In the News - Friday, March 25, 2011
Cold spring storms
bring more snow and rain
Another round of storms battered California this week leaving skiers stranded, Yosemite National Park closed, and streams and roads flooding everywhere. Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park was closed briefly Sunday to Monday while road crews cleared down trees and rockslides caused by the biggest late-season storm in more than a decade.
“Just because we have one event doesn’t mean we can’t have another,” said Phil Deffenbaugh, Lake Kaweah park manager. “All this rain and snow is great as long as it is cold.”
Phil said water managers up and down California are checking the long-range weather forecasts and trying to formulate strategy for whatever scenario comes along. It’s a good problem to have, he said, unless a really warm storm comes along.
That’s not likely anytime soon but, this season, it’s obvious for lots of folks that anything can still happen.
For now, Lake Kaweah is in a storage mode and will show a dramatic increase because even though it’s cold, Phil said, there is still that several inches of rain that has fallen below 3,000 feet. That’s what’s been cascading down the Kaweah drainage the last few days.
At 11 p.m. on Wednesday night (March 23), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gauges in the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River recorded a peak flow of more than 3,000 cubic feet per second.
That’s a lot of water under the bridge and it all has to go somewhere.
“Next week, we will begin a flood-control release, which means we will be sending some of that water to downstream users,” Phil said. “We need to make some room, just in case. Relative to some of the other areas, we’re in great shape in the Kaweah drainage.”
Phil was referring to some levees and flood-control facilities in the Valley that are literally bursting at the seams with all the late-season precipitation. Most areas in California received more than three inches of rain this week; the average for the entire month.
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
In the nearby mountains, above 7,000 feet, there are tons of layered snow topped by four to eight feet of fresh powder. In the Mineral King valley at the old pack station, the 10-foot snow stake is buried, as is the webcam that is 13.5 feet above ground level.
The Farewell Gap snow sensor at 9,500 feet was buried in a snowslide in early January so it is off-line. The April 1 snow survey totals that are due out in a week or so are likely to show that the current pack is the most snow since 1998.
With more snow in the weekend forecast, the totals could approach 1982-83 when there was so much runoff that Tulare Lake (between Hanford and Corcoran) filled to its historic proportions. The April 1 snow average total for that epic year was 250 inches so this season still has a ways to go.
On Thursday morning, March 24, Lodgepole rangers reported 150 inches of snow at the stake. In the past two storms alone Lodgepole has received 92 inches of new snow. One park ranger said she has never seen it snow harder at that location.
Lodgepole has currently received 417 inches of snow for the season. That’s nearly 35 feet of the white stuff of which a big part melted away during an extremely dry January.
Park road crews are working hard to keep the Generals Highway open. Avalanches were a concern earlier in the week, which resulted in closure. Black ice is also a hazard.
If planning a trip to the nearby national parks, call ahead for the latest road conditions (565-3341). With all the changeable weather, travel on the Generals Highway is what Malinee Crapsey, parks spokesperson, is calling “problematic.”
The Grant Grove Visitor Center in Kings Canyon National Park has been closed most of the past week due to a power outage.
The Three Rivers environs received nearly four inches of rainfall in the past week, which brings the current season’s total to 28.27 inches. In comparison, on March 28, 1983, Three Rivers had received 40 inches on the way to a season’s total of 44.25 inches.
In preparation of localized flooding, sandbags are available for local residents at the Tulare County Fire Station on South Fork Drive at Sierra Drive.
On Wednesday evening, March 23, a large boulder crashed into the road between the Buckeye Tree Lodge and the Sequoia National Park entrance station. Traffic was still being diverted around the boulder, reported to be about eight feet in length, on Thursday morning until Caltrans road crews could mobilize the equipment necessary for its removal.
AROUND THE SIERRA
Highway 168 between Shaver Lake and China Peak has been plagued with downed trees, avalanches, and slides. The ski resort itself is open and reveling in the snowpack: 119 to 130 inches in the last week and a season total of 471 to a whopping 503 inches.
Mammoth Mountain on the east side of the Sierra has received 562 inches of total snowfall this season, reporting the third snowiest season on record with forecasts calling for six to seven more feet by Monday, March 28.
This week’s strong storm system caused power outages throughout Yosemite National Park and road hazards from landslides to downed power lines on most highways (41, 120, and 140) leading into the park. Due to the widespread nature of the problem, the park was closed to the public for visitor safety.
For updates on road conditions throughout California, call 1-800-427-7623.
Kaweah residents arrested
for houseboat burglaries
Sheriff’s deputies received a call in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday, March 22, that a houseboat at Kaweah Marina was being burglarized. When deputies arrived on the scene a witness told them the suspects were still at the marina in one of the houseboats.
When deputies searched the houseboat that had been burglarized they were unable to locate anyone at the scene. A short time later, with the assistance of a K9 unit from Farmersville Police Department, the suspects were located hiding out in another houseboat.
Taken into custody without incident were Thomas Hagler, 43, of Kaweah and Ophelia Cain, 46, also a resident of Kaweah. After the arrests, North End detectives took over the investigation and searched the suspects’ North Fork Drive residence.
The search resulted in the recovery of stolen property taken in another houseboat burglary that occurred on the previous night. Detectives also seized a small amount of methamphetamine and five immature marijuana plants.
According to the detectives’ report, the suspects have been linked to four burglaries that occurred during a two-day period. The duo was booked at Bob Wiley Detention Facility and charged with burglary, possession of stolen property, and cultivation of marijuana.
Bail was set at $190,000.
Boar v. bike results in injuries
Feral pigs, or the Three Rivers variety of wild boar, can do lots of damage to the local landscape. But this time, one of the oversized critters did some damage of the human kind.
On Friday morning, March 18, Blair Fuller, 45, of Three Rivers was riding his bike along South Fork Drive several miles up canyon. For no apparent reason the pig ran out of the brush and knocked the rider and his bike down.
The pig immediately left the scene, leaving the biker startled but apparently with no life-threatening injuries. Blair shrugged off the bumps and bruises and continued on his ride home.
By the next day, however, he was feeling some obvious pain in the abdominal and chest area. A neighbor made the 911 call and paramedics soon arrived at the scene.
After checking Blair’s condition, they ordered an ambulance and the patient was transported to Kaweah Delta Medical Center. Subsequent x-rays confirmed that Blair had suffered two broken ribs in the crash for which he was treated and released.
Vending machine stolen from 3R Market
Sometime during the stormy Sunday night or early Monday morning hours (March 20-21), someone made off with the Pepsi vending machine that was out front of Three Rivers Market. The empty machine was later found in Woodlake after it had been abandoned.
“I really don’t know what or when it happened,” reported Sam Yim, owner and proprietor of the local market. “It’s the property of the Pepsi Company so they are handling the investigation.”
A vending service employee explained that when a theft such as this occurs the company usually will replace the stolen machine and ensure the new one is more secure.
Wuksachi to unplug for ‘Earth Hour’
Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park will observe this year’s Earth Hour, which will take place Saturday, March 26, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Earth Hour was created to raise awareness for climate change and the need for energy conservation.
But just because it will be dark doesn’t mean there won’t be anything to do. Two presentations by the Sequoia Field Institute will be held that will focus on viewing the night sky.
Galaxies, constellations, planets, and more will be identified. An Earth Hour dinner will also take place in the Wuksachi Dining Room, where diners will eat by candlelight. Make reservations by calling 565-4070.
Take a backpacking trip; win free gear
The Sequoia Field Institute is asking backpackers who are planning an excursion of 20 miles or more in Sequoia and/or Kings Canyon national parks this summer to let them know about the itinerary by completing an application form.
Three backpackers will be selected and in exchange for photos and stories will receive some free gear and other items, as well as free entry into the park(s).
The purpose of this “Hike Big” promotion is to motivate others to get outside and enjoy the parks. Photographs, stories, and hiker profiles will be featured on the Sequoia Natural History Association/Sequoia Field Institute website.
The deadline to apply is May 27. The backpacking trip must occur sometime between June 10 and September 2. Selected backpackers will be notified by June 1.
A registration form — which asks for detailed route information, reason for trip, and history and experience in Sequoia-Kings Canyon and the backcountry -— is available online at www.sequoiahistory.org (click on “Sequoia Field Institute,” then “Hike Big”).
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 565-4222.
Keio Ogawa of Three Rivers visited Three Rivers School on Friday, March 18, to share her vast knowledge of the ancient yet contemporary art of world percussion with students. Keio has been a drummer for more than 35 years and is founder, director, and a performing member of the West African Drum Ensemble. Athena Saenz, TRUS band teacher, is hoping that Keio’s session will inspire more students to join the new TRUS drumline.
Science fair results from TRUS
Seventh and eighth-graders at Three Rivers School turned in their science fair projects on Monday, March 7. The projects were judged during the week by scientists from Sequoia National Park.
The following students have been deemed eligible to advance to the Tulare County Science Fair:
Eighth grade: McKenzie Kelly, “Got Strength?”; Hannah Wood, “The Best Fishing Line”; Abbie Friel, “Scented vs. Unscented”; Terran Brown and Gunnar Little, “Musical Measure: The Effect of Music on Heart Rate, Blood Pressure, and Mood.”
Seventh grade: Andy Garcia, “Nausea, Heartburn, Indigestion”; Michael Howell and Henry Pfaff, “Can You Remember This?”; Eric Schwarz, “Pop, Pop, Goes the Corn.”
These students’ projects will be on display at the Sequoia Mall next week as part of the Tulare County Science and Engineering Fair (see the Kaweah Kalendar on page 12 for details).
The top projects will advance to the California State Science Fair, held in Los Angeles each May.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
It’s all Greek to me
by Allison Sherwood Millner
Ever been to a restaurant where you can’t read the menu? How do you choose when you can’t read what you’re ordering or communicate with the waiter? I’m usually very comfortable around food, but this last vacation had me feeling a little uneasy.
After a rainy morning of visiting the Pantheon in Athens, Greece, Dane and I decided to break away from the group and set out on our own for lunch. We got a taxi and, at our guide’s suggestion, asked him to take us to a small seaside port called Mikrolimano. Not sure what we would find, we were excited at the adventure.
Imagine a beautiful sunny day, rays bouncing off the turquoise ocean, small fishing boats bobbing with the tide. This was not that day.
We exited our taxi to a downpour of cold, hard rain pounding sideways into us. With our $3 umbrellas (that we purchased earlier that day), we set off to find lunch, fighting overflowing storm drains and flooded sidewalks.
While traveling we’ve always tried to go where the locals go, looking for a more authentic experience. So this is how we stumbled upon our first place, a little café full of locals who were eating, smoking, and having loud conversations.
I asked to look at the menu to check out what type of food was being served and was told “no English” as I was handed one entirely in Greek. My fluency in Spanish had helped us in Sicily, but it wasn’t going to do me a lick of good here.
Greek is Greek and it is very different from the Latin-based languages I am familiar with.
After some uncomfortable “perusing” of the menu, and with no help from the waiter, we decided to find another place to eat. Back out into the rain, soaked by this point up to our knees, we walked past each restaurant, looking for some sign to lead us to the right one.
I was irritable past the point of rational hunger and upset that I had chosen to wear tights and a dress instead of pants.
Then out of nowhere appeared a toothless smile. A man in a full-length leather trench coat approached us; face weathered and tanned from the Grecian sun with a pair of wily, bushy eyebrows almost connected in the middle. He introduced himself as Captain John and asked if we would like to eat in his restaurant. He promised us good food and free ouzo (a popular liquor of Greece). Was this our sign?
Turns out it was. The warmth of the restaurant (plus the warmth of the ouzo) immediately calmed my nerves.
As we sat down, we were served a plate of lemon wedges, large chunks of bread, homemade olives, and olive oil. Dane and I immediately started lapping up the rich, earthy tasting oil with the bread, the olives were amazing, and the acidity from the lemons a homerun!
Dane wanted fish, and even though the names of the fish on the menu were in English, we didn’t recognize any of them. We asked our waiter to describe the fish to us and he motioned with his hand to follow.
Out of the dining area, across the road and into the kitchen of our restaurant we went (the kitchen and the dining room are separated by the main road so diners could eat seaside).
He led us to a large, stainless steel chest of drawers and pulled open the top one, which was filled with ice and fish. He dug down into it, pulling out the different fish, showing us the eyes and gills so we could see how fresh it was.
And so it went, drawer by drawer, until we had seen all the fish and it was time for us to decide. We ended up choosing a fish that wasn’t particularly special in any way but looked to be the right size for the meal.
The chosen fish arrived at our table in its entirety, drizzled with olive oil and surrounded by lemons. The waiter opened it up, removed all the bones and left it for Dane to enjoy.
While I savored Saganaki (fried cheese) hummus, salad, and other small dishes, Dane devoured his fish, enjoying every bite.
We spent over two hours in Captain John’s restaurant. We watched the boats outside our window, talked about our morning, and stuffed ourselves with every last morsel of food and drink.
By the time we left, we were warm, dry, full, and happy again. The Captain gave us a big handshake on our way out and thanked us.
He had given us a meal we hadn’t expected but will remember forever. We left him with large smiles, satisfaction and thank yous in Greek. Efharisto!
Allison Sherwood Millner owns and operates Sierra Subs and Salads in Three Rivers with her husband Dane.