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50 YEARS AGO –

THE FLOOD OF

DECEMBER 1955
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In the News - Friday, jANUARY 6, 2006

Winter roars

into Kaweah Country

   Last Monday, Jan. 2, while several towns in Northern California remained under floodwaters, the second of two powerful winter storms veered south bringing more rain and snow to Central California but even higher winds and heavier precipitation to the Southland. The traditional Rose Parade in Pasadena was drenched for the first time in 51 years.
   In Kaweah Country, there were some minor rockslides and trees and power lines down, but no major damage. Every gully, drainage, steep driveway or exposed road cut was brimming with runoff and the saturated ground was leeching moisture everywhere.

  “I just returned from a holiday trip to visit my mother in Tennessee,” said Scott Mullikin, owner of Sequoia Gifts and Souvenirs. “I can’t believe how everything turned so green while I was gone.”
   Most of the runoff that wasn’t watering the verdant landscape found its way into Lake Kaweah. By Wednesday morning, much of the basin’s bottomlands were completely underwater.
   In the nearby mountains what began as a warm weather event by Monday had developed into a major snowstorm. At 7,000 feet, Sequoia Park locales at Lodgepole and Mineral King received three feet of new snow.
   The rainfall amounts around Three Rivers varied tremendously depending on elevation. At 1,000 feet, the storm dumped five inches of rainfall, bringing the current season’s total to nearly 11 inches.
   At one location along the Mineral King Road near 2,000 feet, the recent storms dumped 7.5 inches of rainfall for a season total of 15 inches.
   What less than one month ago looked like a seasonal drought now all of a sudden is looking more normal with 20 to 25 inches of rainfall for the season a distinct possibility.

3R man charged in

New Year’s Eve assault

   On Saturday, Dec. 31, Jim Fansett, Three Rivers resident deputy sheriff, was summoned to a Kaweah River Drive residence in the vicinity of Lions Arena after neighbors reported hearing several shotgun blasts shortly after 9 p.m.

  “We’re still trying to sort out exactly what happened but it appears that the suspect did discharge a firearm and at least one female at the house sustained a minor injury,” said Deputy Fansett.
   As a result of the incident, a longtime resident of Three Rivers was taken into custody and transported to Visalia for booking. Deputy Fansett said that the suspect is being charged with at least one felony count of assault with a deadly weapon.
   A Tulare County Sheriff’s spokesperson said that additional charges stemming from the incident might be forthcoming. Anyone with information that could aid in the investigation is asked to call Deputy Fansett at 740-8894.

Park entrance fees

take a hike

   If you plan to visit Sequoia and/or Kings Canyon national parks this year, it’s going to cost you more money. The entrance fee, valid for seven days, doubled as of Sunday, Jan. 1, from $10 to $20.
   An annual pass to Sequoia-Kings Canyon increased from $20 to $30. The all-parks pass remains at $50 for now.
This is the first fee increase since the it was raised from $5 per car to $10 a decade ago.
   It used to be that the money collected at national parks went into the nation’s “general fund,” the same place that all federal tax dollars go. But, in 1996, Congress authorized the “Recreation Fee Demonstration Program,” which allows 80 percent of the money collected at the entrance stations to stay in the local parks, with the other 20 percent going to parks that don’t collect an entrance fee.
   As a result, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have received desperately needed funds to build a bike path, repave roads, improve and renovate campground facilities and picnic areas, maintain trails, implement new visitor-education programs, construct new restrooms, and provide additional resource protection. Also being planned is a shuttle-transportation system for the Giant Forest area to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.
   Granted, the entrance-fee income is much more easier to pay since visitors’ dollars stay local for park improvements. But the doubling of the fees could have an direct impact on visitation by Tulare County residents, who are among the state’s poorest.
   Lower visitation to Sequoia could ultimately mean a reduction of visitors in Three Rivers. In the past, Sequoia National Park actions affecting visitor facilities have had consequences for this gateway community, such as the closure of the former Giant Forest Village in the wintertime.
   The best deal around if planning on visiting any or all national parks is the National Parks Pass. The cost is $50 and it’s valid at any park for an entire year (and it’s not based on a calendar year, but from first month of use).

Landscaping project blossoms

   Two Exeter High School students, Andrew Medina, 16, and his brother, Steven Medina, l4, worked on a recent Saturday removing bushes and turning soil in preparation for new landscaping at the Memorial Building. The two young men were donating their work to fulfill their high school community service requirement.
   The planting project has been organized and funded through the Redbud Garden Club. Landscape plans include using colorful native trees and shrubs and a variety of local flowers to give the garden seasonal beauty while bringing it into harmony with the natural landscape around the building.
   The project is a community effort that includes, in addition to the Redbud Garden Club, the Native Plant Society-Alta Peak Chapter, members of the local fire station, as well as volunteer high school students. Melanie Baer-Keeley, horticuluralist at Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks, is providing overall guidance in plant selection and layout.
   On Saturday, Jan. 21, the planting of phase one — the 40 feet of garden leading up to the main entrance of the building — will commence. All who want to assist on the project can arrive at the building (with shovels) anytime between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. High school students interested in community service credit may call 561-3202 or 561-4126 for information.


YEAR IN

REVIEW

   Wet and wild winter weather, lots of business comings and goings, and an exclusive of the tsunami aftermath dominated the first quarter of 2005. It’s THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH in retrospect, a month-long series that looks back on the year through stories and pictures...


                             — PART ONE —


JANUARY 2005
   January 7— The year kicked off with the fourth annual Polar Dip at which more than 20 hearty souls braved the chilly Kaweah River in a turgid pool below the Gateway Restaurant. The sun was shining, but the water temperature was in the 30s.
   ALLEN ISHIDA was sworn in as the new county supervisor for District One. Supervisor Ishida took over the seat vacated by Bill Sanders. Sanders chose retirement over a new term or seeking another office.
   SEVEN OF the last 10 days featured periods of rain and snow. The mild El Nino was expected to significantly impact the next three months of the rainfall season.
   Forecasters were saying that there was real potential for the season to become a “drought buster.” Some areas in the vicinity of Wuksachi Village in Sequoia National Park had more than six feet of snow.
   January 14— The weather remained the big news of the week. It was windy, it was wet, and it was definitely some wild winter weather that barreled its way across California. On Sunday, Jan. 9, locals arose to the roaring thunder of a suddenly swollen Kaweah River.
   By Wednesday, a record-setting series of storms gave way to general clearing but the entire state was dealing with the aftermath of mudslides, dramatic rescues, power outages, and road closures. In Three Rivers, more than four more inches of rainfall were recorded, bringing the season total to 14 inches.
   That rainfall total for early January was only slightly less than what the area received for the entire 2003-2004 season.
   THE BULLENE Vineyards tasting room was closed marking the end to Three Rivers’s only commercial winery. Innovative Structural Glass, Inc., purchased the property, including its 7,000 vines.
   SEQUOIA NATIONAL Park announced the retirements of Scott Ruesch, Bob Griego, and Frank Bleggi. JD Swed became the parks’ new chief ranger; Richard Huffman was appointed concessions specialist.
   January 21— Nancy and Uwe Reimer, longtime owners of Reimer’s Candies and Gifts in Three Rivers, announced that the business and Sierra Drive property had been purchased by Lynn and Mary Anne Bretz of Visalia.
   The newest owners are only the third owners of the 50-year-old candy store. Ted and Millie Huffaker started candy-making at the site, selling the business to the Reimers in 1978.
   THE RECENT storms that brought snow to the local mountains and caused more than $100 million in damage statewide were a combination of the jet stream pumping cold air into huge amounts of equatorial Pacific moisture. What caused the rare weather event was actually a cut-off low positioned directly off the Central California coast.
   BRIAN DROSENOS became the new sous-chef at Wuksachi. He later took over as executive chef when Jamie Rigau resigned.
   January 28— Chris Gentry, who was raised in Three Rivers and now is the CEO of Asia Works with an office in Jakarta, Indonesia, reported being one of the first to provide direct aid to victims of the Asian tsunami. Gentry said he buried dozens of victims and saw firsthand the horrific devastation.

  “There is no way to ever know how many actually died in these villages where thousands of people formerly lived,” Gentry said.
   Gentry donated thousands of his own dollars to the relief effort and raised thousands more that were given directly to the victims. He provided his story and photos of the devastation of the Aceh province as an exclusive to The Kaweah Commonwealth.
   SEQUOIA NATIONAL Park officials closed the South Fork Campground to overnight use due to vandalism to pit toilets, signs, and garbage cans. The footbridge across the South Fork was also set ablaze and partially burned.

FEBRUARY 2005
   February 4— A large boulder slid onto the Generals Highway one-half mile above the Foothills Visitor Center. No one was in the path of the large slide that brought down the 12-foot by 8-foot hunk of granite.
   The slide caused some anxious moments for one carload of visitors and then the following day had hundreds of day-users abruptly changing their plans. The slide closed the two-lane highway from 7 p.m. Friday until 3:30 p.m. the following day. A park road crew blasted the big rock with a dynamite charge then used heavy equipment to clear the debris.
   THE FEBRUARY 1 snow survey contained some very good news. The recent spate of January storms had the local snowpack at 178 percent of a typical February 1. That number already represented 109 percent of the average April 1 total, a season’s benchmark date for snow pack.
   THREE RIVERS was treated to a sneak preview of a demonstration garden being designed at the new CDF fire station. A local volunteer contingent of mostly Redbud Garden Club members assisted firefighters with the planting of a fire-safe native landscape.
   February 11— The Naturedome called it quits after operating continuously in Three Rivers since 1991.
   DELAWARE NORTH Companies Parks and Resorts announced that Jamie Hodgson had been named the new general manager for the company’s operations in Sequoia National Park. Hodgson replaced Tom McFadden, who left to work on a new concessions deal for the company at Yellowstone National Park.
   One of the highlights while McFadden was general manager was a presidential visit by George W. Bush in June 2000. Bush requested that his room be equipped with a treadmill and a TV. After his visit, televisions were installed in all 102 guest rooms.
   WOODLAKE KIWANIS and the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce announced its annual community service awards. Bob Hengst was presented the Man of the Year award; Frances Mann was honored as the Woman of the Year.
   Jeff Holmes and his partner, Ed Micham, representing High Sierra Lumber & Supply, accepted the Business of the Year award.
   February 18— At a special ceremony held February 15, Three Rivers School volunteer Jami Beck was honored for her work with children. The 55th annual event was organized by the school’s Eagle Booster Club.
   ON THE local business scene, several comings and goings were noted. Among the comings was Heart’s Desire, an eclectic gift shop that planned to open in the former Naturedome. A new hair and nail salon with day spa called TRU, owned by TaMara Dutro, opened adjacent to the Century 21 office.
   February 25— A burglary spree had Three Rivers alarmed when three homes, one while the occupants were asleep in an adjacent bedroom, were victimized. The series of heists netted stereo equipment, a wallet, musical instruments, jewelry, and a 2002 Ford Explorer.
   SUPERVISOR ISHIDA conducted his first Town Meeting and furnished an update on several county matters. He also said he was still trying to work on a deal that could help get a visitor center in Three Rivers.
   AT THE meeting, the Commonwealth presented its annual awards. Jim McClintick received the “Golden Pen Award” for outstanding written contribution.
   McClintick, a 13-year resident of Cherokee Oaks, received the honor for writing an original Valentine’s Day poem submission for the past 12 years.
   Congressman Devin Nunes (R-21st District) received the 2004 Newsmaker of the Year award for his work on behalf of his constituents and especially for his legislation to preserve the Mineral King cabin community.

MARCH 2005
   March 4— A number of items stolen in recent residential burglaries in Three Rivers were recovered when Tulare County sheriff’s detectives served a warrant at a residence in Poplar. Two suspects were taken into custody for receiving stolen property and drug charges.
   AT A special briefing held at Three Rivers School, BLM officials said that the new user fee of $5 per car caused a decline in the number of persons who used the North Fork recreation sites.

  “We had less graffiti, less tagging, and our rangers wrote fewer citations for drugs and alcohol,” said Alyssa Hancock, BLM ranger.
   HANNAH ROBERTS, 3, of Three Rivers had her waist-length hair cut and her family donated the detached ponytail to Locks of Love for use by cancer patients.
   March 11— In what was dubbed “The not-so-great TKC paper caper,” several hundred copies of the Commonwealth’s 10th-anniversary edition of March 4 were removed from distribution locations throughout town. The publishers reprinted 800 issues to replace the missing papers.
   MEASURE B, a local initiative that would have provided revenue for Woodlake High School to maintain and improve facilities, was defeated at the polls during a special election on March 8. Less than one-fourth of the registered voters in the high school district made the effort to vote.
   IRISH EYES were smiling in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day as a Three Rivers couple, Shawn and Donna McConnaughey, celebrated the opening of Doogle McGuires in Visalia. The new pub and family-style eatery was a longtime dream of chef Shawn, who created the menu and also supervised the kitchen operations.
   March 18— Taggers were caught red-handed as they painted on a newly constructed wall on the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park. Several youths, including some suspected gang members, were cited and processed at the scene by park rangers.
   WORK CREWS added rock to the construction of the earthen dike behind the Best Western Holiday Lodge in Three Rivers. The dike would accommodate the newly enlarged Lake Kaweah basin.
   TRUS STUDENTS put the finishing touches on a new mural designed by Nadi Spencer, local artist. The project was completed under the auspices of the new Visiting Artists program.
   March 25— Somebody forgot to tell Mother Nature that it was time for spring in the foothills as a powerful winter storm pounded Kaweah Country. The snowline was down to 4,000 feet and a large mudslide forced the closure of Generals Highway while NPS crews worked to clear the debris.
   The rainfall in the Three Rivers environs surpassed 20 inches for the season at the reporting station located at 1,000 feet. That number equaled the average precipitation for the past 40 years with three months to go in the current rainfall season.

 
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