Marshalltown, IA continues to struggle after tornado in July


 

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Debris still in the streets

Kasey Dresser | September 12, 2018

On July 19th of this year, Marshalltown, IA was hit with a devastating tornado. 89 homes were destroyed and 525 sustained major damage. The  tornado struck a low income part of town making it very difficult for the small town to bounce back. Many people in the area had little to no insurance.

Lennox and JBS Swift & Co., the two largest employers have made sizable donations to help rebuild property. With disaster relief help, several employers have been able to continue to provide health insurance to their employees despite no longer having jobs for them. However, the process is slow and there are many people in the town still living in destroyed homes despite the tornado occurring months ago. Marshall County Family Long Term Recovery Committee is currently going door to door to evaluate which homes can still be lived in long term. Greg Smith, chairman of the Iowa Disaster Human Resource Council, stated, “It is not unusual for the poorest of the community to become poorer after a disaster.”

There is also large concern from business owners they may not have the insurance money to rebuild their company. It is a city requirement to use the original materials instead of replacing it with something cheaper, like wood. The collapse of these business will leave many people unemployed.

Even after the physical damage is cleared away Marshalltown will likely face a difficult couple years. Jim Zaleski, the city’s economic development director and tourism marketer, has helped with tornado relief in other towns. He believes,” the tornado was a catalyst, ” and will “force the community to take some hard looks at what was going to happen over the next decade.”

Heavy flooding expected in Cedar Rapids


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Picture taken at Tuesday, September 4th 12:11pm

Kasey Dresser | September 5, 2018

The Cedar Rapids area is currently under river flood warning. The Cedar Rapids River is expecting to crest at 16.5 feet midday Thursday. The crest is the highest point of a flood wave. For reference, Cedar Rapids’ last flood was in 2016 and crested at 22 feet. The devastating 2008 flood crested at 31 feet.

Mayor Brad Hart held a press conference yesterday stating that preparations were in place. City workers are preparing for 18 feet to be safe. Hart stated, “I’m confident that no matter how high the river gets this week, that we’ll rise above it and protect the community as best we possibly can.”

Right now there is expected to be no damage. City Public Works Director Jen Winter’s biggest concern is “water coming back into our storm sewer system and backing up.” “Unless something fails, we anticipate that no, that there would not be damage,” she said. “In some cases, depending on the age of a building, some people do get water in their basements despite the fact that we have kind of plugged off the river from backing up.”

You can access updates on the City of Cedar Rapids website.

An alternative to artificial preservatives


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Bowl of fruit (photo credit to Suzy Hazelwood)

Kasey Dresser | August 22, 2018

A research team at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have found a plant- based preservative that could replace artificial preservatives.

Flavonoid is a group of phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables that has recently been used as a natural preservative in food.  The naturally occurring chemical is responsible for defending the plant against pathogens, pests, or other environmental stressors. It is also the reason onions, tea, strawberries, kale, grapes and other foods have such vivid colors.

During testing in a room temperature environment, food with flavonoids were able to stay fresh for 2 days without refrigeration while current artificial preservatives succumb to bacteria after 6 hours.

This research could not be announced at a better time as just last month the American Academy of Pediatrics had 67,000 pediatricians in the U.S. step forward about their concerns of nitrates and nitrites being used to preserve meat products. Research has show that nitrates and nitrites can interfere with thyroid hormone production, the metabolic process and cause gastrointestinal and nervous system cancers. Flavonoids are packed with vitamins and do not cause harm to the digestive system.

A former adviser to the World Health Organization and consultant Medical Oncologist, Dr. Gabriel Oon Chong Jin said in an interview, “Flavonoids are important natural food supplements with vitamins, but also used as food additives, without causing harm to the human system. This is unlike currently available artificial preservatives used in most processed foods such as aspartame and nitrates, which may cause cancer among other adverse health effects.”

The research team is being led by Professor William Chen, the Director of NTU’s Food Science & Technology program. The recent findings were published in last month’s Food Chemistry journal.

Group finds herbicide in cereal and other food products


 

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Cheerios, among other food products, were found to have traces of glyphosate, the active ingredient of RoundUp. (PublicDomainPictures.Net)

Katelyn Weisbrod | August 17, 2018

Traces of an herbicide have reportedly been detected in food products such as Cheerios.

The environmental research group Environmental Working Group found traces of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp, in 48 of 61 products tested.

This comes a week after Monsanto was ordered by a California jury to pay $289 million in damages to a man with cancer who claimed to have developed the disease after long-term exposure to RoundUp.

Monsanto, however, stands by the safety of its product and criticized the Environmental Working Group for seeking an agenda. The New York Times reported that the Food and Drug Administration will look into the groups findings.

Phoenix heat boosted by urban heat island effect


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Phoenix, Arizona reached 116 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday, some say due in part to the urban heat island effect. (John Fowler/Wikipedia)

Katelyn Weisbrod | July 27, 2018

On Wednesday, the temperature in Phoenix broke a record high for the date — 116 degrees Fahrenheit.

The hot summer days are made worse in cities like Phoenix because of the “urban heat island effect.” When the sun beats down onto the cars, streets, and buildings covering the landscape, that heat is absorbed and held, leading to unnaturally high temperatures.

Cities can prevent the effect by increasing the urban plant life. Trees, gardens, and green roofs all help absorb less heat, and trees can provide much-needed shade to people walking around the sweltering city.

At least five people have died this year in the Phoenix area after falling sick from the heat, the Associated Press reported. Last year, the final death toll from heat-related illness was 155.

“If similar numbers of people died from any other type of weather event, it would be considered a national disaster,” Phoenix sustainability officer Mark Hartman told the AP.

New climate predictions for Iowa


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Iowa will be facing even hotter temperatures. (Rich H/flickr)

Eden DeWald | July 25th, 2018

Two professors from Iowa recently contributed an article to the Des Moines Register about new climate change predictions for the state of Iowa. Gene Tackle, an emeritus professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, and Jerry Schnoor, a professor of civil and environmental at the University of Iowa and co-director of the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research at the University of Iowa, wrote about the serious effects that climate change will have for Iowans, and how Iowans are already being effected.

Schnoor and Tackle reference information from the from the Climate Science Special Report which is part of the National Climate Assessment Report. The report found that heat wave temperatures will increase to a range of 97-102 degrees by 2050. Currently, heat wave temperatures fall in a range of  90-95 degrees. These temperatures have serious consequences for vulnerable populations such as the young and elderly, as well as our agricultural interests in Iowa. Extreme weather events, such as the recent flooding in Polk County, have already demonstrated the danger of climate change we are facing today.

Despite Iowa facing these grim predictions, Schnoor and Tackle urge Iowans that they can still take action. Supporting renewable energy, voting in local elections, and joining local organizations that spread information about climate change are all presented as important ways to help protect our future.

 

 

Iowa DNR warns against swimming at nine beaches


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The Iowa DNR’s map of affected beaches (/IowaDNR)

Eden DeWald | July 18th, 2018

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has advised beach goers against swimming at nine Iowa beaches across the state due to high levels of E.coli in the water. Signs have been posted to warn Iowans about the high levels of E.coli, but there is still no shortage of swimmers on the affected beaches.

E.coli, or Escherichia coli, is a bacterium that lives in the digestive tracts of humans. However, pathogenic strains of E.coli can cause infections in humans with symptoms including diarrhea and vomiting, and in some serious cases, kidney failure. Exposure to pathogenic bacteria can occur via contaminated food, water or contact with another infected person. Young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are the most susceptible to an E.coli infection.

The DNR recognized that it is hard to pinpoint what causes these high levels of E.coli in water. However, E.coli outbreaks in lakes and beaches have been linked to human and animal waste. A paper from the Iowa Public Policy project published earlier this year also links E.coli to waste from concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, of which there are an estimated 10,000 in Iowa.