WATERLOO — Yien Douth and Nyaluak Dak stayed up late to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York’s Times Square on television from the warmth of their home Sunday night.
About 30 minutes later, the couple and their three children were on their way to UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital. Her due date was Jan. 4, but her bundle of joy came early. At 3:26 a.m. Monday she gave birth to their firstborn son and the Cedar Valley’s first baby of 2018.
“It feels good, but I didn’t think about it because I wasn’t thinking about the date,” Dak said.
The couple named their son Douth, his father’s and grandfather’s last name. Douth is the fourth child in his family. He has three older sisters: Nyabuay, 8, Buk, 7, and Tesfanesh-Alyssa, 2.
Dak was born and raised in Ethiopia and came to the United States with her husband in 2008. They lived in Omaha, Neb., for five years, then spent three years in Wisconsin. A friend who worked in Allen’s emergency room told her there was an opening for a lab technician at the Waterloo hospital.
Dak had just received her medical assistant degree from Bryant & Stratton College in Milwaukee, and the family relocated to Waterloo. She continues to attend school and worked at Allen until July.
The couple learned English when they arrived in the United States, but the family typically speaks to each other in Amharic, the main language spoken in Ethiopia, as well as the family’s native language from South Sudan, Nuer. Dak’s great-great-great-grandparents migrated to Ethiopia from South Sudan, and Douth’s mother, who lives with the family, speaks Nuer.
“We are trying really, really hard with my native language because I have my mother-in-law with us in the house,” Dak said. “They (the kids) needed to learn in order for them to communicate well and for them to understand their grandma.”
The children’s names pay homage to Dak and Douth’s ancestors and native language. In Nuer, Nyabuay means “sunshine”; Buk can translate to “grandma” and is a unique name in Ethiopia; Tesfanesh means “happiness” and the older sisters encouraged their mother to add a hyphenated “Alyssa.”
The baby is healthy, and the family is looking forward to 2018.
CEDAR FALLS — You could tell just by standing at the river’s edge the Cedar River was rising in September of 2016.
What was tougher to tell from the ground was the scope of the flooding.
In the past, such as during the flooding of 2008, Cory Hines — a geographical information systems analyst for the city of Cedar Falls — could hire a plane to take aerial photos of the water’s reach to better present accurate information to city officials. But the plane he used wasn’t available in the fall of 2016 when the water rose again.
So he tried something new: a drone with a 4K camera capable of soaring high enough to map and track the devastation.
With certified drone pilot Jeremy Ott at the controls, the city’s new drone took video of exactly where floodwaters had spread. That proved invaluable to city officials and first responders, who could better prioritize resources in the hardest-hit areas.
“Being able to see some areas we couldn’t get to by land was very helpful,” Hines said. “After the flood, when you’re sending inspectors out, in the interest of time, knowing where that water was is very beneficial.”
Tracking floodwaters is just one example of how Cedar Falls is using its new drone, a DJI Phantom 3 Professional purchased in 2016.
Previously the city paid to use someone else’s drone each time it needed footage for a tourism, emergency or public works project, said Denny Bowman, the cable TV division supervisor for the city.
“We realized that over time it would be much more cost effective to purchase our own and get our own certified pilot,” Bowman said.
So the city paid what Bowman estimated was between $1,000 and $1,500 for the drone, and got Ott certified on the controls.
“I would say it pays for itself in maybe two to three uses,” Bowman said. “It’s paid for itself many times over already.”
Still photos as well as video can be shot from the drone, which can fly for six to 20 minutes at a charge, depending on air temperature. Cold weather shortens flying time because of the lithium batteries, said Ott.
Besides using it for the 2016 flood, Bowman and Ott have used the drone to show a different vantage points for different phases of University Avenue’s reconstruction, helping the wastewater treatment plant see if any of its ports were clogged during testing, and even helped emergency management on a training exercise to see if a drone could locate a missing person.
“During one of their trainings they hid one of their officers, and utilized me and the drone to help find that person,” said Ott, noting he found the person “in about a minute.”
Bowman and Ott anticipate the drone will be used even more by other city departments in the future.
“Sometimes you can see so much better from the air,” said Bowman. “It can clean up a lot of things and give you an overall prettier shot and a different vantage point.”
A preview of issues facing the 2018 Iowa Legislature.
DES MOINES — Iowans could see more of the same during the upcoming session in terms of health care legislation — debate over Iowa’s Medicaid program and abortion — as well as new proposals such as limiting opiate prescriptions and doing more to aid those with mental health issues.
Lawmakers begin the 2018 session Monday.
The state made the switch to a privatized Medicaid system in April 2016, handing the majority of Iowa’s Medicaid beneficiaries over to three managed-care organization. Two of them, Amerigroup Iowa and UnitedHealthcare of the River Valley, remain, while AmeriHealth Caritas dropped out in November.
The handling of Medicaid in Iowa has continued to receive criticism from enrollees and health care providers alike, and political leaders on both sides of the aisle seem to agree the system needs some change, said Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, R-Shell Rock, said the solution may lie in strengthening state partnerships with health care providers across Iowa, such as hospitals and not-for-profit agencies.
“We need to look at where the opportunities lie, and how to improve the process” Dix said.
But Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said the system should be switched back to state control, which Medicaid previously operated under before managed care. She said under the current system it’s difficult for Iowans to get affordable health care coverage.
Over the past decade, the state has seen a rapid increase in opioid-related deaths. According to Iowa Department of Public Health, there were 67 overdose deaths in 2016. In 2005, there were 28.
A bill to expand reporting requirements to reduce overdose-related deaths already has been filed for this session. The legislation would look at the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program, a mandated system that tracks patients’ use of controlled substances through information uploaded by prescribers and pharmacists.
Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant, said legislators also want to look at bills that limit opiate prescriptions and expand medication-assisted treatment programs, most likely modeled after other states that have been more successful in dealing with the issue. Heaton pointed to Wisconsin, which is using injections coupled with counseling to help those in recovery.
To improve mental health treatment in Iowa, Heaton said legislators need to consider developing adequate Medicaid reimbursements for regional crisis-intervention facilities.
He said lawmakers need to expand the concept of Assertive Community Treatment, a program that offers community-based services for people with serious mental health issues, according to the Department of Human Services.
“The problem is that in many areas in the state, there are no services in the community to support their needs,” Heaton said. “There’s no housing, there’s no community services available.”
However, Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, is pessimistic, adding he doesn’t expect “this Legislature will take much action to resolve the problems with mental health.”
Last session, the Legislature passed a new law mandating a three-day waiting period before abortions, as well as a shift in family planning funding that cut money from abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.
But in late October the state Supreme Court extended a temporary injunction against enforcement of the three-day waiting period.
With Republicans holding the majority in the Senate 28-20-1 and 59-51 in the House, Dix said they will continue those discussions.
“Senate Republicans have been, as we demonstrated this year, very much want to lead on promoting a culture of life in our state, protecting the life of the unborn,” Dix said. “I suspect that will be something we will have conversations about.”
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Bone-chilling cold gripped Iowa and much of the U.S. as 2018 began Monday, breaking century-old records, icing over some New Year’s celebrations and leading to at least two deaths attributed to exposure.
Records fell in many cities, including Waterloo, where the temperature dropped to -21, breaking the previous record of -18 set in 1974, according to Mark Schnackenberg, chief meteorologist at KWWL-TV. The high Monday in Waterloo was -4.
The mercury hasn’t been north of zero in Waterloo since Friday, although that should change today, with a projected high of 8 degrees. But highs in the single digits are forecast through Friday.
Dubuque, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids all set new record lows Monday. Cedar Rapids hit -24, shattering the previous mark of -14 from 1974.
The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories covering a vast area from South Texas to Canada and from Montana and Wyoming through New England. Dangerously low temperatures enveloped much of the Midwest, yet didn’t deter hundreds of people from ringing in the new year by jumping into Lake Michigan.
Despite sub-freezing temperatures and a warning of potential hypothermia from the local fire chief, throngs of people took part in the annual tradition in Milwaukee, warming up later with chili or heat from a beach fire pit.
A similar event was canceled on the Chicago lakefront, where the temperature dipped below zero.
Temperatures plunged below zero elsewhere in the Midwest, including in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where the mercury dropped to a record-breaking minus 32. The previous New Year’s Day record had stood for 99 years.
In Nebraska, temperatures hit 15 below zero before midnight Sunday in Omaha, breaking a record low dating to 1884. Omaha officials cited the forecast in postponing the 18th annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks Spectacular that draws around 30,000 people.
In northeastern Montana, the wind chill readings dipped as low as minus 58. And in Duluth, Minnesota, a city known for its bitter cold winters, the wind chill dipped to 36 below zero.
Plunging overnight temperatures in Texas brought rare snow flurries as far south as Austin, and accidents racked up on icy roads across the state.
It’s even cold in the Deep South, a region more accustomed to brief bursts of arctic air than night after night below zero. Frozen pipes and dead car batteries were concerns from Louisiana to Georgia as overnight temperatures fell into the teens Monday night.
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s office said two bodies found Sunday showed signs of hypothermia. Police believe the cold weather also may have been a factor in the death of a man in Bismarck, North Dakota, whose body was found near a river.