last long enough for weekend picnics. A cold front will come through the state Thursday night.

Bob Elbert

Lake City is quickly recovering from an EF1 tornado that touched down Sunday night, tearing the roof off the community’s high school. Mayor Gary Fahan says around 25 percent of homes in the town are damaged, but clean-up is well underway.

UPDATE 12:35 pm Monday, January 5, 2015 - The "General" in charge of the Iowa Department of Transportation's battle plan for the approaching snow storm says they're ready to go. 

Baby It's Cold INSIDE

Nov 25, 2014

The U.S Energy Administration this week predicted Midwesterners could enjoy utility bills as much as 38 percent lower than last winter. While that sounds good, the man who oversees a low income heating assistance program believes the numbers are flawed.

Justin Valas

The President's order to protect five million undocumented immigrants from deportation has been welcomed by some, condemned by others.

NASA/SDO/AIA

NASA just released news that back in 2012, the Earth came very close to being hit by a solar flare – an event that could have wiped out electrical power for tens of millions of people.

Iowa's Rising Waters

Jul 8, 2014
Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa’s rivers and reservoirs have not reached flood stages of 1993 or 2008, but many communities are still dealing with significant flooding.

William Ingram

True or False - If taller things are around you, you're safe from getting hit by lightning.

True or False - You should determine whether it is safe to be outside based on the amount of seconds between lightning and thunder.

True or False - You can develop tree looking "tattoos" if you survive a lightning strike.

Clay Masters / IPR

  Torrential downpours in northwest Iowa caused rivers to swell… floodwaters damaged homes, businesses and farmland.  Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are assessing the area to see if it qualifies for federal help. State officials on Monday said public infrastructure sustained more than $15 million worth of damage in the state.

That doesn’t include homes, businesses and farmland in Rock Valley and other parts of the region that were destroyed.

“We’ve had a few (floods), but nothing remotely close to this,” said Rock Valley Mayor Kevin Van Otterloo.

Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this week, a levee broke in Rock Valley, Iowa, flooding several homes and businesses. Yesterday Sioux City residents flew into action sandbagging along the river.

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