PIERRE, S.D. — PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — In the span of 24 hours, the scenic Black Hills in South Dakota were coated in up to three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow, one of several Great Plains states walloped by a storm system that’s caused millions of dollars in damage.
Wind gusts of up to 70 mph were recorded in the Black Hills, National Weather Service meteorologist Katie Pojorlie said Saturday morning, but the snow was expected to end later Saturday, giving people a chance to start digging out from the unusual early fall snowstorm that set records.
But wintry weather wasn’t the only thing wrapped into the powerful cold front, as thunderstorms brought heavy rain, hail and tornadoes in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. No one died in the tornadoes, reports said, but snow was blamed in the deaths of three people who were killed in a traffic accident on U.S. 20 in northeast Nebraska.
Forecasters said the front would eventually combine with other storms to make for a wild — and probably very wet — weekend for much of the central U.S. and Southeast.
The metro area started the summer with heavy rains wiping out much of the drought. Now because of the lack of rain since, “severe” drought has made its way back to parts of the north metro. “The worst of the drought stretches from the St. Cloud area through the northern Twin Cities metro right down the Mississippi River through Winona,” said climatologist Pete Boulay. Boulay reported the worsening drought outlook Thursday. “They’re about 4 inches short at the airport. If you live in Anoka, Washington, Ramsey Counties you’re about five inches short of normal,” he said. “If you live down in Winona, they’re missing eight inches of rain.” It’s turned lush lawns into crunchy fields. The more brown underneath Frank Rothanburg’s shoes, the less green in his pockets. “There’s no work with all the grass being dead. There ain’t nothing to do,” said Rothanburg. He estimates his Anoka company, Superb Lawn Care, has lost $40,000 over the summer. “We’ve got places we haven’t mowed in three weeks now because they’re just so burnt up,” he said. And it’s not just rain that’s missing. “We’ve only seen maybe between 10 or 12 tornados for the year. And that’s well below normal,” said Boulay. And according to Rothanburg, even watering every other day isn’t helping. He is now hoping “Mother Nature” steps in. “Nothing’s helping. We need rain bad,” said Rothanburg.
By DAVID PITT/Associated Press/ September 12, 2013
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The combination of heat and scarce amounts of rain intensified the drought in several agriculturally significant states, contributing to declining crop conditions in parts of the Midwest and South.
However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a separate report Thursday the expected record corn harvest and third-largest soybean crop are on track, since areas that aren’t seeing as severe a drought will produce enough to make up for the driest regions.
Crops in states such as Kentucky and Tennessee look better than they did a month ago, the USDA said, while Iowa and Missouri are suffering from the heat.
‘‘The fringes of the corn belt are producing enough to offset Iowa’s loss,’’ said Chad Hart, agriculture economist at Iowa State University.
This week’s national drought monitor, which tracked conditions from Sept. 3 to Tuesday, shows nearly 50.7 percent of the contiguous United States is now in moderate drought or worse, up from just over 50 percent the week before.
The report said in Iowa, the nation’s largest corn producer, severe drought spread to nearly 42 percent of the state — up from 32 percent a week ago. All but two of the state’s counties, both in east-central Iowa, are experiencing some level of drought or abnormally dry conditions.
Doyle Rice, USA TODAY 6:05 p.m. EDT September 12, 2013
Drought is at its largest percentage since April.
Drought covers more than half of the country and is at its largest percentage since early April, according to this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly federal website.
As of Tuesday, 50.7% of the contiguous USA is in a drought.
Hot, dry weather over the past week led to worsening drought in the central USA: In the Midwest, where temperatures have been as much as 10 degrees above normal over the past week, drought expanded in parts of Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to the monitor.
For example, since July 1, La Crosse, Wis., has received only 2.4 inches of rain, the driest July 1-Sept. 10 period on record for that location.
Midwest hot, dry spell brings back drought worries
DAVID PITT August 29, 2013
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A growing season that began unusually wet and cold in the Midwest is finishing hot and dry, renewing worries of drought and its impact on crops.
Temperatures soared to records in recent days in parts of the region, reaching nearly 100 degrees in some areas. The heat wave struck many farm states — from the Dakotas to Wisconsin, down through Missouri — that have seen too little rain this growing season.
“It’s about the worst case scenario we could have with these high temperatures and the lack of water with soil moisture declining,” said Roger Elmore, an agronomy professor at Iowa State University.
A wet, cool spring delayed planting and slowed crop growth — but it also replenished soil moisture in many crop producing states, causing some of last year’s widespread drought to retreat. The rain stopped in July in many of those states, however, and as the soil dried out, the heat set in and stressed corn and soybean crops.
The southeast Iowa city of Burlington, which is surrounded by corn fields, had its wettest spring on record at 19.23 inches of precipitation, nearly 8 inches above normal. Yet it’s now on track to have its driest summer on record, with only 3.86 inches so far, 8.41 inches below normal.
Wayne Humphries farms about 1,000 acres about 45 miles north of Burlington at Columbus Junction. He grows corn and soybeans and raises hogs.
File – In this Aug. 27, 2013, file photo an ear of corn hangs on a withered stalk in Farmingdale, Il …
He said he delayed planting by about 30 days because of wet fields and now is watching the lower leaves of cornstalks turn brown from lack of moisture. He hasn’t seen a measurable rain for 30 days.
Soybean plants are suffering too as seeds are developing in the pods.
“I have solace in the fact that we did everything we could and we did it to the best of our ability and now whatever happens, happens,” he said. “It’s sort of a philosophical moment.”
Expanding U.S. Drought, Excessive Heat Hurt Iowa Corn, Soy Crops
By Jeff Wilson – Aug 29, 2013 7:12 PM CT
High heat and little rain during the past week led to an unusual, quick expansion of drought conditions in Iowa and Illinois, damaging crops in the biggest U.S. corn- and soybean-growing states.
About 25 percent of Iowa had a moderate drought on Aug. 27, up from 7.9 percent a week earlier, while Illinois jumped to 20 percent from none, the U.S. Drought Monitor said yesterday in a report. Parts of Iowa received less than 25 percent of normal rain during the past 60 days, and much of Illinois got less than half of normal since June 30, data from the High Plains Regional Climate Center show.
After a wet May and June delayed planting, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cut its soybean-crop forecast by 4.8 percent on Aug. 12 and reduced its corn estimate for a third straight month. July was the 20th coldest in 119 years in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, National Weather Service data show. Soybean futures are up 17 percent from an 18-month low on Aug. 7 on forecasts for dry weather, and corn rose 7.5 percent from a 35-month low on Aug. 13.
“The heat and drought are speeding crop development and reducing yield potential daily,” Roger Elmore, an agronomist at Iowa State University in Ames, said in a telephone interview. “We are skipping over critical stages of development that probably can’t recover even if temperatures cool and a little rain falls.”
While the crops need hot weather to develop, temperatures that approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) from Nebraska to Indiana in the past five days can cut corn yields at least 3 percent a day while reducing the number of seeds and seed weight in soybeans, Elmore said.
Cool weather during the first 19 days of August masked the stress that the dry spell was causing to crops over most of the Midwest, Planalytics Inc. said in a report yesterday. The epicenter of the crop damage is in Iowa, based on the vegetative growth index that the forecaster constructs biweekly from satellite images.
Bagged salad contaminated with the rare parasite cyclospora appears to be the source of a food poisoning outbreak in Nebraska and Iowa.
Bagged salad caused parasite outbreak, states say
JoNel AlecciaNBC News
17 hours ago
Health officials in Iowa and Nebraska on Tuesday tagged prepackaged salad mix as the source for an outbreak of parasite-borne food poisoning in those states even as federal officials worked to see if the conclusion applies elsewhere as well.
Iowa’s top food inspector, Steven Mandernach, said that bagged salad was behind the cyclospora outbreak that has sickened at least 143 people in that state and another 78 in Nebraska. Overall, at least 372 people in 15 states have been sickened by the rare parasite since June.
“The evidence points to a salad mix containing iceberg and romaine lettuce, as well as carrots and red cabbage as the source of the outbreak reported in Iowa and Nebraska,” said Mandernach, chief of the Food and Consumer Safety Bureau of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. “Iowans should continue eating salads as the implicated prepackaged mix is no longer in the state’s food supply chain.”
Nebraska officials also confirmed the source, a spokeswoman said, but neither state would name the brand or the producer of the bagged salad mix — and they would not say whether it was an imported or domestic product.
But it wasn’t yet clear whether the packaged salad was linked to other infections in other states, officials with the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. At least 21 people have been hospitalized in connection with the outbreak.
The tally of Cyclospora infections in the Midwest and Texas reached at least 235 today, an increase of more than 50 in the past 2 days, but the source of contamination and whether the two regional outbreaks are related remained a mystery. Iowa, the hardest-hit state, reported 109 cases today, 22 more than it had 2 days ago, while Nebraska cited 63 cases, which includes 9 in the past 2 days. Iowa has had at least six hospitalizations, and Nebraska has had three, but no state has reported any deaths. The Texas case tally rose to 56 today, from 48 yesterday, said Christine Mann, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). She said the 56 cases reported within the past week represent the state’s total so far this year. “It is too soon to tell if any of the cases are connected to a multistate outbreak in Nebraska and Iowa, but we are looking into it,” Mann said. Wisconsin officials reported four cases today, two more than at midweek, and said they are believed to be part of the same outbreak. That compares with just five cases in the state from 2008 through 2012, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) said in a statement. Earlier this week, Illinois and Kansas reported two and one cases, respectively, but one of those was thought to be related to overseas travel.
Iowa and Nebraska officials have said they suspect that vegetables grown somewhere else are the source of the contamination, but no breaks in the investigation were reported today. “Fresh vegetables appear to be the cause of this outbreak,” Leah Bucco-White of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services told CIDRAP News today. “Our investigators are working hard to pinpoint the exact source. We know locally grown produce is not part of this outbreak.” Earlier in the week, Iowa and Nebraska officials said those who were infected got sick in mid to late June, and on that basis, they thought that all the contaminated food was likely to have been consumed or discarded already. Bucco-White said today, “End of June is still where we are with symptom onset. We’re waiting for interview results on some of the recently reported cases.” In the Wisconsin press release, State Health Officer Henry Anderson, MD, urged people to seek treatment if they have prolonged diarrhea. “Because Cyclospora can cause a prolonged illness and the disease is treatable with sulfa drugs, we want people to know that they should contact their doctor if they experience a gastrointestinal illness with watery diarrhea that lasts more than 2 or 3 days,” he said. Because cyclosporiasis is relatively rare and requires special testing, doctors usually don’t test for it, he added. He also commented that the illness usually resolves on its own, but it can last a long time, with relapses that may persist for weeks to months.
Previous cyclosporiasis outbreaks in the United States have been mostly associated with imported produce or overseas travel. The first big multistate cyclosporiasis outbreak in the United States occurred in 1996 and was traced to raspberries imported from Guatemala. It involved 1,465 probable and confirmed cases in 20 states, the nation’s capital, and two Canadian provinces, according to a 1997 report in the New England Journal of Medicine. In a 2011 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 1,110 sporadic (not outbreak-related) cyclosporiasis cases were reported from 1996 to 2008. A third of the patients had traveled abroad in the 2 weeks before they fell ill, many of them to Mexico, Guatemala, or Peru, said the CDC in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
Craig Hedberg, PhD, a foodborne disease expert at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, said that in view of the history of cyclosporiasis outbreaks in the United States, it’s natural for outbreak investigators to look to imported foods. “The primary reason for discounting local production sources is that previous outbreaks of Cyclospora infection have been associated with imported products, and the natural reservoir and route of contamination has generally not been known,” he commented by e-mail. “Thus, there isn’t a real precedent for locally sourced produce as the likely source of an outbreak in this area. That alone shouldn’t be a basis for ruling it out, but there may not be a lot of locally sourced produce in this market during this time frame anyway. “This is a relatively large outbreak, and if they are getting good food histories and following up to identify potentially common distribution pathways, it seems they should have a good chance to pin down the source,” Hedberg added. “This may come too late to prevent cases in this outbreak, but learning where this came from could help us prevent the next outbreak from happening. This is an important reason for continuing the investigation, even if it looks like the outbreak is over.” He also said it appears that the current outbreak does not include many event-related case clusters, unlike the big 1996 outbreak. That, plus state officials’ comments about vegetables as a possible source, suggests a fresh produce item that has been distributed through multiple outlets, he added. “The distribution of cases in Iowa and Nebraska suggests a common distributor, and if the cases in Texas are related, that may help triangulate on specific distribution pathways or products,” Hedberg commented.
Bacteria and viruses that cause only mild disease to humans, or are difficult to contract via aerosol in a lab setting, such as hepatitis A, B, and C, influenza A, Lyme disease, salmonella, mumps, measles, scrapie, dengue fever, and HIV. “Routine diagnostic work with clinical specimens can be done safely at Biosafety Level 2, using Biosafety Level 2 practices and procedures. Research work (including co-cultivation, virus replication studies, or manipulations involving concentrated virus) can be done in a BSL-2 (P2) facility, using BSL-3 practices and procedures. Virus production activities, including virus concentrations, require a BSL-3 (P3) facility and use of BSL-3 practices and procedures”, see Recommended Biosafety Levels for Infectious Agents.
Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by the microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis. People can become infected with Cyclospora by consuming food or water contaminated with the parasite. People living or traveling in countries where cyclosporiasis is endemic may be at increased risk for infection.
A severe thunderstorm hit the Omaha metro area around 10 am packing 70 mph winds and heavy rain. Those strong winds downed trees, power lines and caused outages throughout Douglas and Sarpy Counties. There are reports of trees down all over the city blocking streets and bringing down power lines. Omaha Fire Department units are busy responding to calls of smoldering tree limbs on power lines. Omaha Public Power District perhaps has the biggest job ahead of them. Nearly 50,000 customers are without service. Loss of service also means traffic lights are not working and that is causing backups throughout the entire metro area. The storm also impacted Council Bluffs and most intersections there are also four-way stops. There were reports of trees down at several locations in that city as well. MidAmerican Energy is reporting is reporting that about 5,000 customers are without service.
CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD
Sergio Calderon helps to put a tarp on a roof near 144th and William St. A storm blew the roof off the house and into the side of another house across the street.
‘Intense’ morning storm causes power outages, tree damage around Omaha
A summer storm that blasted through the Omaha metropolitan area Monday morning downing trees and power lines came about when several thunderstorms joined forces about 4 a.m. in eastern Nebraska.
Frank Strait, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, The World-Herald’s private weather consultant, said forecasters had been predicting chances of thunderstorms, but they “were caught off guard” by the strength of the severe weather.
“We knew there was a good chance of thunderstorms popping up, but what we got was a cluster of thunderstorms organizing into a squall line with high winds in the eastern part of the state,” Strait said. “That made everything more intense.”
Scott Dergan, of the National Weather Service in Valley, said the storm began with winds of 40 mph on the western edge of Douglas County about 10 a.m. By the time the storm reached Eppley Airfield on the eastern boundary of the county 45 minutes later, winds there were clocked at 69 mph.
The storm continued through Iowa, with Harlan reporting winds of 75 mph, Dergan said. The line of thunderstorms was expected to hit Chicago late Monday or early Tuesday.
“A lot of times storms like this take time to brew before they get what we call water loaded, and then they accelerate,” Dergan said. “It was nothing specific about the metro area such as the urban heat island effect. It was just Mother Nature.”
A derecho last June left millions of people around Washington DC without power for days. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
An unusually massive line of storms packing hail, lightning and tree-toppling winds could affect more than one in five Americans on Wednesday as it rolls from Iowa to Maryland.
Meteorologists were even warning about the possibility of a weather event called a derecho, which is a storm of strong straight-line winds spanning at least 240 miles. The storms are also likely to generate tornadoes and cause power outages that will be followed by oppressive heat, said Russell Schneider, director of the National Weather Service’s storm prediction center in Norman, Oklahoma.
“We’re becoming increasingly concerned that a major severe weather event will unfold,” Schneider said. “The main thing is for folks to monitor conditions and have a plan for what to do if threatening weather approaches.”
For the first time this year, the center was using its highest alert level for parts of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. The storms will start in the late afternoon in eastern Iowa, Schneider said, and could hit Chicago around rush-hour.
The area the weather service considers to be under heightened risk of dangerous weather includes 74.7 million people in 19 states.
Wednesday “might be the worst severe weather outbreak for this part of the country for the year,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director at Weather Underground.
WASHINGTON (AP/WJZ) — An unusually massive line of storms packing hail, lightning and tree-toppling winds Wednesday could affect more than one in five Americans as it reaches Maryland from Iowa.
Meteorologists were even warning about the possibility of a weather event called a derecho, which is a storm of strong straight-line winds spanning at least 240 miles. The storms are also likely to generate tornadoes and cause power outages that will be followed by oppressive heat, said Russell Schneider, director of the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.
“We’re becoming increasingly concerned that a major severe weather event will unfold,” Schneider said. “The main thing is for folks to monitor conditions and have a plan for what to do if threatening weather approaches.”
Bob Turk reports a derecho forming in the Chicago area could possibly make its way to the region Thursday. There are two parts to this storm, Thursday morning and Thursday afternoon into early evening. The first part is primarily rain and the second part could bring us thunderstorms and even possibly tornadoes.
Thursday morning: Rain, varying in intensity and locally heavy in parts. Some thunderstorms are possible
Thursday afternoon and early evening (2 p.m. until 10 p.m.): Severe thunderstorms are possible with heavy rain, damaging winds and possible tornadoes
Late Thursday evening (after 10 p.m.): The region will slowly be drying out
For the first time this year, the center was using its highest alert level for parts of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. The storms could hit Chicago around rush hour, Schneider said. Wednesday night’s White Sox game against the Toronto Blue Jays was postponed in anticipation of bad weather.
High Risk: Severe Storms Could Bring Tree-Toppling Wind, Tornadoes
June 12, 2013 8:23 AM
UPDATED: 6/12/2013 3:40 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – The National Weather Service was anticipating a major severe weather outbreak in the Chicago area, starting Wednesday afternoon, with the likelihood of very strong storms, large hail, high winds, and a risk of tornadoes.
CBS 2 Meteorologist Megan Glaros reports there is a high risk for severe weather, a rarity for the Chicago area. It’s something more common in Tornado Alley in the central part of the country around Oklahoma and Kansas.
Strong storms in counties west of Chicagoland began to fire up around 3:40 p.m. Storms will continue through as late as 10 p.m. The highest chance of the most severe weather will happen around rush hour and continue into the evening.
In Lee and Ogle counties, a Tornado Warning was issued around 3:50 p.m., and is expected to expire at 4:30 p.m.
A Thunderstorm Warning has been issued for the entire Chicago area until 9 p.m.
An unexpectedly severe snowstorm dumped half a foot or more snow across much of eastern Nebraska on Sunday, shut down an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 80 and was at least partially to blame for a crash southeast of Lincoln that killed a 22-year-old Sterling man. The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office said Loren D. Muhm died after he lost control of his 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and collided with an oncoming van on icy Nebraska 43 near Bennet. The other driver was uninjured. West of the Capital City, authorities shut down an 83-mile stretch of Interstate 80 as they dug out drivers stranded in the whiteout conditions. Eastbound lanes were closed from Grand Island to Northwest 48th Street in Lincoln, and westbound lanes from Northwest 48th to York. James Barger, a truck driver for Pierce, Colo.-based Indian Creek Express, said he was at the front of a massive pileup on the interstate just west of Goehner in Seward County on Sunday morning. He spoke to a reporter on the phone from a Red Cross shelter at 105 S. Sixth St. in Seward.
“My truck’s probably totaled, at least severely damaged,” he said. “These nice folks tracked me down a motel room for me and my dog.” Barger left the rest stop east of Goehner about 8 a.m. and within minutes, he came across a driver who’d stopped his Honda Civic along westbound I-80 because of the slippery conditions. Barger said he was helping the driver when a pair of trucks behind them started to jackknife, one going into the median and the other covering the roadway. A chain reaction crash resulted, ensnaring some 15 vehicles — at least, Barger said — but resulting in no major injuries that Barger was aware of after talking to rescue workers at the scene. State troopers still were assisting motorists and a Nebraska State Patrol spokeswoman wasn’t able to provide specifics on any crashes Sunday afternoon, but a dispatcher said she was unaware of any significant injuries or fatalities on the interstate between Lincoln and Waco. The closures left thousands of visitors stranded in Lincoln, either forced off the interstate at Northwest 48th Street or unable to leave after attended high school basketball tournament games.
A stream of semitrailers and family vehicles poured into west Lincoln for much of the day, with police working to keep things moving. Officers directed westbound traffic off West O Street at Northwest 48th in order to keep drivers off U.S. 6 and allow those on the interstate to spill into town, Lincoln Police Capt. David Beggs said. U.S. 6 was closed in both directions as far west as the Seward area. The state Department of Roads urged caution on almost all major roadways in Nebraska. A member of the public reported measuring 4 inches of snow in Lincoln at I-80 and Cornhusker Highway about 12:30 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. An additional 2 to 3 inches was in the forecast. Snow measurements varied across the region, with the heaviest amounts falling in a stretch north of Lincoln from Butler County through Saunders, Dodge, Burt and Washington counties and into Iowa, based on information from early Sunday posted Web page of the Weather Service office in Valley. Those counties were under a winter storm warning. Lancaster and Seward counties were also placed under winter storm warnings due to the near-blizzard conditions, said Scott Dergan, a meterologist in Valley.
REBECCA S. GRATZ/THE WORLD-HERALD
Looking northbound on 132nd Street, south of Dodge Street, traffic moves slowly as snow blows back into the roadway Sunday morning.
A Sunday winter storm made driving conditions hazardous for a good chunk of the nearly 6,000 men’s basketball fans who had headed to St. Louis to cheer on the Creighton Bluejays.
Laura and Tom Walker of Omaha planned to spend the night in St. Joseph, Mo., not wanting to risk travel on Interstate 29. The Iowa Department of Transportation had advised against taking the highway because of low visibility and poor road conditions.
“We’ve been getting messages from all the kids’ friends saying how bad the weather is in Omaha,” said Laura Walker, who along with her husband had gone to St. Louis with their teenage son and daughter and two other kids. “We have a couple of my son’s friends with us, too, so their parents were leaning toward us spending the night.”
The storm ended up being much worse than initially forecast, dumping 6-10 inches of snow in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, said Erik Pindrock, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, The World-Herald’s weather consultant.
Pindrock said Lincoln had reported 7 inches of snow late Sunday, while Fremont was near 9 inches.
Final totals for the Omaha metropolitan area were not immediately available, and the snow was expected to fall until as late as 1 this morning.
Poor conditions closed Interstate 80 between Lincoln and Grand Island for much of the day — the roadway had reopened by about 9 p.m. — and canceled a handful of flights in and out of Eppley Airfield at the height of the storm, between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
1/19/13 – On the eve of 2013 Presidential Inauguration, Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise appearance at the Iowa State Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C. And he had a very important announcement to make to the crowd. At the beginning of his speech, Biden began praising his soon to be re-inaugurated boss and let slip, “I’m proud to be President of the United States,” before stopping himself as nervous laughter from the audience turned into wild cheers. Biden corrected himself and said what he had intended: “I’m proud to be Vice President of the United States, but I’m prouder to be President Barack Obama’s vice president.”
The moment was reminiscent of when Mitt Romney introduced his running mate Paul Ryan for the first time as “the next President of the United States,” though this time the roles were flipped. If this is Biden’s unique way of ingratiating himself to Iowan voters before the 2016 Iowa Caucus, it somehow seems to have worked.
Today, the Sierra Club and Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Company announced a landmark settlement that requires the Iowa utility to phase out coal burning at seven coal-fired boilers, clean up another two coal-fired boilers and build a large solar installation at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The announcement also pushes the total amount of coal generation retired or announced to retire since 2010 to more than 50,000 megawatts, almost one-sixth of the nation’s coal fleet.
In 2012, the Sierra Club notified MidAmerican that it was violating the federal Clean Air Act at its Walter Scott, Riverside and George Neal coal plants, by emitting more pollution than allowed by its permits. Today’s settlement filed in federal court in Iowa resolves those allegations. According to the Clean Air Task Force air pollution from these three plants contributes to 45 deaths and 760 asthma attacks annually.
“Clean air, clean water and a booming clean energy economy are part of an Iowa legacy that I am proud to leave for my children and grandchildren,” said Pam Mackey Taylor, chapter energy chair of the Sierra Club in Iowa. “Coal’s days are numbered here in Iowa. Pollution from MidAmerican’s coal-fired power plants causes major health problems in communities across Iowa. Retiring units at these coal plants and installing vital pollution controls at the remaining units will help Iowans breathe easier.”
Today’s announcement brings the total number of coal plants retired or announced to retire since 2010 to 130 plants and 50,717 megawatts, almost one sixth of the nation’s entire coal fleet. In 2009 these coal plants emitted more than 188 million metric tons of carbon pollution, the equivalent annual emissions of more than 39 million passenger vehicles. These plants also emitted more than 7,600 pounds of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, and caused 6,000 heart attacks, 60,000 asthma attacks and 3,600 premature lives annually.
Meanwhile, as coal plants are retired and only one new coal plant has broken ground since November 2008, the U.S. is also installing record amounts of clean energy. During President’s Obama’s first term the nation doubled its installations of wind and solar, and in 2012 the U.S. installed more wind and solar than coal, gas or nuclear power, with both wind and solar having their best year ever. In mid-2012 the U.S. hit the milestone of 50,000 megawatts of wind generation installed, producing enough electricity for 13 million American homes.
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