UPDATED: Water Was Rising Along Edgewood Road in Cedar Rapids

April 30, 2009

AFTERNOON UPDATE: It looked like the water was going down again this afternoon. One official told me that the water won’t be getting high enough to close the Edgewood Road Bridge.

On a related note, another official told me that there are typically three floods per year in Cedar Rapids from the Cedar River if you consider flood stage at or above 10 feet.

Obviously, they are not close to last year’s flood by any means.


Around 11:35 a.m. today, looking north from Ellis/Edgewood.
Around 11:35 a.m. today, looking north from Ellis/Edgewood

Not a Test: Tornado Sirens Sound in Cedar Rapids but No Tornado in Sight

April 30, 2009

Weather warning sirens blared Sunday in Cedar Rapids. And while a tornado hit north of here, Cedar Rapids wasn’t hit.

Some, including myself, wondered why the sirens  warned us. That is because when sirens are activated, all sirens are activated, Michael Goldberg, Linn County Emergency Management coordinator, told me today.

“Current programming is ‘all or none’,” he said.  “Individual programming for each siren has been investigated but would add significant delay to the response of each siren.”

He said: ” The siren system is intended to serve the function of an outdoor warning alert mechanism.  It is multi-hazard in that it can be used for weather and local emergencies.  The proper response to hearing the outdoor warning siren is to tune to the All-hazard radio network provided through NOAA=National Weather Service or the local media outlets, particularly 96.5 FM or 600 AM for further information and instruction on protective actions.”

Here’s the rest of the story straight from Goldberg’s e-mail to me:

– The system is provided and maintained by NextEraEnergy – Duane Arnold as part of their 144 siren system in Linn and Benton Counties.

– The outdoor warning system is designed to meet their federal regulatory public notification requirements associated with the emergency planning zone (EPZ) around the DAEC.  The EPZ is roughly the 10 mile area around the Duane Arnold facility which is located northwest of the Cedar Rapids Metro area.

– The use of the system for weather events is a concurrent or secondary use that is encouraged by NextEraEnergy.

– Emergency Management has access to and control of the activation of the 109 sirens in the EPZ-Metro area.  Current programming is “all or none”.  Individual programming for each siren has been investigated but would add significant delay to the response of each siren.

-Linn County EMA does not control the activation of the outdoor sirens for communities outside the emergency planning zone. The coverage area is similar to the area depicted in the emergency response section of your phone book.

Hiawatha Fire Chief Discusses Volunteer Fire Service

April 29, 2009

Hiawatha Fire Chief Mike Nesslage discusses the volunteer fire service in this guest post:

I don’t want to comment on the particulars of the case, as the testimony is there. What I can tell you is that in general, the attitude of the public toward volunteer firefighters is changing. It’s going to take some good leadership on the part of legislators to help protect us, on the part of department leaders to create an atmosphere where we can help our volunteers out, and the community as a whole to put percent of their support behind their volunteer firefighters. If not…then we’ll see the volunteer fire service vanish.

Hiawatha Fire Chief Mike Nesslage

Hiawatha Fire Chief Mike Nesslage

We responded to a rather serious medical call the other morning at a condominium complex with limited parking. I had to block a parking space with my marked, city owned vehicle. The young lady who I blocked in came and found us, and told us that we had to move because we were blocking her and she couldn’t get to work. We were taking care of her neighbor, who was having a true medical emergency, and her only thought seem to be that “we were blocking her in.” I got out of bed, like the other five volunteers on the call, to help this guy out and she is worried about being a few minutes late to work?

Today, most of my daytime firefighters are unemployed, students, or guys that work late night. It’s rare that people leave work for fires, and the ones that do have told me they’d rather I not draw attention to which companies they work for. While their supervisors may support their volunteerism, corporate may not. And in the cases of those few self employed individual’s that volunteer, they tell me their clients are less tolerant of their absences due to fire calls. In the old days, it was OK if the auto parts guy was gone a few hours putting out Farmer Johnson’s field fire or Mrs. Smith’s kitchen fire. Now society seems to view it as a distraction.

It’s getting hard for the fire service to recruit volunteers. I have seen articles and know first hand that the volunteer fire service is dying. While Hiawatha is blessed with a waiting list of volunteers, most departments aren’t. Right here in east central Iowa, volunteer fire departments and ambulance services are struggling with recruiting enough people to staff their department 24/7.

I don’t think it’s a lack of caring. I would guess that volunteerism in general is on the rise. It seems like every person I know volunteers somewhere. Granted, I attend a mission oriented church and am chief of a mostly volunteer department, but at almost every juncture you can observe volunteers in action. Volunteer sports coaches, tutors, school volunteers, shelters, eco awareness, and general just pitching in is common.

So why aren’t more people stepping forward to fight fires and take care of sick people?

There was a time when a new recruit jumped on the back of a fire engine, went to the fire, and participated in “on the job training”. No lengthy training, no OSHA requirements for stuff. “Just do it“ kid! Today, my last batch of rookies endured nearly 100 hours of orientation. They went though pre-employment physicals, background checks, and OSHA required respirator fittings. Not to mention spending nearly every Saturday for weeks at the station, learning how to be a firefighter.

Compare that with my non firefighting friends. They can go volunteer at any charitable organization with little up-front training. They can schedule their time to volunteer at their convenience. They set aside their four hours a week of doing good, then go on about their life. They plan their volunteer activities around their life.

Related story:
Linn County Emergency Responder Terminated After Responding to Call

NEWS ANCHOR: “I am no longer employed at WMT victim of down sizing”

April 29, 2009

Like similar messages on other mornings, WMT Morning News Anchor Lauri Struve sent this Tuesday morning on Twitter: “On the 600WMT newsdesk: Fatal Delaware Co. crash; same sex couples tie the knot; more swine flu- not a single pig is sick, just people.”

Less than five hours later she sent this message as she was walking out the door at WMT: “I am no longer employed at WMT victim of down sizing.”

“Seemed like the thing to do, since I tweeted so much about the news and what was on air,” she told me today about her decision to sent the quick update to Twitter.

Lauri Struve, former radio anchor and current Twitter user

Lauri Struve, former radio anchor and current Twitter user

Twitter has turned into an instant news machine for many. This evening, for example, I read up on KCRG’s Mark Geary’s play-by-play on a shooting investigation in southeast Cedar Rapids.

You can share as much or as little as you want.

In days past, people might not have thought of publicly announcing that they were downsized, especially as they were leaving their former employer’s place. But, then they might also not get immediate support from friends.

By mid-day Tuesday, people had offered their support to Struve and even passed along information on job opportunities. Her tweets were also posted to her Facebook page, so friends sent support there, too.

“The connection of social media has really made this a different experience,” she told me tonight.

“Thanks to all my friends online for the support today. It means the world!” Struve tweeted at 3:49 p.m. Tuesday.

About a half hour later she told the world about telling her mom about what happened that morning.

“Told my mom about being one of the black tues 590,” she tweeted. “That sucked more than being told I was one of the cuts.”

Related stories:
For KWWL’s story on Clear Channel layoffs click here. For the Des Moines Register’s story go here.

Also, in March, Cedar Rapids’ unemployment rate stood at 5.4 percent, according to this report. Iowa City’s is the second lowest among U.S. metro areas at 3.6 percent, according to the same report.

Linn County Emergency Responder Terminated After Responding to Call

April 29, 2009


A volunteer Hiawatha fireman and member of the Linn County Haz-Mat team was fired from his job last year after arriving an hour late for work because he had been responding to an emergency call, according to Unemployment Insurance Benefits records that you can find here.

According to those records he was “told that he could respond to calls outside of work hours that went in to work time” but that “he could not take emergency calls during work hours.”

The records go on that he “was supposed to notify the employer of his absence as soon as he safely could do so. The employer understood (the employee) could not drive an emergency vehicle and talk to the employer on his cellular telephone to report his absence.”

“On Nov. 3, 2008, (he) responded to an emergency call. He reported his tardiness to the employer as soon as he could (and) arrived at work one hour late and worked the rest of the day. At the end of his shift the employer terminated (him). Later the employer laid off approximately 200 workers.”

In the ruling posted online today, an administrative law judge allowed unemployment benefits to the person because misconduct was not proven.

Related story:

Hiawatha Fire Chief Discusses Volunteer Fire Service

VIDEO: Lightning in Northwest Cedar Rapids

April 25, 2009

Lightning spotted tonight in northwest Cedar Rapids.

The constant bright spot on the left of the screen is a street light.

UPDATED: Following Iowa Athletes and Other Events Online

April 25, 2009

SUNDAY UPDATE: After all this multitasking described below it was Eastern Iowa’s KCJJ that first told me on Sunday that Shonn Greene was drafted by the Jets and Bradley Fletcher by the St. Louis Rams. (Others may have been first, but that’s where I saw it first.)

SATURDAY UPDATE: The plan was that when Iowa RB Shonn Greene (and any other Iowa player) was drafted in today’s draft that I would first hear about it through a Twitter message sent by SportyTweets. That changed when SportyTweets announced just now on Twitter that they’d stop the live updates after the first round.

Either way, today I dipped into three of the four major sports. All at the same time.

I’m following the NFL draft on Twitter via SportyTweets’ updates. (They also offer updates via text message.) This beats previous years when I’d try to watch the draft on TV. Maybe because you can do other things at the same time and can catch up on messages at your own pace?

UPDATE: Their live updates will end after the first round.

I’m planning on moving over to NFL.com’s coverage here or to USA Today’s Twitter coverage here (USA Today is posting Twitter updates through the second round).  

SportyTweets coverage of the first round told me in 140 characters or less which team was on the clock. A few moments later they told me the name, school and position of the player picked. They also quickly reported breaking news, like when teams traded picks.

You can watch the draft’s first round that way, too, by clicking here.

I watched the NHL playoff game (Pittsburg vs. Philadelphia) on regular TV. Some people, like this example also gave some updates on Twitter.

I’m also listening to the New York Yankees – Boston Red Sox game on XM Satellite radio. At the same time, I’m watching MLB’s online Gameday coverage of the same game here.

And while I was doing all this I still spent time with the family. I felt a bit plugged in today.