(KTIV) — KTIV News 4 was there every step of the way for an eventful year in Siouxland.
January 2018 did not start quietly. A blizzard struck Iowa, South Dakota, and Nebraska on January 22nd and 23rd. The heaviest snow fell in western Siouxland, topping out at more than 18 inches in some parts of Nebraska. Roads were not much better. Travel was not advised for large chunks of Sioux and Plymouth counties, and Interstate-29 was closed in South Dakota.
In February, tragedy struck in Parkland Florida, sending shock-waves across the country. On Valentine’s Day, a shooter opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 students and staff members. That same day, in Le Mars, Iowa, a local high school was put on lock-down, following threats of violence. Police say the students in Le Mars were never in any danger, but the incident, along with what happened in Florida, led Siouxlanders to take a closer look at school safety in their own communities.
An escalating trade war in Washington eventually hit farmers. On April 2, China imposed tariffs on American pork and soybeans in retaliation to U. S. tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum. The increased cost of importing meant Siouxland farmers struggled to sell their products to the country which had been their biggest buyer.
The effects of those trade tensions are still being felt today. In November, China’s soybean imports from the U. S. plunged to zero for the first time since the trade war began.
A blast rocked South Sioux City on May 29, when the Andersen Farms Grain elevator exploded. One worker died from his injuries and dozens of homes were evacuated for fear the elevator would collapse, but the elevator remained standing. South Sioux City residents, anxious to return to their homes, waited two weeks for crews to bring the structure down. What remained of the building was pulled to the ground on June 11.
That same month, heavy rain hit Northwest, Iowa causing severe flooding in some communities. A large part of Hawarden, Rock Valley, Ashton, and Akron were under water, causing Governor Kim Reynolds to declare a state of emergency. In June, some of the worst damage happened near Doon, when a train, carrying crude oil derailed, spilling its cargo into the flooded Rock River. It took crews days to clean up the mess. The railroad maintains the environmental impact was minimal, but some locals remain skeptical.
The summer’s wild weather was not over. Tornadoes swept through central Iowa on July 19, causing widespread devastation to communities like Altoona, Bondurant, and Pella. But some of the worst damage happened in Marshall County, where an EF3 tornado struck the town of Marshalltown, destroying homes, businesses, and toppling the spire of the historic courthouse.
Meanwhile, a search was taking place for a missing University of Iowa Student. 21-year-old Mollie Tibbetts was reported missing after she never returned from a jog near her home in Brooklyn, Iowa. For one month, law enforcement officers looked for clues until they eventually zeroed in on a suspect, 24-year-old Cristhian Rivera.
On August 21, police announced they had found Tibbett’s body in a Poweshiek County cornfield. Even President Trump weighed in when it was revealed Rivera was an undocumented migrant working at a local dairy farm.
Rivera has pleaded not guilty to Tibbett’s murder.
The entire town of Aurelia, Iowa was evacuated in the wake of an ammonia leak. A valve on a 30-thousand gallon anhydrous ammonia fertilizer tank at the local co-op sprang a leak on September 24. About one-thousand people fled from their homes as the cloud of toxic gas drifted into downtown and residential neighborhoods.
The ordeal lasted about seven hours. Later, residents were able to return to their homes once new parts were shipped in.
October marked a momentous occasion for an Iowa construction project, 60 years in the making. Leaders from across the state gathered to celebrate the completion of U.S. Highway 20. U.S. Highway 20 runs through the heart of Siouxland, and after decades of on-again-off-again construction, many questioned whether work on the road would ever be finished. Iowans can now drive the highway river to river.
Some of the biggest news of 2018: the midterm elections. Democrats gained control of the U-S House of Representatives. Representation in Siouxland remained mostly unchanged. The race in Iowa’s 4th district proved to be closer then many anticipated. Incumbent Congressman Steve King walked away with the win after a tough battle against challenger J.D. Scholten. The Governor’s races in Iowa and South Dakota also were among the closest. In the end, Kim Reynolds and Kristi Noem were able to come out victorious against their challengers, Fred Hubbell and Billie Sutton.
November also took us all the way to Annapolis, Maryland, to celebrate the commissioning of the U.S.S. Sioux City. It is the latest, most technologically-advanced warship in the Naval fleet. We followed the ship from concept to commissioning and Sioux Citians were there to support the men and women who sail on the pride of Siouxland.
The end of the year marked a major anniversary for a Nebraska girl’s incredible journey. Maria Wilmes was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension at the age of two. It is a rare heart disease that caused her to have high blood pressure in her lungs. In December 2017, Maria became Nebraska’s first ever recipient of a heart-lung transplant. It was a historic operation. One year later, when we checked in with her again in December 2018, Maria was thriving and is looking forward to accomplishing even more in the future.
That’s our look at some of the stories making headlines in 2018.