In the News - Friday, January 14, 2011
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
Teen driver faces prison
Joel Mathy (aka Summers), 19, of Three Rivers is facing a sentence of five to 10 years in prison because he was the driver of a vehicle that contained a passenger who died as a result of an accident that occurred Sunday, Jan. 2, at 10:15 p.m. The CHP accident report stated that Billy Guinn, 45, of Three Rivers died of blunt force trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The accident occurred in the “S curve” on Sierra Drive, immediately east of Eggers Drive and Three Rivers Union School. Joel lost control of the 1991 Oldsmobile he was driving when he reportedly drifted right off the roadway then made a sharp left turn in an attempt to get back onto the eastbound lane.
The jerk of the wheel at approximately 40 mph caused the vehicle to spin counter-clockwise and careen down an embankment where it collided with a tree. The driver suffered injuries that included a fractured vertebrae and a crushed right collarbone in the crash.
According to the CHP report, neither the driver nor the passenger were wearing seatbelts.
Joel was transported to Kaweah Delta Hospital and then taken to Community Medical Center in Fresno where he was treated and later released. A CHP spokesperson said that the District Attorney is currently preparing a case against Mathy that will include felony drunk driving and felony manslaughter charges.
When Mathy's blood alcohol level was tested, it was .07, which is below the legal limit for anyone 21 years of age and older. However, since Mathy is under 21, any alcohol in his system would be above what is legal since the limit is zero.
According to Tulare County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Albert Brockman, Mathy is also facing charges in connection with the spate of vandalism that occurred last year (“Vandals topple tiki, mailboxes,” The Kaweah Commonwealth, March 5, 2010). Those charges for wrecking mailboxes and stealing a tiki statue from a local art shop will “enhance” the current charges, he said, and could add more jail time for the defendant.
When there are other charges pending, a judge would more often lean toward imposing the maximum sentence in both cases, Brockman said. Officer Wright of the Visalia CHP office said that typically when a fatality occurs as a result of driving under the influence, the driver would remain in custody.
If the fatality is a passenger in the driver’s vehicle there are some circumstances where the court will allow the driver to post bail or be released, Deputy Brockman said. In the event that the fatality is the driver or passenger in another vehicle, it is mandatory that the driver who allegedly caused the fatality remain in custody while awaiting trial.
Joel was raised in Three Rivers, attended Three Rivers School, and graduated Woodlake High School in 2009.
2011 starts off wet
After weather records were toppled in nearly every state in the Lower 48 during December 2010, it was more of the same for ringing in the New Year in Kaweah Country. The storm that moved through the region on the night of January 1 dumped another 1.75 inches of rainfall and more than two feet of new snow at elevations above 7,500 in the nearby mountains.
The season total for Three Rivers (1,000 feet) remains at 20.27 inches or just slightly above the 30-year norm of 20 inches for a typical season. At this time one year ago the total was 8.34 inches although January 2010 ended with 11.94 inches in a season that eventually totaled 25.95 inches, the best in terms of precipitation since 2004.
Currently, at 7,500 feet in the vicinity of Wuksachi Village and in the Mineral King valley, there is 10 feet of snow on the ground. The snow sensor at the Farewell Gap is stuck on 200 inches because of a snowslide that has the recording station buried.
The water content of the snow at Farewell Gap (9,500 feet) is reading 40.05 inches. If that figure checks out as accurate during the February 1 snow survey that means there is already more water poised to come down the Kaweah drainage than during the entire 2009-2010 season.
The recent New Year’s Day storm was a factor in several vehicle accidents. One SUV with out-of-state plates left the Mineral King Road while the pavement was wet at the five-mile marker and went over an embankment.
The vehicle would have plunged more than 1,000 feet to the East Fork canyon below had it not become hung up in a large manzanita. When a sheriff’s deputy reached the scene, the driver had escaped the precariously perched vehicle by climbing out one of the windows.
Evidently, the vehicle was towed soon after the mishap.
Some local phone service has also remained out for more than two weeks.
There is no more rainfall in the immediate forecast. National Weather Service forecasters are predicting a slightly drier and cooler first quarter for the start of 2011.
Tule fog— Commuters to the Central Valley need to plan for fog in the late night and early morning hours. Accidents due to tule fog are the leading cause of weather-related crashes in California.
The fog is formed when cold mountain air flows downslope into the valley during the night, pooling in the low areas until it fills the valley. This occurs because most areas in the Central Valley have little or no air drainage below the level of mountain passes.
Because of the density of the cold air in the winter, winds are not able to dislodge the fog and the high pressure of the warmer air above the mountaintops presses down on the cold air trapped in the valley, resulting in a dense, immobile fog that can last for days or sometimes weeks undisturbed.
Tule fog is a low cloud, usually below 1,000 feet in altitude, and can be seen from above by driving up into the foothills or mountains of the Sierra Nevada. Above the cold, foggy layer, the air is typically warmer, dry, and sunny. Daytime heating sometimes evaporates the fog in some areas, although the air remains chilly and hazy below the inversion and reforms after sunset.
Tule fog usually remains longer in the southern and eastern parts of the Central Valley because more winter storms affect the northern Central Valley, which dissipate the fog.
Woodlake awards nominations
now being accepted
Nominations are now being accepted for the 2010 Woodlake awards. Annual awards are given to Woodlake’s Man and Woman of the Year, Business of the Year, plus other categories including a Spirit of Woodlake award, and two Youth of the Year awards. In certain years, there are also awards for lifetime achievement, distinguished veterans, and/or outstanding achievements within a decade, depending on if the committee receives the appropriate nominations.
Forms for nominations may be obtained by visiting City Hall, the Woodlake Public Schools office, or by emailing Sally Pace at email@example.com. Nominations are due by Friday, Feb. 4; the honorees will be recognized at a special Kiwanis Club of Woodlake awards banquet to be held Saturday, March 11, at the Woodlake Memorial Building.
The awards have been given annually since 1961 to persons who have made significant contributions to making Woodlake a better place to live. The Man and Woman of the Year must reside in the boundaries of the Woodlake Elementary School District. Youths who are recognized must reside in the Woodlake High School District, which includes Three Rivers.
In several of the past years, Three Rivers students who attended Woodlake High School were the recipients of the youth awards. Some of the past honorees were Ben Pfenninger (2009), Jordan Vieira (2008), Soukarana Stephens (2005), Emi Rourke (2003), and Sarah Bauer (2002).
Spirit awards can be given to anyone who exemplifies the “Spirit of Woodlake.” Past winners from Three Rivers have included Robert and Jackie (Harris) Groeber (2007) and Kent and Sandy Owen (2006).
The Business of the Year must operate within the 93286 zip code and is selected each year by the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce. The other honorees are selected by a committee composed of representatives from City of Woodlake, Woodlake Police Department, the local chamber of commerce, Woodlake Lions, Rotary, and the Kiwanis Club of Woodlake.
All questions or inquiries may be directed to Sally Pace (564-2054) or Linda LaFleur (564-2485).
National Parks trivia quiz
See how much you know, then go learn more as entrance fees are waived this weekend in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
1. What is the month, day, and year that Sequoia National Park was established?
a. September 25, 1890
b. December 25, 1980
c. March 1, 1872
d. July 4, 1776
2. What is the only national park that is older than Sequoia?
d. Grand Canyon
3. What year was Kings Canyon National Park established?
4. What was the name of the national park that was absorbed by Kings Canyon National Park?
a. General Sherman
b. General Lee
c. General Motors
d. General Grant
5. Who is the current superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks?
a. Stephen Mather
b. Karen Taylor-Goodrich
c. Craig Axtell
d. Fran Mainella
6. What is the total acreage of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks?
7. How many visitors did Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks receive in 2009?
8. How many year-round employees work at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks?
9. What is the most recent addition to Sequoia National Park?
a. Mineral King
b. Kern Canyon
c. Dillonwood Grove
d. Mount Whitney
10. What is the elevation of Mount Whitney?
a. 12,343 feet above sea level
b. 14,494 feet above sea level
c. 20,320 feet above sea level
d. 29,035 feet above sea level
11. What is the only mammal in Sequoia-Kings Canyon to be listed as a federally endangered species?
a. Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep
b. Little Kern golden trout
c. California condor
d. Mountain yellow-legged frog
12. Who is known as the “Father of the National Parks”?
a. Abraham Lincoln
b. Horace Albright
c. John Muir
d. Burnette Haskell
13. Who is known as the “Father of Sequoia National Park”?
a. Ben Maddox
b. Walter Fry
c. Walt Disney
d. George Stewart
14. Who made their summertime home in a hollow giant sequoia log in Giant Forest?
a. Hale Tharp
b. John Muir
c. Burnette and Annie Haskell
d. Colonel John White
15. Who was the first civilian superintendent of Sequoia National Park?
a. Charles Young
b. Colonel John White
c. Ernest Britten
d. Walter Fry
16. When were stairs erected on Moro Rock?
17. Who was the first sitting president to visit Sequoia National Park?
a. Benjamin Harrison
b. Dwight Eisenhower
c. Bill Clinton
d. George W. Bush
18. What group filed timber claims in Giant Forest and ultimately caused the creation of Sequoia National Park?
a. Buffalo Soldiers
b. Kaweah Colony
c. Utopian United
d. U.S. Cavalry
19. How many national parks are in California?
20. What is the only U.S. state that does not have a national park unit?
c. New York
9. c (Dec. 28, 2000)
16. c (made of wood)
19. c (Channel Islands, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon, Lassen Volcanic, Redwood, Sequoia, Yosemite)
YEAR IN REVIEW:
January - March 2010
January 1— Three Rivers and its tire chain outlets — Kaweah General Store, Three Rivers Chevron, and Totem Market — all reported brisk business over the recent holiday period. Even on days when park roads were passable in the Giant Forest, Sequoia Park regulations require that chains be carried in each vehicle.
If you plan several trips to the mountains during the winter season, purchase a set of tire chains that fit your vehicle or do like many locals do – drive a 4x4 vehicle. Road restrictions, even when chains are required, rarely exceed four-wheel drive capabilities and drivers will avoid the inconvenience of installing chains.
The rain/snow season of 2009 was on track for a normal year. The rainfall for Three Rivers as of December 31, 2009, was 7.41 inches. The lowest end-of-year total in the last 50 years was 1.45 inches in 1990; the highest in that same period, 14.82 inches occurred in 1982.
January 8— California Highway Patrol investigators determined that DUI was a factor in a December 26 motorcycle accident that occurred nine miles up Dry Creek Road. When a passing motorist stopped to help, he found that the Harley Davidson rider had been injured but that the 54-year-old man was still conscious.
The Good Samaritan was able to flag down an emergency vehicle and get help. The victim was later transported to Kaweah Delta Hospital where he was treated and released.
A hearty group of revelers celebrated the ninth annual Polar Dip at The Gateway Restaurant. The New Year’s Day festivities have become a tradition where dozens start their year by a taking the plunge into chilly pools next to the popular restaurant.
A Three Rivers resident reported that a nuisance bear had been shot on his family’s Mineral King Road property. The bear reportedly had pillaged a house trailer to get at some 50-pound sacks of pet food.
A Sequoia ranger told the resident that a bear matching the description of this critter had recently been relocated from the Wuksachi Village area.
January 15— This issue was devoted to the year 2009 in review. There were 39 members of the extended Kaweah Country community who passed away and had an obituary that appeared in the Commonwealth that year.
Of all the Neighbor Profiles and their insightful quotes, the words of Allison (Sherwood) Millner, owner of Sierra Subs and Salads, were most prophetic and revealed the secret of her success.
“I grew up here and am happy to be back. Luckily, my husband is excited, too!”
January 22— An El Nino-spawned storm dubbed the “Western Wallop” largely eluded Kaweah Country. Locally, 50 mph wind gusts were reported that knocked down a few trees and power lines.
In Northern California, there were lots of reports of mudslides, flooding, and coastal bluffs that were literally falling into the ocean. Farewell Gap, in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park, recorded several feet of new snow.
Randy Pares, general manager of the Three Rivers Community Services District, who had been on the job since 2002, announced he was leaving and moving to Buffalo, Wyo. There was lots of interest among prospective applicants for the opening.
“For somebody who wants to live and work in Three Rivers, this is an ideal job,” Pares said.
At the January 11 Town Hall meeting, members of the audience posed some difficult questions to county officials about spending Measure R tax money. There was a consensus that a local committee be formed to advise the county where local road repairs were needed to use a portion of these funds.
Sequoia Speaks, the Three Rivers winter program featuring Natiional Park Service speakers and topics, announced its 2009 schedule to begin on January 23. First up was a program about the “Creepie Crawlies of Sierran Caves” by Joel Despain, cave specialist.
January 29— It was officially announced by the California Department of Water Resources that the recent storms had dropped plenty of snow in the nearby mountains. Snow totals in the entire Sierra Nevada (six to eight feet at 7,000 feet locally) were projected to be 140 percent of the February 1 norm and 88 percent of the April 1 norm. The best news of all — it was still January and more snow was on the way.
Stan Johnson of Three Rivers and David Hutton and their German shorthair pointer “Razzy” won three ribbons in the January field trials of the North American Gun Dog Association. The local qualifiers were held at the Guns and Roosters Hunting Preserve near Strathmore.
February 5— A highlight of the Town Hall meeting agenda was Danny Boiano, parks ecologist, who spoke on the proposed aquatic restoration plan of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Boiano explained the proposed plan to remove non-native trout from several remote high country lakes and streams.
The removal of the trout was necessary, he said, because the mountain yellow-legged frog is on the brink of extinction. Studies have shown that the frog, necessary to maintain a healthy ecosystem, is being gobbled up by the trout.
Only a small percentage of the hundreds of high country lakes will be targeted for removal if and when the project is approved, Boiano said.
The Kaweah snowpack was a whopping 148 percent of the February 1 normal. That was quite a contrast from February 1, 2008 when local the snow pack measured barely 60 percent of normal.
Jim Mathias of Three Rivers was honored for 50 years of service by the Woodlake Rotary Club. At 75, Jim remains active in Rotary and is a mentor to many grateful students in the art of wood turning.
February 12— A snowstorm that dumped more than two feet of snow on Blue Ridge had Charter Communications repair crews scrambling to restore cable TV service to Three Rivers subscribers. When they finally were able to get to the company’s site at 5,733 feet they found that a battery had been stolen.
TV service was out for three days but it was restored just in time for coverage of the Winter Olympic. Rainfall totals in Three Rivers were approaching 15 inches.
Karen Taylor-Goodrich, the new superintendent for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, was on the agenda to be introduced at the Sequoia Speaks program for February 13. Taylor-Goodrich is the first woman to be appointed to Sequoia’s top post.
Federal officials opted not to list the pika as endangered. Commonly found at elevations at or near 10,000 feet, recent studies have shown that warming temperatures are driving the little critter upslope, shrinking habitat rapidly, and causing their population to decrease.
February 19— Mud and debris swamped a section of Hammond Drive after a break in Flume No. 1 owned and operated by Southern California Edison. The flume water was temporarily diverted as workers found a quick fix and did the subsequent clean-up.
An avalanche/fast moving snowslide damaged two cabins in East Mineral King. According to ranger’s report, the slide started during a series of storms February 5-7 and originated on the southwest facing slope above Monarch Creek.
The Woodlake High Mock Trial team was declared the Tulare County champions after winning a tiebreaker in a case against Tulare Union High School. For their efforts, the 16-member team, coached by Kevin Skeen of Three Rivers who is a math teacher at Woodlake, advanced to the state finals to be held in San Jose.
February 26— Passing motorists were shocked by the site of a vehicle rollover that ended up on its driver’s side in the middle of the Highway 198 roadway near Horse Creek. Emergency personnel on the scene were in awe that the driver of the SUV, a 60 year-old Three Rivers man, was not seriously injured.
Karen Taylor-Goodrich, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ new superintendent said after two weeks on the job that she was looking forward to some hiking and horseback riding once she got settled. The local appointment was one of a chain reaction of moves that was set in motion when Jon Jarvis, the former director of the Pacific West Region was tapped by President Obama to become the NPS director.
Don Neubacher, who served as superintendent at Point Reyes National Seashore for 15 years, was appointed as Yosemite’s superintendent. Steve Shackleton, the former chief ranger at Yosemite, took over Taylor-Goodrich’s job as the associate director for visitor and resource protection in Washington D.C.
Errant 911 calls were creating emergency confusion. Apparently, heavy rains and some acorns in the phone box were causing some telephone wires to get crossed resulting in 911 hang up calls to dispatch.
March 5— In the wee hours of the morning, three youths went on a vandalism spree toppling a huge tiki statue, a newspaper box, and at least 25 mailboxes. The damage to Zach Zachery’s tiki statue was estimated at $1,600; damage to other property was estimated at $1,500.
The tiki was carved out of palm wood and weighed several hundred pounds. It was apparently loaded into a pickup at the Art Co-Op and ended up by the side of the road along Black Oak Drive in South Fork Estates.
Julie Doctor, 56, was hired as the new Community Services District (CSD) general manager. According to the Board, Julie had the most outstanding package that included all the key components – experience, knowledge of water management, and a longtime rapport with the Three Rivers community.
State Senator Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield), whose district includes Three Rivers, was arrested on March 3, on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Ashburn was arrested just before 4 a.m. by CHP officers in Sacramento.
March 12— Three Rivers hit 20.20 inches for the current season. No it wasn’t a catchy new TV news show featuring Three Rivers, but rather the eclipsing of a normal rainfall amount for the season.
The current statewide snow pack average up and down the Sierra was 107 percent of the March 1 normal.
Three Rivers student Ben Pfenninger, a senior at Woodlake High School, was awarded the 2009 Youth of the Year Award by the Kiwanis Club of Woodlake. The Woman of the Year award went to Terry Thompson; Rudy Garcia received the Man of the Year award.
The 2009 Business of the Year went Santos Herrera who opened the Iron Grip Gym in 1995. The gala banquet was the 49th annual awards event for the Kiwanis Club of Woodlake.
Lee Crouch, Pam and Greg Lockhart, and John and Sarah Elliott were honored as exemplary school volunteers of the year by the Eagle Booster Club.
March 19— The Commonwealth used this edition to mark its 15th anniversary and 771 issues.
In telling like it was, John wrote: “What a long strange roller coaster ride it has been. No one could ever imagine without actually doing one for so long a time all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into producing a weekly newspaper.”
Sarah wrote: “We enjoyed this retrospective journey that also helped us better organize the Commonwealth archives, which will continue to be a community resource long after we are gone.”
Historically, newspapers have been very profitable (not long ago, you could become very rich by owning one). Nowadays, even at newspapers that aren’t in danger of going out of business, the industry’s shrinking revenue base means cutbacks.
March 26— The Village Market was burglarized. The roof, the back door, and the front entrance were all heavily damaged. There was lots of broken glass at the front entrance and reportedly about $2,000 in inventory missing.
The Last Season author Eric Blehm released his new book The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan. The book chronicles the critical three weeks of the first American military unit to operate in Taliban-held south Afghanistan.
Woodlake’s Police Chief John Zapalac officially filed to run for Sheriff-Coroner on the June ballot to run against incumbent Bill Wittman.
Billy Darin Guinn of Three Rivers died Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011, as the result of an automobile accident. He was 45.
Billy was born September 20, 1965, in Lindsay to Lloyd and Shirley Guinn. He graduated from Exeter Union High School.
Billy was a construction worker. He was an avid fisherman and enjoyed playing music and exploring the outdoors.
Billy is survived by his mother, Shirley Gimmell of Porterville; father Lloyd Guinn of Corning; five children, Joshua Guinn, Taylor Guinn, Darrin Guinn, Shaela Guinn, and Sierra Beck; four brothers and sisters-in-law, Marlon and Tammy Guinn, Kenny and Brenda Guinn, Ted and Laura Guinn, and Scott and Marva Guinn; and several nieces and nephews.
A memorial service was held Saturday, Jan. 8, at the Church of Christ in Farmersville. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.smithfamilychapel.com.