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Sprinkler system break at Howard Johnson floods lobby

SIOUX CITY | Water, water was everywhere in the lobby of the Howard Johnson Hotel Tuesday morning. 

Joe Rodriguez, a lieutenant with Sioux City Fire Rescue, said a sprinkler system pipe at the hotel broke and leaked considerable amounts of water. The pipe most likely broke "due to the temperature," he said. 

Rodriguez said the call came in around 10:30 a.m. 

Hotel guests were apparently not impacted by the pipe break and did not have to be evacuated. The sprinklers were not immediately repaired, Rodriguez said. 

Because of the sprinkler system issues, hotel staff have to perform a "fire watch" for safety. 

The lobby was thoroughly drenched in the incident, but other floors were not affected. Rodriguez gave a rough estimate of how much water flowed from the broken pipe. 

"A lot," he said. "Copious amounts." 

Sioux Cityan Jungers will not run for legislative seat

SIOUX CITY | After floating the possibility last week, Jake Jungers, of Sioux City, will not run as a minor party candidate for the Iowa House District 6 seat in a Jan. 16 special election.

On Friday, Jungers said he would collect signatures on a petition in order to get his name on the special election ballot. He said he was checking into whether he would run as a member of the Libertarian Party or No Party, the designation for independents on Iowa ballots.

However, Jungers decided not to pull the trigger on his second attempt to be on a Siouxland ballot in less than a year.

"After several recent with discussions with political leaders  throughout the state, I have come to the decision to announce that I will not be running for state representative in Iowa House District 6," Jungers said in a message to the Journal.

Third-party or no party candidates had until Tuesday to file nomination papers with the Iowa Secretary of State's office.

The seat is open because Jim Carlin, the former representative, won a Dec. 12 special election for the seat in Iowa Senate District 3.

Rita DeJong, a Democrat and former Sioux City teacher and principal, and Jacob Bossman, a Republican who lost a bid for Iowa House District 6 in 2016, when Carlin won the position, are the nominees of the respective parties for the Jan. 16 election.

Jungers said he is endorsing Bossman.

Jungers unsuccessfully ran for one of three Sioux City Council positions earlier this year.

The winner of the Jan. 16 election will fill the last year of Carlin's two-year House term.

Carlin, a first-term Republican, defeated Democrat Todd Wendt, of Le Mars, 55 percent to 45 percent in Senate District 3.

The Senate District 3 vacancy was created by the resignation of two-term Sen. Bill Anderson, a Pierson Republican who in September accepted a job heading the Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation.

Siouxland temperatures finally rebound, but another cold spell coming

SIOUX CITY | After four straight days of sub-zero temperatures, thermometers in Sioux City finally crept to one degree about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The temperature quickly rose another 10 degrees within the passage of 120 more minutes.

The long cold spell didn't exactly completely end, as the Tuesday high was still below the historic average for Jan. 2. But after more than 80 consecutive hours with temperatures below zero in Sioux City, the eventual daytime high temperature of 20 degrees seemed relatively balmy compared to the period that began late Friday.

A lot of people stayed put, in spite of the New Year's Eve and Day holidays. Siouxland restaurants noticed a drop-off of patrons for the Sunday lunchtime and some Northwest Iowa churches did not hold services.

The Sioux and Ida county sheriff offices were among those in the region who warned people over the long weekend to be smart in travel decisions during the very cold period.

Jeff Chapman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, said Tuesday conditions were considerably above the frigid temperatures of New Year's weekend.

"Very strong warm-up to where we've been in the last several days," Chapman said.

Yet while the temperatures rebounded Tuesday, they will slump as another Arctic front moves in. Still, temperatures won't be nearly as cold as they were over the weekend.

Highs on Wednesday and Thursday will be about 11 degrees in Sioux City, according to the forecast. On Thursday morning, the low temperature will be about seven degrees below zero. 

More seasonable daytime highs will follow on Saturday and Sunday, when the forecast highs are 24 degrees and 33 degrees.

-- Mason Dockter contributed to this article.

11th lawsuit filed against Big Ox, South Sioux City

SOUTH SIOUX CITY | Another lawsuit has been filed against Big Ox Energy and South Sioux City, the 11th brought by homeowners who claim that odors and gases from the renewable energy plant damaged their homes and health.

Juan and Maribel Campos filed the latest suit Friday in Dakota County District Court. Like homeowners in the previous lawsuits, they claim that they and their children suffered property damage and began experiencing health problems after Big Ox fired up its plant in September 2016.

All 11 lawsuits allege that Big Ox and the city failed to maintain, operate and modify wastewater treatment facilities and sewer systems to handle waste from the plant and prevent the release of hydrogen sulfate and other toxic gases. Health problems suffered by homeowners and their families include respiratory illnesses, headaches, nausea, anxiety and emotional distress.

The lawsuits allege that Big Ox and the city knew or should have known after initial tests of the plant's operations in August 2016 that the municipal sewer system would be unable to handle the pressures and substances being released into it, leading to the release of gases that escaped through manholes and into residences near the plant.

The Denmark, Wisconsin-based company has denied the allegations. Its attorney, Dan Ketcham, of Omaha, has filed a request in six of the cases for an extension of time to answer the complaints and respond to discovery requests.

More lawsuits are likely because 16 families filed tort claims against the city in May. The lawsuits have been filed periodically since Nov. 29.

Juan and Maribel Campos are seeking $235,600 in damages for loss of the use of their home for two months, displacement costs during that time, repair costs and loss of furnishings ruined by odors.

Damages being sought in the other lawsuits total about $6.4 million.

Big Ox Energy's more than $30 million plant extracts organic nutrients from animal, grain and other waste to create methane, which is sold into the natural gas pipeline. The plant went online Sept. 2, 2016.

Nearby residents began reporting odors from the plant a month later, when sewer gas permeated some homes in a five-block area near the plant. Big Ox maintains that faulty plumbing in the homes was the primary cause of the odor issues.

The city and Big Ox have previously paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to reimburse homeowners for living expenses since they were displaced. The city has also spent $1.5 million for sewer upgrades and modifications.

Ian Richardson / Provided