Gazette Daily News Briefing, November 12 and November 13


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This is Stephen Schmidt from the Gazette digital news desk and I’m here with your update for Saturday, November 12, and Sunday, November 13.

It sadly was not a bad dream, it really is this cold still. According to the National Weather Service there will be a small chance of freezing drizzle before 4pm on Saturday in the Cedar Rapids area, and a chance for snow flurries from 4 to 5 p.m. Otherwise it will be cloudy, with a high near 34 degrees. On Sunday it will be mostly sunny, with a high near 36 degrees and a low temperature of 24 degrees. The wind will finally calm on Sunday, breaking a string of windy days.

According to the Iowa Capitol Dispatch, widespread rainfall last week in the southeastern half of the state significantly reduced drought conditions, as indicated by the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report.

Most of that area had at least 2 inches of rain — with a maximum of 4.3 inches — and drought conditions were erased in about 16 percent of the state.

The rainfall reversed about a month’s worth of worsening dryness that had pushed the state’s overall drought to its worst in nine years.

But that rainfall missed portions of northwest Iowa that are among the driest, and areas of severe and extreme drought — the two worst drought designations — slightly expanded.

Nearly two-thirds of Iowa still is suffering from some degree of drought, which the Drought Monitor ranks using four categories: moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional. About 11 percent of the state has extreme drought or worse, in an area that centers on Sioux City at the western border and extends east to Humboldt.

According to the Associated Press, A U.S. judge in Texas has blocked President Joe Biden's plan to provide millions of borrowers with up to $20,000 apiece in federal student-loan forgiveness — a program that was already on hold as a federal appeals court considers a separate lawsuit by six states, including Iowa, challenging it.

District Court Judge Mark Pittman, an appointee of former President Donald Trump based in Fort Worth, said Thursday the program usurped Congress' power to make laws.

The debt forgiveness plan would cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 or households with less than $250,000 in income. Pell Grant recipients, who typically demonstrate more financial need, would get an additional $10,000 in debt forgiven.

According to the White House, over 400,000 Iowa borrowers would see some student loan debt forgiven under the program. Of those, nearly 250,000 are Pell Grant recipients.

The oldest bridge in Linn County will be lifted up by cranes and put on a truck to haul it about a mile away to the Indian Creek Nature Center, where it will become a pedestrian bridge.

The Bertram Bridge, also known as the Blue Bridge on Bertram Road near the nature center, was built in 1876. The steel truss bridge’s design was brand-new for the time, and over the next 146 years no major alterations have been made to it. Its timber deck surface has been replaced several times over the decades and, in 1991, it received a royal blue color treatment, earning its nickname.

Throughout its life so far, it served vehicle traffic and survived multiple flooding events, most notably in 1993 and 2008

“The bridge is old — very old,” Linn County Assistant Engineer Garret Reddish said. “Fire trucks, semis, snow plows really can’t go over it. And we have records from the 1970s talking about replacing it, so this is a project around 50 years in the works.”

The bridge will be replaced on the roadway by a normal concrete bridge.

Reddish said the Blue Bridge will remain open throughout the winter and into the spring. The plan is for it to be moved around Memorial Day weekend. However, there may be some spot closures during different parts of the winter work.

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