Friday News, December 21
Thousands of Iowans Still Without Power
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Tens of thousands of Iowans have had their electric power restored following a winter storm that dropped more than a foot of snow in the Des Moines area.
But MidAmerican Energy reports that nearly 9,500 customers - most of them in Des Moines - were still without power Friday morning.
At the height of the storm that swept into Iowa early Thursday, more than 34, 000 customers were without electricity, including more than 32,000 in the Des Moines area.
Transportation Officials Still Trying To Clear Roads
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa officials say snow plow operators will be out Friday morning continuing to clear roads affected by a major storm this week.
The state Department of Transportation says nearly 450 snow plows and other removal equipment is helping clear crash scenes and vehicles blocking roadways on the interstate system.
The agency says travel is not expected to significantly improve until later Friday.
At least 80 crashes were reported Thursday throughout the state. Officials also say drivers on a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 80 were stuck Thursday night. A 25-car pileup on Interstate 35 in northern Iowa killed two people and injured seven.
A major snow storm hit most of Iowa Wednesday night into Thursday. The National Weather Service says more than a foot of snow hit the Des Moines area.
Hillview Sledding and Tubing Hill Hopes To Open Soon
(Hinton) -- Now that we have had our first major snow, and given the fact schools will be dismissing for Christmas break, you would think it would be the perfect opportunity to go sledding. However, Dennis Sohl, Executive Director with the Plymouth County Conservation Board says, not so fast. The Conservation Board oversees the county parks, including the popular sledding and tubing hill, Hillview Recreation Center located just west of Hinton.
Sohl hopes we can get more snow, as he would like to see the tubing hill open the day after Christmas.
The Conservation Official explains how much snow is needed for safe sledding and tubing.
Sohl says once the tubing and sledding hill are able to be open, he says the public will notice some improvements at the hill, including new warming huts, electrical outlets, and more seating away from the wind.
Harkin Says Social Security Should Not Be Cut
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin says President Barack Obama should not include cuts to Social Security in any agreement to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.
Harkin told reporters Wednesday that Social Security benefits should not be cut to reduce the nation's budget deficit since the program is funded separately. He says Obama should stand firm
because "the vast majority of the American people are on our side on this."
In negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner, Obama has agreed to adopt a method of calculating inflation that would slow the growth of Social Security benefits.
Harkin says he's concerned that Obama has also proposed raising taxes on incomes over $400,000, instead of the $250,000 level he campaigned on. Harkin says voters gave Obama a mandate for the
Harkin Turns Down Senate Appropriations Chair
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - U.S. Senator Tom Harkin says he declined an opportunity to become chairman of the prestigious Senate Appropriations Committee because he wants to keep working on health care and retirement issues.
Harkin told reporters Thursday that he loves chairing the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee and would continue in that position. The Democrat says he wants to ensure the success
of President Barack Obama's health care law, and to push for a new nationwide pension program to help retirees.
The opportunity to chair Appropriations came to Harkin after the death of Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii because of the Senate's seniority rules. The job went first to Senator Patrick Leahy of
Vermont and then to Harkin. Both declined.
Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland will become the committee's next chair.
Iowa State University Hires Woman For Engineering Dean
AMES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa State University says it has hired the dean of engineering from Mississippi State University to fill the same position at ISU.
Sara Rajala (RYE-ah-lah) will begin work on the Ames campus April 1. The university made the announcement Thursday.
Rajala has been engineering dean at Mississippi State since 2008. There she is credited with raising more than $30 million in private gifts and revising the strategic plan for the college of
She succeeds Jonathan Wickert, who was promoted in July to senior vice president and provost at Iowa State.
Bankers Say Rising Commodity Prices and Lower Fuel Costs Are Helping Businesses
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A new survey of rural bankers shows that rising commodity prices and lower energy costs are helping businesses in Midwestern states and the northern Plains.
The Rural Mainstreet Index released Thursday climbed in December, the fourth straight month of growth. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey from Omaha, Nebraska
says the reading is the healthiest recorded since June 2007.
The survey showed increases in bank borrowing to purchase farmland and equipment, and rising farmland prices. The December hiring index rose half a point, to 53.5. The home-sales index
slipped in December, to 61.3 from November's 62.0.
The index ranges from 0 to 100, with 50 representing "growth neutral." It's based on a survey of rural bankers in the Dakotas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and