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Top stories of 2012

Published: Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 10:23 a.m. CST • Updated: Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 10:52 a.m. CST

Top story

Creston cleans up after EF2 tornado

April 14

The top story of 2012 occured on a spring evening when a strong EF2 tornado touched down in Creston at approximately 7:05 p.m. April 14. The tornado carried peak winds estimated at 130 miles per hour and the average path width was 600 yards.

The tornado began about one and a-half miles east of Cromwell and tracked northeast through the far northwest portion of Creston.

The tornado caused severe damage to Creston’s north side. Still today, repairs are being made to houses and facilities in the path of the storm.

Southwestern Community College and GRMC received major damage during the tornado with the worst damage occurring to Green Hills Area Education Agency building. Many houses, condos and apartments, especially along Townline Street, sustained damage from the tornado.

Several were reported completely destroyed.

There was structural damage at the elementary, middle and high schools in Creston. The school district’s bus barn also had major damage.

The tornado continued tracking northeast and damaged farmsteads once outside city limits. It dissipated 10 miles northeast of Creston.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad paid a visit to the Creston area and took a tour of the damages. Branstad declared Union County an emergency-disaster area.

There were no casualties in the storm. Three people did suffer injuries and were transported to Des Moines. Eventually, they were all treated and released.

To see the path of the storm and photos captured by the News Advertiser after it hit, see the map, above right.

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Iowa farmland values reach

record high

Jan. 6

The average value of Iowa farmland increased 32.5 percent from 2010, to $6,708 per acre — this according to the Iowa Land Value Survey conducted by Iowa State University in November.

This is a new all-time high in farmland value.

Paul Maynes, President of Maynes Real Estate in Lenox, said there are several reasons for this increase.

“We’ve had an increase — a substantial increase — in corn and bean prices,” Maynes said. “The value of the dollar seems to be losing its purchasing power, in my opinion.”

State Rep. Clel Baudler, Greenfield, also believes the increase in land value has to do with the increase in prices for crops.

“Right now every commodity is high — hogs, cattle, corn, beans, hay,” Baudler explained. “Texas hay is worth a couple hundred dollars because of the drought.”

Murder shakes Mount Ayr

Jan. 16

MOUNT AYR — In early January, Robert Darren Taylor, 40, allegedly shot and killed 45-year-old Lori Yeager at the house they shared in Mount Ayr. There was an active arrest warrant for Taylor on the charge of first-degree murder.

According to an Iowa Public Safety press release, at approximately 2:06 a.m. Jan. 16 the Ringgold County Communications Center received a 911 call from 2339 280th St., Mount Ayr.

A juvenile inside the home called and reported a domestic altercation between Taylor and Yeager. The responding deputies later found Yeager dead inside the home. Taylor was not located at the home.

According to a family member, Taylor shot Yeager, took the gun and left the scene, leaving their 9-year-old daughter behind, who called 911.

Law enforcement actively searched for Taylor. He had last been seen driving a copper (burnt orange) 2008 Ford F 350 Super Duty truck with Iowa license 981 RZD.

Taylor was pulled over on Interstate 29 that night, and rather than being taken into custody, Taylor shot and killed himself.

Firefighters

battle blaze at Hulett & Son Auto Salvage

March 14

More than 150 salvage cars and about 20 acres of grass were burned during a fire at Hulett & Son Auto Salvage in Creston March 14.

Creston Fire Chief Todd Jackson said the fire started shortly after 1 p.m. when a pile of tree limbs and yard trimmings, which had been smoldering for several weeks nearby at the city compost site, ignited and spread toward the salvage yard.

Creston Fire Department responded to Hulett & Son Auto Salvage, 1708 Osage St., at about 1:18 p.m. and quickly called for mutual aid. Six fire departments responded, including Creston, Orient, Afton, Clearfield, Lenox and Lorimor, 20 firetrucks and more than 50 firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze.

“Our first concern when we arrived was the residence near the salvage yard and the surrounding buildings, and the second thing was we didn’t want the fire to spread north across the railroad tracks,” Jackson said. “It was a large fire, and we called a lot of resources to get ahead of it and so it wouldn’t get any bigger. Access was difficult and the cars provided a lot of fuel for the fire. Luckily, the wind wasn’t too bad. It could have been worse.”

Firefighters stopped the blaze several feet before it reached the BNSF railroad tracks. No damage was done to the residence of Chuck Hulett, located near the salvage yard property, or the surrounding buildings and nobody was injured during the fire. Two ambulances were on scene to provide rehabilitation to the firefighters as thick, dark smoke engulfed the area and was visible for several miles surrounding Creston.

The fire was extinguished shortly after 4 p.m.

Foghat headlines sixth-annual Party in the Park

June 22

The sixth-annual Party in the Park was headlined by Foghat.

The band, known for their “boogie rock” sound, played some of their musical hits including “Slow Ride” and “Third Time Lucky (First Time I Was a Fool).”

Music began at 6 p.m. with the Beau Nystrom Band, a country rock band, which has played alongside other country musicians like Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Gloriana, will open this year’s Party in McKinley Park.

Templeton Fade, formerly Barcode, followed the Beau Nystrom Band. Templeton Fade is led by local musicians Todd Kinkade and Mike Meek. They played original rock songs and modern rock covers of Chevelle, Collective Soul, Bad Company, new Lynyrd Skynyrd and Seven Mary Three.

Drought: Clock ticking on area crops, pastures

July 23

Local crop and soil experts say the area is withstanding the prolonged drought relatively well.

But, time is running out for favorable yields and sufficient pasture feeding conditions.

And, long-range forecasts aren’t providing farmers and ranchers much hope.

Relief is not on the radar, literally, from the National Weather Service. For the Midwest, forecasters don’t see any drastic improvement in the hot, dry trends for weeks. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast for the month of August indicates a “high probability for little rain” for all or parts of 15 states in the center of the nation’s drought.

This includes Iowa, and states with even worse crop conditions, such as Illinois and Indiana.

For the next week, high temperatures will continue to run at or near triple digits, which is about 12 degrees hotter than normal.

The combination of extreme heat and prolonged lack of moisture creates a double-whammy for feeding grasslands, as well as local corn and soybean fields.

“Now, the fields have accumulated a lot of heat. It’s attacking day after day after day,” said Tracy Cameron, agronomist for Gavilon Ag Service. “It’s kind of like having the flu. You can weather one day of it. But if you have it for three weeks, it wears you down.”

Cameron said there are visible signs of heat stress, particularly in cornfields.

“When it’s way too warm in the daytime, and it doesn’t cool down at night, the corn expends too much energy trying to stay alive,” Cameron said. “It does things to the yields. The plants end up aborting some of the kernels. There were also some pollination problems for some of the corn planted later.”

In rows of 6-foot tall corn, there are signs of stress. Leaves are rolling — corn’s self-preservation technique to conserve moisture — and the ears are small. Some cornstalks are “firing” — drying out and turning brown from the roots up. That normally doesn’t happen until September.

“That’s a sign the plant is pulling nutrients from those areas to feed the ear and keep the plant alive,” Cameron said. “It progresses up the plant the longer it goes without moisture.”

Creston School Board accepts Hood’s resignation

Aug. 3

Creston School Board approved 4-1 the resignation of Tim Hood during a meeting in early August. Board member Rich Flynn was the only board member to vote no. Hood accepted a position as superintendent of Keokuk Community School District.

The school board unanimously approved a $110,000 contract in early September to hire interim superintendent Chuck Scott for the 2012-13 school year.on School Board President Rick Fyock.

Four candidates, including Scott, Jerry Waugh, Dave Sextro and Mike Hardy were interviewed for the Creston interim superintendent position Aug. 29.

Former CHS Activities Director Curt Olson dies

Sept. 19

Curt Olson, Creston resident, retired athletic director, volunteer and friend of Creston Schools, died Sept. 19. The funeral was 2:30 p.m. Sept. 24 in the Creston High School gym.

In 1982, he became the assistant principal and activities Director at Creston High School, where he remained for the final 22 years of his career.

Curt went to work every day and tried to make a difference in the lives of young people. He worked with Guidance Counselors to find students who may have a drug, alcohol or emotional problem and get them help. He would stick his neck out to help them. Curt worked very hard at making sure the rules were for everyone. He made sure his “Guys” got a square deal. Probably the most important thing for the farmer boy from Manilla was helping kids get diplomas.

Green suspended as water works manager

Nov. 19

Creston Water Department Manager Steve Green was suspended with pay Friday afternoon after an emergency Water Board meeting was called.

Lee McNichols, Creston Water Board member and spokesperson, cited “alleged irregularities” as the reason for the suspension of Green, who has been with the department 31 years.

McNichols said Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and officials with Iowa Auditor’s office executed a search warrant at a garage owned by Green in Creston earlier Friday.

According to minutes of the meeting, water board members met at 1:30 p.m. Friday and went into executive session. At 1:38 p.m. they came out of executive session and approved a motion to place Green on “paid administrative leave pending review of outside legal counsel.” The motion was approved unanimously by all board members — Chairman Dennis Bailey, Bill Stuart, Cathy Dryden, Kenneth Sharp and McNichols.

The board also voted to remove Green as an authorized signer on all bank accounts effective immediately and remove him as a signer on the company credit card.

Creston youth killed in Friday morning crash

Dalton Hribal, 16, of Creston died after the van he was a passenger in went out of control on a gravel road in Adams County.

According to an Iowa State Patrol report, a 17-year-old, driving a 2002 Honda van west on 190th Street east of Quincy Avenue, north of Prescott, crested a hill and lost control of the vehicle. The driver overcorrected causing the van to go partially into the north ditch. The driver then overcorrected again causing the vehicle to go into the south ditch where it rolled and Hribal was ejected.

The driver was transported to the Adams County Hospital where he was treated and released. Iowa State Patrol released no names, including the driver, and no other details were given.

Five days earlier, Shawnna Michelle Curtis, 26, of Creston was killed after her 2008 Ford struck a deer 7:15 p.m. Nov. 21 on Highway 34 in Montgomery County.

According to an Iowa State Patrol crash report, Curtis was driving east on Highway 34 when a deer entered the roadway. The deer collided with the vehicle, came through the windshield, and hit Curtis. The vehicle continued east, then entered the north ditch where it rolled once.

Curtis was pronounced dead at the scene.

Jury slaps Monday’s wrist, awards DeMarco $1,000

Dec. 14

The jury more or less slapped Lois Monday’s wrist Dec. 14.

At 4:50 p.m. Dec. 14, the jury’s verdict found Monday did defame the county’s former third-party administrator Frank DeMarco and awarded him $1,000 in general damages. Further, the jury awarded DeMarco no money in punitive damages, and Monday is not obligated to pay DeMarco’s legal fees.

“I was fine with the verdict,” Monday said this morning in a Creston News Advertiser interview. “The jury had a tough decision to make. But, someone told me a long time ago there will always be people out there looking to take away your hard earned money, and you better be prepared. People are sue happy. DeMarco wanted big bucks, but I didn’t work all my life for someone to come in and fleece me.”

DeMarco was claiming Monday made defematory comments that injured his reputation and caused him more than $800,000 in lost business at Greater Regional Medical Center and Ringgold and Audubon counties. In closing statments, DeMarco’s attorney Mark Sherinian suggested the jury award DeMarco $50,000 in damages.

“While Mr. DeMarco is dissappointed in the amount of the verdict, the jury’s conclusion is a clear window into the character of Lois Monday,” DeMarco’s attorney Mark Sherinian said in a press release this morning. “It also serves as a warning to the Union County community that when Lois Monday speaks, her personal attacks should be taken with a lot of salt.”

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