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Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Wagner Leon of Sioux City braves the snow after a short walk to the dumpster in Sioux City on Saturday. The snow was not expected to stop completely until Sunday morning. 

Blizzard: Howling winds, whiteout conditions

SIOUX CITY -- Saturday's blizzard caused near-whiteout road conditions throughout Siouxland, along with large swaths of Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa. 

Kerry Hanko, a meteorologist with the Sioux Falls National Weather Service, said Sioux City was still expected to see 6 to 8 inches of snow from the Saturday system. Most Siouxland communities are expected to see roughly this amount, though snowfall totals were difficult to measure due to blowing snow. 

Surprisingly, this amount of snow might only equal (rather than break) Sioux City's April 14 snow record of 6.2 inches, set in 1949. 

Complicating matters, sustained winds of 30 miles per hour and gusts of more than 40 miles per hour howled all day, blowing snow into deep drifts on roadways and elsewhere. 

Temperatures Saturday afternoon hovered in the upper 20s -- more than 30 degrees lower than the average April 14 high temperature of 62 degrees.

And in a rather backward way, Saturday's high temperature actually occurred around midnight, when the temperature was 38 degrees, before sliding downward. 

The snow was expected to stop around 9 a.m. Sunday, and it would only be hit-and-miss up until that time. 

"After midnight, it's going to kind of be much lighter snow," Hanko said. 

Sioux City remained in a blizzard warning until 1 a.m. Sunday. 

On the road

The Hastings National Weather Service and Iowa Department of Transportation reported that all highways near Sioux City were either completely or partially covered in snow or a snow-and-ice mixture. 

Travel was not advised in much of the tri-state area during the blizzard. Sioux City drivers appeared to have been particularly hard-hit, with six traffic accidents reported in less than a three-hour timespan. A three-car pileup with injuries was reported near Salix after 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Woodbury County Sheriff's Deputy Gerad Lukken said the county saw a fairly large number of accidents on Saturday, including about three on I-29, one involving three cars and another involving five. There were accidents on Highway 20 as well. 

Because of the tow ban issued for the northwest Iowa, many of the disabled cars could not be moved. 

"A lot of cars in the ditch all around the county," Lukken said. 

For the most part, the highways are 100 percent covered in ice and slush, Lukken said. I-29 has improved somewhat, but even liquid slush is causing people to hydroplane and lose control. 

"People driving too fast for the conditions," he said.

South Sioux City police investigator Clint Nelson said shortly after 1 p.m. that South Sioux City had seen three minor car accidents within an hour timespan. 

One officer whom Nelson had spoken to reported near-whiteout conditions on Interstate 29, and throughout the county he suspected visibility was less than a quarter-mile. 

In Dixon County, Nebraska, sheriff's dispatcher Cindy Koeppe said as of 1:15 p.m., there had been no reported accidents in the county. 

"Apparently, people are being wise this time and staying off the roads," she said. 

Cherokee County Sheriff's corporal Alex Burditt said shortly before 2:30 p.m. that the county hadn't seen very many accidents, except for one semi truck reported in the ditch near Aurelia. 

"I don't think we've had much today," he said. "I know the roads are horrible," including blowing and drifting snow and ice-packed roads. 

As in Dixon County, Burditt said cars were staying off the roads in Cherokee County. 

"On my drive in, I might have passed one," he said. "People are finally staying inside." 

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts issued an emergency declaration in response to storm-related travel problems and impassible roads in central and western Nebraska. Interstate 80 and U.S. Highways 30 and 20 were closed due to the weather, and several counties in central Nebraska were impacted by a toppled emergency communication tower. 

The blizzard also caused a slew of rescheduled and cancelled events in Siouxland, including the 2018 Heelan Auction, a forum for Iowa Democratic governor candidates, the Sioux City Relays, evening Mass in Storm Lake and others. 

Snow emergencies were declared in Sioux City as well as South Sioux City. Cars parked in the street need to be moved to the odd-numbered side on Sunday.  

More weather information

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Chris Van Beek, a Mercy Home Care nurse, takes care of a peripherally inserted catheter line during a visit to patient Linda Talbott's home in Elk Point, S.D. Van Beek was recently named one of 100 Great Iowa Nurses.

Sioux City School District bumping up against state limits on spending


SIOUX CITY -- Amid slow growth in state aid, the Sioux City School Board faced difficult budget choices this year, including some unpopular cuts in teacher pay.

"It is really whether you want this bad idea or this bad idea or this bad idea," Superintendent Paul Gausman said during a meeting Monday when the board approved a $204 million spending plan that begins July 1.

But preparing budgets in subsequent years could be even more challenging, district leaders warn. Among other things, the district is bumping up state limits on spending, which, in a worst-case scenario, could force officials to cut millions of dollars more.

"This is going to be ugly. This is nothing compared to what will be happening," school board member Mike McTaggart said.

Gausman and Chief Financial Officer Patty Blankenship over the last two months also have been sounding the alarm about the spending limitations.

Each year, Iowa school districts calculate their spending authority, or the maximum dollars they're legally allowed to spend. A district's spending authority is calculated using a complicated formula that includes the previous year’s certified enrollment and the state's cost per pupil. The latter is raised or lowered after state lawmakers approve the supplemental state aid for districts. This year, the state aid will grow by 1 percent.

A district's unspent spending authority rolls over each year into its unspent balance. The problem for Sioux City is the district has been gradually spending down those reserves. Once they're gone, it will even more difficult for the district to fund programs and pay and benefits for teachers and staff.

In the budget for 2018-19, the district faced a $1.6 million budget deficit. Most of that gap was closed by eliminating supplemental pay for middle and high school teachers at a tune of about $4,800 apiece, or a total savings of $1.44 million. 

The amount of cash a district has in its budget and spending authority are two separate issues.

"Spending authority is our challenge, cash is not," Gausman said Monday.

The district has 5 percent as the annual targeted unspent balance ratio, a measure of the unspent authorized budget as a percentage of its maximum spending authority per year.

That ratio is projected to be 10 percent in fiscal 2019. After factoring in a projection of a 1.5 percent increase in supplemental state aid in fiscal 2021, 2022 and 2023, the projected ratios over those three years would drop to 5 percent, then 2 percent, and, finally, negative 2 percent.

Projecting a 1.5 percent rise in supplemental aid, paired with a 2 percent rise in expenditures over those three years, the picture remains sour, Blankenship and Gausman said. 

In those projections prepared by Blankenship, the district's annual spending authority in fiscal 2021 would be $171.1 million, or $5.2 million below targeted spending. For fiscal 2022, the annual spending authority would rise slightly to $173.4 million, or $6.5 million under targeted spending, and, in fiscal 2023, the projections are for $175.7 million in spending authority, or $7.7 million below targeted spending.

Sioux City officials point out that school districts that exceed its spending authority two years in a row face serious disciplinary action from the Iowa Department of Education, including shutting a district down. After the first year of overspending their authority, districts must go before the State School Budget Review Committee and present a spending plan to correct the problem.

In a stand against school funding inequities, Davenport School District Superintendent Art Tate has jeopardized his superintendent license by openly spending beyond his district’s authorized limits. Tate is scheduled to go before the Board of Educational Examiners in June. He will be responding to an ethics complaint the Department of Education filed against him in December 2016.

Gausman emphasized the Sioux City district has no plans to overspend its authority. That means district administrators and the school board face more tough decisions in the next few years if state lawmakers continue with minimum or no increases in state supplemental aid.

"Fund us, don't stay at 1 percent," McTaggart voiced, as an appeal to legislators.

Blankenship, in a March board meeting said, "We can't property-tax our way out" of a year with limited new state revenues, since the key thing is that a district should never go beyond the spending authority.


GALLAGHER: 'Sister act' plays pivotal part for Beavers

STORM LAKE, Iowa | I started the school year by watching the Buena Vista Beavers register a walk-off football victory over Central College on a cloudy autumn afternoon near the shores of Storm Lake.

On Thursday, I began my final swing through the collegiate sports calendar by watching the Beavers softball team notch a walk-off win over No. 23-ranked Central College on a breezy spring day at Storm Lake High School.

A "sister act" proved pivotal: Pitcher Moriah Guyett tossed 140 fastballs, change-ups and rise balls to her younger sister, Carlee Guyett, in the BV triumph. While Moriah, a senior, earned the 9-inning victory, it was Carlee, a freshman, who smacked the game-winning hit, her third of the contest.

TGallagher / Provided 

Buena Vista University starting pitcher Moriah Guyett improved to 8-4 on the season with a 9-inning complete-game victory over Central College on Thursday in Storm Lake, Iowa. The senior from Westside High School in Omaha, pitches to her younger sister, Carlee, the catcher for the Beavers.

I've seen plenty of siblings on the court, field or diamond in athletics over the years. Rare, though, is when a senior and freshman comprise the battery in collegiate baseball or softball. But, that's the case this year at BV, where these Omaha Westside graduates, daughters of Sonya and Barney Guyett, lead the attack.

"When I heard she (Carlee) was coming to BV, I had mixed emotions because I didn't want my younger sister going at college with me," Moriah Guyett said after the game as Semisonic's "Closing Time" blared from the speakers. Funny, how a team-leading .457 average, a team-leading 42 hits and a team-best 24 RBIs will alter an older sibling's perspective.

"Then again, I also knew I might be able to pitch to her," Moriah said.

TGallagher / Provided 

Carlee Guyett plays catcher for the Buena Vista Beavers this season, often catching her older sister, Moriah Guyett, the ace pitcher. Carlee is a freshman, while Moriah is a senior. Both are graduates of Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska.

She has, as the younger Guyett has started the bulk of BV's games at backstop this year, helping the squad fashion a 16-10 record.

"Mo and I understand each other really well," Carlee said. "I understand what she's thinking at all times."

On Thursday, the little sister called time and headed out to the pitcher's circle and, in so many words, demanded her big sister show confidence and command as Central threatened to break the game open. "I said, 'Be a little cocky out here,'" Carlee said. "I know how good you are; you know how good you are."

Moriah Guyett fanned four, walked two, gave up seven hits and pitched around five Beaver errors in securing the win, BV's first in Iowa Conference action. In the process, she upped her record to 8-4 on the season, a season in which she's logged 11 complete games.

TGallagher / Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal 

Sisters Carlee, left, and Moriah Guyett serve as catcher and pitcher for the Buena Vista Beavers softball team this season. Carlee is a freshman, while Moriah is a senior. Both are graduates of Westside High School in Omaha.

"I had confidence in my team and in their hitting," said Moriah Guyett, an education major who will student-teach third- and fifth-graders come fall. "My sister was calling a good game. I had confidence."

Rare is the time Moriah Guyett calls off a pitch her younger sister has signaled. "Coach (Mandie Berneking) has told me I can call her off when I don't like a pitch, but I don't. I trust her," Moriah said.

Carlee, an athletic training and human performance double-major, was ecstatic she got another chance to deliver in the clutch. She came to bat in the late innings twice before and lined out on both trips. The dual-sport athlete (she runs for the Beavers during the indoor track season) felt secure she'd be able to handle a pitch with the bases loaded and end the game in the ninth.

She did by lacing a shot up the middle, sending home teammate Kate Lesmeister and touching off a celebration with her coaches, her teammates and, of course, her winning pitcher, a battery-mate who doubles as older sister.

When I asked her to recount the most memorable times of playing with "big sis," Carlee Guyett said, "That game is a highlight. It was an incredible win with a great crowd. And Moriah did a stellar job!"