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DES MOINES, Iowa — Winter’s grip is not letting up.  “If you look at the patterns from the last several winters, we get snow and it would melt, we get snow and it would melt.  Now we are in a period where it is not melting,” said West Des Moines Public Services Director Bret Hodne.

It is now piling up, and Hodne says snow removal is becoming problematic.  “Especially in some of our streets like the cul-de-sacs, we are running out of places to put the snow.”

Fortunately for Des Moines, they have an empty former waste management site to haul snow to when it will not melt.  “It holds snow all winter long and slowly melts over the spring,” said Des Moines Public Works Director Jonathan Gano.  Cities like West Des Moines do not have that luxury of a similar site.  Hodne said, “When you start having to haul snow, load it out, it is very expensive.  It is very time consuming to have to pull that snow out and actually load it.”

Downtown Des Moines presents unique challenges, as parking meters seem to be working undercover, barely peaking from the snow.  “Under normal circumstances we would go in this week and clean out all that snow, except we are going to get more snow tonight.”

Gano says they will have to wait until Monday to clear snow from parking meters.  The lack of space downtown is already crowding the streets and pushing cars into roads that are already marked as bicycle lanes.  “Sidewalks and businesses with no front yards, there is limited real estate to put the snow,” said Gano.

There are different issues for each city trying to deal with the same harsh Iowa winter.  Hodne said, “For the past five weeks, we’ve almost gotten our typical, normal winter snowfall all compressed into that five week area.”

Urbandale and Ankeny are facing similar snow storage issues.  If you feel a pile of snow is posing a dangerous risk to drivers, contact your local public works department.

DES MOINES, Iowa — State law says you could face up to two years in jail for getting caught abusing your pet.

The Animal Rescue League (ARL) of Iowa says this penalty is not enough and hopes the Iowa Legislature models a state that has tougher animal abuse laws.

In California, a woman accused of animal abuse isn’t getting any leniency. More than 600 people expressed outrage over a viral video that showed Elaine Rosa appearing to drag a small dog behind her electric scooter last month.

Rosa is charged with felony animal abuse and neglect.

“The bottom line is, under present law, [we’re] not even close. We are trying to get more penalties,” Tom Colvin Executive Director of the ARL of Iowa said.

The ARL says if this happened in Iowa, the punishment would not fit the crime.

Under California law, anyone who intentionally harms or kills an animal could face felony charges, up to three years jail time or a $20,000 fine.

In Iowa, under both the animal abuse and animal torture sections, a first offense results in an aggravated misdemeanor. This is punishable by up to two years jail time and maximum $6,000 fine.

In this legislative session, the ARL is backing a bill to toughen the law in Iowa.

“Whether an animal is abused, whether you do it to your own animal or somebody else’s animal, it’s going for first offense torture,” Colvin said.

Opponents want to support the bill but say some changes are needed first.

“The penalties do need to be stronger for abuse. What we are kind of against is that if we are in competitions like agility, rally, herding, sledding, these are all timed events and if the dog is injured then it would be considered abuse,” Adel resident Steve Exline said.

There is no timeline for when the Senate is expected to take this bill up.

STORY COUNTY, Iowa — On such a bitter cold morning, it’s hard to tell what a life this is.

“Personally, I like this weather for working in!” laughs Kevin Dietzel, bundled against the single-digit temperatures.

His good cheer is no act.  This is his pleasure.

“That fermentation,” he says, holding up a handful of rich hay, “makes it like candy for the cows—they love it.”

Don’t let the 1952 Oliver tractor fool you, Lost Lake Farm in Story County is new–not quite three years old.

The Dietzels named it for nearby Lake Cairo–drained in 1895.  The shoreline is still visible from the air. The farm, with just 80 acres and 20 cows, is dream come true.

“For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a farmer,” says Dietzel, cracking a gap-toothed grin.

Not just any kind of farmer, a dairy farmer. It’s a hard life and an even harder business. It’s the kind that made the loan officers reach for a door to slam.

“Essentially, they laughed us out of the office because they were like ‘Nobody is starting dairy farms.’”

Kevin and his wife Ranae weren’t just any young couple.  They’d grown up farming–loving the science of it–and found each other in college.

“We’d go out on dates and talk about farming,” Ranae laughs. “Yeah–we did that.”

They had a plan.  They wouldn’t sell milk. They would make cheese. A skill that Kevin had picked up along the way–something Ranae could help with when she wasn’t working her job as a soil scientist at Iowa State.

They scraped the money together, but…

“Definitely a lot of people told us ‘Look, the price of milk is really bad right now, corn is really high,'” Ranae remembers, “and we would say, ‘We’re not selling milk, we’re not selling corn—this is a totally different business.’”

It starts out the same; cows milked before dawn, milk filtered and collected. But it’s then sent to their cheese room, where the Dietzels trade a dirty job for an exceptionally clean one.

Kevin and Ranae spend three to four days a week dressed head to toe in hair nets, elbow-length plastic gloves, and rubber boots as they make cheese.

“Cheese-making is about 75 percent washing and about 25 percent actually working with milk and cheese!” Kevin laughs.

Between the washing, scrubbing and rinsing, the milk slowly transforms.

Kevin opens the large Pasteurizer to look in on the heated milk, treated with rennet and culture.

“So now it’s all coagulated and it’s ready to cut the curd,” he points out.

Curds are separated from the whey.  Whey will fertilize the farm fields, and the curds are spooned into hoops.

These will settle into Lost Lake’s “Burrnt Oak Camembert” and be accented with special charcoal, ground by hand.

“This [charcoal] began as a 200-year-old oak tree,” says Ranae, “that used to overlook the lost lake.”

It’s spooned over the cheese, which is allowed to settle again. Charcoal has been used to preserve and flavor cheese for thousands of years.

Kevin holds up a half-wheel of the Burrnt Oak Camembert, revealing the thin wheel of charcoal within.

“After six weeks, it’s going to turn into this,” he says.

The persnickety world of fine cheese reveres the term “hand-made,” and you will find no shortcuts here.

Ranae meticulously folds each wrapper by hand, using a method she learned on YouTube.

“The people who are toughest on us about our Camembert are only people who grew up in France,” she points out.

Camembert was today’s project, but last week it was Emmenthaler, and before that Iowa Alpine. They all gather in the humid “cheese cave” to age, and, well, turn.

“If people have seen moldy cheeses before, then they’re impressed,” Ranae smiles, “and if they haven’t seen moldy cheeses before, then they’re a little scared.”

But on the plate they see the beauty, and when it’s sold at farmers’ markets and to fine restaurants around central Iowa, they get to know it.

“They can say ‘I got this cheese at this farm,’” says Ranae, “and then they can go on and tell the story about our farm–how the cheese was made–and talk about the cows.”

Speaking of the cows, the Dietzels’ are old-world breeds with richer milk.

And it wouldn’t be fair to just show them in the cold.  Because it’s in the summer that they, and this farm, are in their element. An oasis of green goodness, born of the black Iowa soil, warmed by an open sky.

“I think more small farms like this would be really good for Iowa’s soil health,” says Ranae, “and I think that these small farms can fit within the corn/soybean sort of landscape that we have here.”

It’s worth noting that Ranae Dietzel has a PhD in sustainable agriculture and agronomy from Iowa State and a masters in soil science from Cornell University.

Kevin has a biology degree from the University of Minnesota-Morris and considers himself a true “dreamer.”

“It’d be great if there were hundreds of cheesemakers in Iowa,” he says, “and Iowa were a destination for people to come to and taste our regional cheeses that you can’t get anywhere else. How awesome would that be?”

That’s a longshot, but this is the place for those. And these are the people undaunted by hard work, and certain of its rewards.

 

You can visit the Lost Lake Farm website here.

DES MOINES, Iowa — A Waukee woman is being hailed a hero after calling 911 and staying to comfort a family involved in an icy wreck on Interstate 80.

“The roads were white, but it was not snow. It was ice,” Deb Mitchell said.

Two weeks ago, Mitchell was driving on I-80 near Waukee, when thunder and sleet hit parts of the metro.

“I will never forget it. It was a day that apparently I was supposed to be in one place that day,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell says it is a day that changed her life.

“I saw an SUV go off the side of the road into an embankment,” Mitchell said. “You just have this sinking feeling of oh my gosh.”

Mitchell was quick to try and help.

The SUV remains where the crash happened, in a ditch near the Grand Prairie Parkway exit off I-80.

“I quickly looked around. The car couldn’t get the doors open. I could hear people, and I saw that the airbags deployed in the SUV. I could also hear people, so I knew that was a good sign,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell heard the Nicholsons, a family of five from Nebraska.

“I just started talking to them and told them that help was on the way. They were in shock. The children were in pain, shaking and crying. I was able to calm them and let them know that people were coming,” Mitchell said.

Some of the Nicholsons suffered serious injuries but everyone survived.

“Since then, I have thought about how these people are,” Mitchell said.

Little did Mitchell know, Sara Nicholson was also looking for Mitchell.

A Facebook post helped reunited the Nicholsons with the person they call their guardian angel.

“Once we did meet, I was able to go to a local hospital, and we had a big hug and a cry and we were able to talk about what happened that day,” Mitchell said.

Sara Nicholson declined an on-camera interview but says she caused the crash by applying the brakes too hard.

On Monday, she is with her husband, Rob, at Methodist in Des Moines. Rob was just released from the ICU. He has broken ribs, among other injuries. Their three kids are back in Nebraska.

IOWA — The snow is not keeping 2020 presidential candidates out of the state.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar stopped in Knoxville and Albia Sunday. She talked about rising drug prices, farm issues, overturning the Citizens United decision on campaign finance and other issues. This weekend marked Klobuchar’s first visit to Iowa after announcing her candidacy just one week ago.

Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney and California’s Eric Swalwell also attended events in Marion and Monroe counties on Sunday. Both are in Iowa Monday. Delaney is in Grinnell and Swalwell is in Iowa City and Indianola.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is also returning to Iowa Monday. She is holding meet-and-greet events in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Des Moines Police Department (DMPD) needs your help finding a missing woman who has dementia.

75-year old Lynn Crenshaw was last seen around 4:30 Sunday afternoon. She left the 7400 block of SE 23rd Street in Des Moines driving a 2013 gray Chevy Sonic. The license plate number is BEN 961.

Police believe Crenshaw is still in the metro. She is 5’01”, 155 lbs, with blue eyes and gray hair. She was last seen wearing a black leather coat and black pants.

If you see Crenshaw, DMPD ask that you call 9-1-1.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Just weeks ago, Florida’s governor announced an executive order to eliminate common core in his state’s education. Here in Iowa, a veteran educator is working to “combat the weaknesses of common core” on her own.

After 25 years working as an instructor in a fully accredited preschool and kindergarten classroom, Judy Hintz is offering a different way of education.

“We were the only independent preschool and kindergarten to be credited in the entire history of Iowa. Then common core came around and I reviewed it and I saw what it was for young kids and I closed my preschool,” said Hintz, owner of Education Resource Associates. “It just wasn’t anything that I wanted to teach.”

Now, she is offering an extended day school called Whiz Kid Academy that is filled with a curriculum she says will teach young kids skills to keep them from failing in common core before they reach the classroom.

“The last 10 years I have seen all ages of children who are truly victims of common core, but the one that tugs on my heart strings are children who are ages kindergarten [and] first grade getting to school thinking they are going to have the time of their life. Their parents think they are going to have the time of their lives, and then they present a curriculum that for many many kids is just impossible for them to learn to read and to do math,” Hintz said.

She says the biggest difference is offering a phonetic way of learning rather than the sight words kids are now failing at.

“There’s a big trend now to label these kids as dyslexic. That’s a big topic, and really they are not. That`s a curriculum issue,” Hintz said.

But the Department of Education online says the Iowa Core curriculum ensures all students are experiencing higher levels of education and are learning the skills that are expected by students in the 21st century.

Hintz says Whiz Kid Academy will also offer material like yoga to work on focus and active learning programs to promote brain development.

DES MOINES, Iowa — President Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to help fund a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has Iowa’s Latino community and its advocates speaking out.

“There is definitely fear and there is anger and exhaustion as to why we keep having to say that these people aren’t dangerous, that there is not a crisis at the border and why this community is so important to our state and country,” said Briana Reha-Klenske of the Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project.

Advocates gathered at Latino-owned businesses along East Grand Avenue Saturday afternoon. The event was hosted by LULAC and the Latino Immigrants of Iowa group. Organizers called for unity, respect and inclusion. They say the country will not be better with a border wall.

According to the Hispanic Institute, Hispanics make up six percent of the Iowa population. The number is expected to double within the next 30 years.

 

AURORA, Illinois — The workers at a manufacturing warehouse in the Illinois city of Aurora were beginning to wind down their week when a gunman opened fire Friday, beginning a chaotic rampage that ended with five victims dead, five police officers wounded and a shooter killed by cops.

The first 911 calls came to Aurora police around 1:24 p.m. CT, with callers saying there was an active shooter at the Henry Pratt Company, which says it is one of the United States’ largest manufacturers of industrial valves.

An employee at the company, John Probst, told CNN affiliate WLS the shooter was a co-worker and had a pistol.

“He was shooting everybody,” Probst said.

A slew of law enforcement officers raced to the scene and a team of four entered the building, located in a small industrial area.

There was gunfire immediately, Aurora Chief of Police Kristen Ziman told reporters Friday evening. Two of the four officers were wounded.

The battle went further into the 29,000-square-foot warehouse. Three more officers were hit. The shooter was killed by officers, the chief said. A sixth officer hurt his knee and needed to go to a hospital.

The shooter was identified by Ziman as Gary Martin, 45, and authorities believe he was an employee at the company where the shooting occurred. Police said there was no obvious motive.

“My heart goes out to the victims and their families who simply went to work today like any other day,” Ziman said.

Authorities were still working Friday night to identify the deceased, city spokesman Clayton Muhammad said.

Police didn’t say what kind of gun was used but Probst said he saw Martin using a pistol with a laser site.

Probst told WLS there were about 30 people in the building at the time of the shooting. Probst said he and a coworker escaped through the back door. Probst said a nearby resident allowed him and his coworker to shelter in a home.

Four patients went to hospitals in Aurora, medical officials said. The chief said two wounded police officers were taken by air to trauma centers in Chicago, about 40 miles to the east.

Aerial video from the scene just after the shooting showed scores of police vehicles outside the neighboring companies. The response included at least six ambulances and six firetrucks.

After the incident, police also put up crime scene tape near the Alro Steel Company.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI were responding to the scene, the agencies tweeted.

Aurora, with about 200,000 people, is the second-largest city in Illinois, according to the city’s website. Locals refer to Aurora as “City of Lights,” a nod to it being one of the first American cities to implement a fully electric street lighting system.

Aurora has a strong music and arts scene, and is even the setting of the popular buddy-film “Wayne’s World.” Although a suburb of Chicago, Aurora has a long tradition of manufacturing.

 

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — A concert scheduled at the University of Northern Iowa campus Saturday night is drawing a lot of controversy.

Word spread quickly when hip-hop artist Waka Flocka Flame announced a concert at the University of Northern Iowa`s Maucker Union.  University President Mark Nook claims public safety issues from local law enforcement in nearby Waterloo spread just as fast.  He said he was told, “We’ve got evidence that gang members are planning to come and they are members from different gangs in our community and a very high probability of having an incident.”

A string of controversial changes followed.  “The concert was being cut off from the public, students only allowed one ticket instead of two and moved to the field house,” said Ryan Frank, a member of the Northern Iowa Student Government.

Nook said cutting off the public from tickets has already helped and allowed the concert to move back to the union on Saturday.  “Since we limited ticket sales to only students and a guest, the threat level they were seeing and monitoring decreased significantly,” said Nook.

Mahlia Brown, a member of the Northern Iowa Student Government, says many students and parts of the community see it differently.  “This is racially motivated.  There is racial bias here.  Why was this specific concert so heavily watched when other concerts that is not the case?,” she said.  Brown also points to the perception that most of the public ticket sales would come from Waterloo.  “There’s that divide because Waterloo is very black dominated and Cedar Falls is very white dominated.”

In a letter to students on Friday, Nook apologized for any perceived racial bias.  “Whether that was conscious or unconscious, it just contributes to the perpetuation of the implicit bias that is in the community and on campus,” said Frank.  It is a campus that Nook believes will be made stronger after a conversation he doesn’t want anyone to shy away from.  “We knew that as we took this on there were going to be not just undertones, clear overtones of issues of race.”

Public tickets that were purchased have been refunded.  Calls to the Waterloo Police Department were not returned.