Year in Review

As we begin 2014, we take a look back at the stories which made the greatest news splash in 2013.The list ranges from tragedy to crisis’ averted, from celebrations to somber moments.  As our list demonstrates, 2013 was a year which saw even standard top 10 stories, like rise and fall of the lake level, pushed to extremes. 



# 1 Medical helicopter crashes near Ventura

The year started with a tragedy which shocked North Iowans.  Three people were killed Jan. 2 when Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa’s Air 

Med helicopter crashed north of Ventura.  The Mason City hospital-based helicopter crashed while en route to Emmetsburg to pick up a patient. The accident was reported to a 9-1-1 dispatcher at approximately 9 p.m.

The three people on board — a nurse, Shelly “Shell” Lair-Langenbau; a paramedic, Russell “Russ” Piehl; and a pilot with the helicopter service owned by Med-Trans, Gene Grell, were killed in the crash, according to officials at Mercy-North Iowa. There was no patient on board. 

The helicopter had been in the air only a short time when the accident occurred about 30 miles from take-off.  Light freezing drizzle was reported in North Iowa that night.  Fog and mist were reported at 8 p.m. at the Mason City airport, according to KIMT Chief Meteorologist Adam Frederick.  The temperature was 27 degrees. Overcast conditions were reported at 9 p.m.  The helicopter, owned by Med-Trans of Dallas Texas, crashed along a fence line about one mile north of Ventura near the intersection of County Road S-14 and 260th Street.  It was in transit from Mason City toward Emmetsburg at the time of the accident. 

Neighbors in rural Ventura said they heard the helicopter sputtering and then heard a loud explosion and saw a burst of flames.

A report released by the National Transportation Safety Board about the Mercy Air Med helicopter crash near Ventura indicates icing may have caused the aircraft to go down.


#2 Too warm,Too cold,Too dry,Too wet

The weather and its effect on the level of Clear Lake dominated headlines in 2013.  

For the first time in its 12-year history, Clear Lake’s Color the Wind Kite Festival, scheduled for mid-February, was cancelled. Warm weather, rain and winds degraded the ice at the downtown Seawall to the point where festival organizer Larry Day said he became concerned with safety.  

Many fluctuations between warm and cold weather also contributed to as many as three vehicles going into the lake.  

Spring was Lion-like as about a foot of heavy snow fell on Clear Lake in a storm that arrived March 10.  Forecasters said the rate of falling snow exceeded one-inch per hour in some spots.  Mason City officially had 13.5-inches of snow.  The National Weather Service said Mason City set a record for 24-hour snowfall for the date of March 11 with seven-and-a-half inches, breaking the old record of 4.9 inches set in 1951. 

By April, warm temperatures had arrived and all eyes were on the lake with hopes that late season snowfall had helped to lift the lake level.  When the lake was called frozen over on Dec. 11, 2012 the level was -31.44 inches below the weir.  Officials at the city’s Water Treatment Plant declared “ice out” on Clear Lake April 14, and on April 15, the lake level was reported as 17.04 inches below the weir.  The new mark represented a gain of 14.4 inches. Although late, the mid-April ice-out date was not a record-setter.  The latest ice out date on record is April 28, 1951.

And just when spring was in sight, a rare storm May 2 dropped 10-inches of snow on the area.  Clear Lakers woke up to find eight to 10 inches of snow on the ground. Forest City and Britt picked up 11 inches of snow, setting a new record for daily and monthly snowfall in May in the state. The previous record was 10 inches in LeMars back on May 28, 1947.

Less than two weeks later, the scene changed from a blanket of snow and freezing temperatures to 95-degrees.

Following a week filled with rain, the level of Clear Lake inched ever so close to spilling over the weir by the end of May.  The Clear Lake Water Department reported the lake level as -0.24 inches below the weir Tuesday, May 28-- a remarkable recovery from the -31.44 reported when the ice was declared frozen over on Dec. 11, 2012.  


#3 Clear Lake’s iconic water tower comes down

There was no greater spectator sport in Clear Lake in late April than watching the iconic City Beach water tower come down.  Workers from  Iseler Demolition, Inc., of Romeo, Mich., dismantled the structure piece by piece.   Iseler took the water tower down for just $1, however the company  then had ownership to haul the pieces to a recycling site.

A final decision regarding its future look is in the “distant future,” according to city leaders, but the City Council unanimously voted to enlist the help of RDG Planning and Design to develop a conceptual plan for the area near City Beach formerly occupied by a water tower.  RDG drafted a conceptual plan for the area roughly bordered by 1st Avenue North and 1st Avenue South, based upon public input.

Clear Lake City Council members responded favorably to a variety of ideas presented in August for improvements along much-used North Lakeview Drive, the Sea Wall and City Beach areas.  Improvements proposed in the Sea Wall area were minimal, but considered important by City leaders.  They included creating three pedestrian crossing zones tying the Sea Wall to City Park and the Bandshell.  The crossings would be made more visible by using brick pavers.  Seating would also be improved and the walkway along the Sea Wall would be widened.


The planner said there is also room to create a bicycle lane between the street and the pedestrian walkway along the Sea Wall.  The existing angled parking would not be changed, however Dunn noted moving bike traffic out of the street and onto a dedicated path would be much - Read More Via e-Edition

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