Tuesday, September 30, 2014
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Nebraska, Iowa Army National Guard Units Delay Drills

Nebraska and Iowa Army National Guard units have delayed drills this month because of a federal funding shortage that has affected thousands of Army National Guard units across the country.

Nebraska National Guard spokesman Kevin Hynes said Tuesday that the delays affect about 20 Nebraska Army Guard units  about half of the state’s total. The state has about 3,500 soldiers in the Army Guard.

Col. Greg Hapgood of the Iowa National Guard says the delays affect most of the state’s 7,200 Army National Guard members.

The states’ Air National Guard units are not affected.

A $101 million funding gap has led to postponed Guard drills nationwide. Efforts are underway in Congress to get funding reallocated so drills can be held and National Guard members can get paid.


Report Suggests Changes for Nebraska Medicaid

A new report says computer technology and increased competition could lower the cost of Nebraska’s Medicaid program.

The report released Wednesday by the Platte Institute for Economic Research suggests that the state contract with more than two health plans for each of Nebraska’s Medicaid service regions.

The report says the increased competition would reduce the leverage that any one plan has over the state.

It also calls for new technology to confirm whether Medicaid recipients are eligible for the benefit. Jim Vokal, the group’s CEO, says Pennsylvania and Illinois have realized millions in savings by catching people who don’t qualify.

The Platte Institute released the report in advance of next year’s legislative session. The group opposes efforts to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law.


Scientists: 'Extreme' solar storm heading to Earth

A strong solar flare is blasting its way to Earth, but the worst of its power looks like it will barely skim above the planet and not cause many problems.

It has been several years since Earth has had a solar storm of this size coming from sunspots smack in the middle of the sun, said Tom Berger, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. The flare on the sun barely hits the "extreme" on forecasters' scale, but with its worst effects missing Earth it is only looking "potentially strong" at most when it arrives at Earth as a solar storm, he said.

New calculations from satellite data show that the worst of the energetic particles streaming from the sun likely will go north or above Earth this time, Berger said late Wednesday.

So while the power grid may see fluctuations because the storm will cause changes in Earth's magnetic field, it won't knock power systems off line, Berger said. It may cause slight disturbances in satellites and radio transmissions but nothing major.

"We're not scared of this one," Berger said.

The storm is moving medium fast, about 2.5 million miles per hour, meaning the soonest it could arrive is early Friday, September 12th. But it could be later, Berger said.

Solar storms occur often, especially during peaks in the solar cycle, and don't directly harm people.

"There's been a giant magnetic explosion on the sun," Berger said. "Because it's pointed right at us, we'll at least catch some of the cloud" of highly energized and magnetized plasma that can disrupt Earth's magnetic sphere, which sometimes leads to temporary power grid problems.

On the plus side, sun flares expand the colorful northern lights so people farther south can see them. But don't expect them too far south, Berger said.


Snow in the forecast for parts of western SD

The strong system bringing to South Dakota its first winter storm of the season could dump up to 7 inches of snow in some areas on the western side of the state.

The National Weather Service says rain will transition to snow early Thursday across the Black Hills and northeast Wyoming. Heavy wet snow could lead to tree damage and power outages.

A winter storm warning is in effect until noon Thursday for the northern and central Black Hills including the cities of Lead, Deadwood, Hill City and Mount Rushmore.

The weather service says many areas across far western South Dakota may experience a hard freeze by Friday morning as temperatures are expected to dip into the 20s and even teens in the Black Hills.




Bison Roundup at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge

The annual roundup of bison at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) will take place September 22 – September 26, 2014.  According to Project Leader Steve Hicks, “sections of walkways above the refuge corrals have designated safe zones for public access, enabling visitors the opportunity to watch bison and photograph round-up action close-up.”

During roundup week, small groups of bison will be cut from the main herd of 400+ animals located in an adjoining pasture and pushed down the runway into the corrals.  Once in the corrals, bison are checked from above for abnormalities and then processed through the hub one at a time where the animal’s microchip, condition, age, and sex are recorded.  Calves, yearlings, and approximately 50 adult bison will be sorted off for additional handling and data collection related to ongoing herd health monitoring and genetic management.  To keep the bison herd in balance with its food supply, about 40-50 bison will be identified as “surplus” and sold by sealed bid. If you are interested in receiving a bid package, please contact the Fort Niobrara NWR office at 39983 Refuge Road, Valentine, NE 69201.  You can call Refuge Manager Steve Hicks, at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, 402-376-3789 for more information. Awarding of sale animals through the bid process at 12:00 noon on October 8, 2014 is open to the public.


Fort Niobrara NWR is located four miles east of Valentine on Highway 12 and the corrals are located just east of the office/visitor center.  To find out what is taking place each day and to plan the best times and days to visit, please call the refuge at (402)376-3789.


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