Northwest Iowa — Voter turnout in the recent election was strong in northwest Iowa. And absentee voting was popular.

According to the Iowa Secretary of State, O’Brien County had 76.49% voter turnout. They say there are 9,415 active and 508 inactive registered voters. The stats tell us that 3,908 people voted on election day, and nearly that many voted early or absentee, with 3,682 choosing that option. There were a total of 7,590 people that voted in the election. Very nearly half of the voters voted absentee — 48.5%.

Sioux County had 83.19% turnout — which is one of the highest turnouts in the state. The figures tell us there are 22,086 active and 943 inactive registered voters. They say 10,735 people voted on election day, and 8,423 people voted early or absentee. There were a total of 19,158 people that voted in the election, or very nearly 44 percent.

Sioux County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Ryan Dokter says Sioux County’s turnout by percentage was just slightly less than in the 2016 general election, when turnout was 83.57%. But he says that is mainly due to the fact that the county has just over 1,000 more registered voters in 2020 than in 2016. Nonetheless, Dokter says it was still a very good turnout and right in line with 2012 and 2016 voter turnout.

He says absentees for 2016 were 5,784 or 31.55% of the total vote. Absentees for 2012 were 5,649 or 32.55% of the total vote. Dokter says 31% to 33% of the total vote is about normal for absentee ballots in Sioux County, so 44 percent is pretty high, but that’s to be expected with the continuing pandemic.

Osceola County had 77.41% turnout. They say there are 4,145 active and 179 inactive registered voters. The stats tell us that 1,872 people voted on election day, with 1,475 people voting early or absentee in Osceola County. There were a total of 3,347 that voted in the election. That means about 44% of Osceola County voters voted early or absentee.

Lyon County had 79.69% turnout. The figures tell us that there are 8,318 active and 371 inactive registered voters in the county. They say 3,546 Lyon County citizens voted on election day, with nearly the same number voting early or absentee — with 3,378 choosing that option. There were a total of 6,924 who voted in the election. That means about 48.8% of voters in Lyon County voted early or absentee.

December 1, 2020 - 11:39 am - Posted in News

Washington, D.C. — Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s been cleared by his doctors to return to work after being in quarantine following a positive COVID test earlier this month.

Grassley, who is 87, says “the disease affects people differently,” and he did not experience any symptoms. He took a COVID test after learning he had been exposed to someone else who tested positive for the virus.

In a written statement, Grassley cited “positive…news” about a COVID vaccine, but said he’ll continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing and he urged Americans to remain vigilant in protecting themselves and others from the virus.

Iowa’s senior senator also said Congress “must do its part and pass long overdue relief legislation to help families, businesses and communities get through this crisis.”

November 30, 2020 - 3:04 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — One new death and forty-eight new COVID cases were reported in the four northwesternmost Iowa counties on Monday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The death was a resident of O’Brien County again. Sixty-five people have died in the four counties since the pandemic started — Sioux County has had twenty-five. O’Brien County has now had 31. Osceola County has had one death. Lyon County has had eight since the pandemic started.

O’Brien County was up 7 cases at 1297 cases since the pandemic started. Sioux County was up 22 cases at 3718. Lyon County was up 14 cases at 1044, and Osceola County was up 5 at 528. An average of about one in every 11 northwest Iowans in our area has had — or currently has — COVID-19.

Out of the 1044 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 599 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 57%.
Out of the 3718 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 2677 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 72%.
Out of the 1297 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 816 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 63%.
Out of the 528 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 326 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 62%.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report:

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 2766 , up 16
Cherokee 862 , up 19
Buena Vista 3061 , up 13
Clay 1183 , up 10
Dickinson 1395 , up 11

November 29, 2020 - 1:23 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — A total of thirty-eight new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the four-county area Sunday. That’s seventeen fewer new cases reported compared to the previous 24-hour period, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

During the 24-hour period ending at noon Sunday, O’Brien County was up 13 cases to 1290 since the pandemic began. Sioux County was up 15 cases to 3696. Lyon County was up 8 to 1030, and Osceola County was up 2 to 523.

There were no deaths reported in Sunday’s figures, so the death toll from COIVD-related illnesses in our four-county area remains at sixty-four. 30 in O’Brien County, 25 in Sioux, 8 in Lyon County and 1 in Osceola County since the pandemic began.

Out of the 1030 Lyon County residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, 596 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 58%.
Out of the 3696 Sioux County residents who have tested positive, 2665 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 72%.
Out of the 1290 O’Brien County residents who have tested positive for COVID, 810 have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 63%.
Out of the 523 Osceola County residents who have tested positive, 324 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 62%.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report:

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 2750, up 18
Cherokee 843, up 10
Buena Vista 3048, up 14
Clay 1173, up 9
Dickinson 1384, up 22

Again, these figures were for the 24-hour period from noon Saturday, November 28th to noon Sunday, November 29th.

Statewide Iowa — A computer security expert suggests we abandon using passwords in favor of pass phrases. Jesse La Grew says the old way of creating short, cryptic passwords that you change frequently is no longer practical for most of us.

(As above) “If we have to change our passwords every 30 days, what are we likely to do? We’re likely to write it down,” La Grew says. “We’re going to be putting them on Post-it notes or putting them under keyboards.” 

The longer a password, the more secure it should be from hackers. Some computer systems require passwords that need to be between 16 and 20 characters, which is where using a pass phrase is handy.

(As above) “So how do you get that length of password while still maintaining the complexity required so that a computer can’t easily break into it?” La Grew says. “That’s where the passphrase comes in, where we’re using multiple words strung together.”

You can creating a pass phrase out of a series of words that are easy for you to remember — but hard to guess. It will make your account more secure from most attempts by hackers to force their way in.

(As above) “You can have a very long password with a series of five words that can be very difficult to guess and can take a computer an extremely long time to break into, based on the technology that we have today,” he says.

La Grew says don’t reuse passwords on any service where you might have credit card or banking information saved.

November 28, 2020 - 2:00 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Fifty three new COVID cases were reported in the four furthest northwest Iowa counties for the 24-hour period ending noon Saturday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

During that 24-hour period, O’Brien County was up 15 cases at 1277 cases since the pandemic started. Sioux County was up 22 cases at 3681. Lyon County was up 10 at 1022, and Osceola County was up 6 at 521.

Sixty-four people have died in the four counties since the pandemic started — Sioux County has had twenty-five. O’Brien County has had 30. Osceola County has had one death. Lyon County has had eight since the pandemic started.

Out of the 1022 Lyon County residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, 591 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 58%.
Out of the 3681 Sioux County residents who have tested positive, 2655 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 72%.
Out of the 1277 O’Brien County residents who have tested positive for COVID, 801 have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 63%.
Out of the 521 Osceola County residents who have tested positive, 322 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 62%.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report:

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 2732, up 35
Cherokee 833, up 18
Buena Vista 3034, up 22
Clay 1164, up 26
Dickinson 1362, up 18

Again, these figures were for the 24-hour period from noon Friday, November 27th to noon Saturday, November 28th.

Sibley, Iowa — A 5th Wheel camper was destroyed and the machine shed in which it was stored was damaged beyond repair in a fire late Friday morning at a farm west-southwest of Sibley.

According to Sibley Fire Chief Ken Huls, his department was called to a report of smoke coming from a machine shed on a farm about 4-1/2 miles west-southwest of Sibley’s southern edge. Huls says as firefighters were leaving Sibley to respond to the call they could see heavy smoke in the distance.

When Sibley firefighters arrived on scene, the Chief says they witnessed a great deal of smoke pouring from under the eaves and from the vents of a machine shed on the property, which is located at 1871 Monroe Avenue. Huls says they called for mutual aid from the Ashton and Little Rock Fire Departments, then breached the machine shed’s doors and discovered the epicenter of the blaze to be in a 5th wheel camper that was parked inside the building. According to the Chief, the blaze had begun in the camper, then after burning through the camper’s roof, ignited the rafters of the machine shed, casing approximately 75% of the rafters to be destroyed or heavily damaged.

Chief Huls tells KIWA that the camper had been plugged into a converter which, he says, apparently malfunctioned causing the fire.

Huls reports that the camper and its contents of personal items, was destroyed, causing approximately $30,000 in damage. He says the machine shed itself was severely damaged to the tune of about $75,000 and is not salvageable. In addition to the 5th wheel camper, the shed also contained two vehicles and a small tractor, which all sustained heat and smoke damage. He estimates damage to the contents of the shed, other than the camper, to be about $50,000.

Ten Sibley firefighters, five firemen from Ashton and fourteen from Little Rock battled the fire for about 2-1/2 hours, dumping about 12,000 gallons of water and foam on the blaze in the process.

Sibley firefighters had no sooner arrived back at the fire station than they were called about what Huls termed a “rekindle” in one of the building’s rafters. He says one Sibley fire truck and crew was dispatched back to the scene, but discovered a glowing rafter, but no fire.

Photo courtesy of the Sibley Fire Department

November 27, 2020 - 4:38 pm - Posted in News

Omaha, Nebraska — Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says this year’s increase in farm income is leading to an increase in farmland prices.

(as said) “Farmers are out there and they’re feeling better about the economy, but unfortunately we’re not seeing it in the businesses on what we call ‘Rural Mainstreet,'” Goss says.

Every month, Goss surveys rural bankers for a Rural Mainstreet Index. His latest survey indicates the economy in Iowa and nine other states in the Great Plains and Mountain West will dip in the current 4th quarter.

(as said) “It looks like we’re hitting a hiccup in the global economy and a hiccup in the US economy and, for that matter, in the regional economy,” Goss says. “Growth is just slowing down and potentially moving what was a V-shaped recovery into a W shaped recovery — in other words, back down into the recession.”

But Goss says farmland and commodity prices have beem climbing fairly dramatically this fall, leading to optimism in the ag sector. About a third of U.S. farm income this year will have come, though, from the Trump Administration’s payments to make up for trade losses and Goss says those are likely to end with the Trump presidency.

(as said) “On the flip side, we’re likely to see the Biden Administration be a little more positive on trade,” Goss says. “…You’ve got some positives and some negatives. I expect 2021 – at least as we sit here now — to be pretty good for the agricultural sector given the expansion on trade.”

And Goss says rising global oil prices are generally good news for the state’s ethanol industry as well.

November 27, 2020 - 3:18 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — One hundred sixty new COVID cases were reported in the four northwesternmost Iowa counties for the 48-hour period of Wednesday noon through Friday noon, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

In those two days, O’Brien County was up 48 cases at 1262 cases since the pandemic started. Sioux County was up 77 cases at 3659. Lyon County was up 24 cases at 1012, and Osceola County was up 11 at 515. An average of about one in every 11 northwest Iowans in our area has had — or currently has — COVID-19.

Sixty-four people have died in the four counties since the pandemic started — Sioux County has had twenty-five. O’Brien County has now had 30. Osceola County has had one death. Lyon County has had eight since the pandemic started.

Out of the 1012 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 582 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 58%.
Out of the 3659 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 2608 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 71%.
Out of the 1262 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 776 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 61%.
Out of the 515 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 316 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 61%.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report:

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 2697 , up 70
Cherokee 815 , up 24
Buena Vista 3012 , up 50
Clay 1138 , up 36
Dickinson 1344 , up 59

Again, these figures were for TWO days — the 48-hour period from noon Wednesday to noon Friday.

Northwest Iowa — Initial unemployment claims were up again last week, according to Iowa Workforce Development.

The number of initial unemployment claims in Iowa, filed between Sunday, Nov. 15, and Saturday, Nov. 21, was 9,458, an increase of 3,466 from the previous week’s adjusted numbers. There were 8,720 initial claims by individuals who work and live in Iowa, and 738 claims by individuals who work in Iowa and live in another state. The number of continuing weekly unemployment claims was 37,112, an increase of 2,310 from the previous week. November through February are traditionally the months IWD sees the most unemployment claims, driven by increased claims in construction, agriculture, landscaping and manufacturing due to seasonal layoffs. For the week ending Nov. 21, 2020, nearly 43.6% of claimants indicated their claims were not COVID-19 related.

The U.S. Department of Labor adjusted last week’s initial claim number to 5,992 (a decrease of 320) and continuing claims to 34,802 (a decrease of 440 for a total decrease of 760 overall). Iowa Workforce Development relies upon the weekly data released by the U.S. Department of Labor to report its numbers and as such, adopts the revisions to the previously published data.

For the week ending Nov. 21, 2020, unemployment insurance benefit payments totaled over $10 million. The following industries had the most claims:

Manufacturing (1,622)
Construction (1,271)
Industry Not Available – Self-employed, Independent Contractors, etc (1,245)
Health Care & Social Assistance (920)
Accommodation & Food Services (780)

As far as the unemployment rate, the latest statistics available are those for October, when the state rate fell to 3.6 percent, after a high this year of 11 percent in April. It’s been falling ever since.

Northwest Iowa continues to lead the state in low unemployment numbers. Lyon and Sioux Counties are tied for the lowest unemployment in October at 1.3 percent. Osceola County is third with 1.6. Mitchell and Decatur counties are tied for fourth with 1.7 percent, and then it’s Pocohantas with 1.8 percent for fifth, followed by several counties, including O’Brien County at 1.9 percent unemployment, tied for sixth place in October.