In the News - Friday, April 6, 2012
Snow survey tells tale of Sierra water
April 1 snow is 56 percent statewide;
Water content 34 percent
The recent cold storms were good news for the northern Sierra and not-so-good news for the south. At the Bonanza King station (northern California), typical for stations above 6,000 feet in the Trinity Basin, there were 34 inches of snow on the ground (April 1).
That nearly three feet of snow translates to 80 percent of the April 1. The water content of 8.50 inches, the more telling of the two statistics, though improved over its March 1 numbers, is still only about one-third of the norm for the season.
The snowpack and water content only decline traveling down the Sierra from Truckee to the Kern drainage. In the southern region that includes the Kaweah drainage, the average snowpack at elevations near 7,000 feet is less than two feet. Water content averages nine inches in the south region and also reflects about one-third of the April 1 norm.
The current season is what the climate change community has been forecasting to be typical of what might be expected more often in the future. Some rainfall numbers below normal one season; the next season’s rainfall way above the norm. A constant will be the declining snowpack.
The melting of the Earth’s ice caps up north has become so extreme that populations of polar bears are spending more time on shore in search of food, primarily the eggs of nesting seabirds. Can polar bears survive this change in habitat?
Experts say no. Should zoos intervene to save the species like they have done in other instances in the past? Some scientists say why bother because polar bears will never again be able to be re-introduced into the wild — their wild will no longer exist as soon as the waning years of this century.
Matthew Rangel of Visalia, who this week returned from a trip to the Sequoia National Park backcountry, reported that snow is beginning to separate along the edges of high country lakes; typically a May or June occurrence.
In elevations above 10,000 feet, Rangel reported four inches of new snow on a pack that was only about four feet in the deepest places. Recent avalanches were clearly visible in a number of places.
Three Rivers received .47 inches of rain in last Sunday’s (April 1) storm for a season’s total of 12.54 inches. That number represents 60.2 percent of the average rainfall in Three Rivers based on figures from the last 44 years.
Burglars say they are ‘house-hunting’
At least two Three Rivers homes were robbed recently and another burglary narrowly averted when a resident startled two would-be burglars who fled after thinking it might not be worth the risk to enter an occupied dwelling. According to Jim Fansett, Three Rivers resident deputy, the male accomplices, one white and one black, were seen driving around the Alta Acres subdivision on Tuesday, March 20.
The Caucasian of the duo had a conversation with a resident who was out walking in the normally quiet neighborhood. The stranger mentioned that he was looking for property because his brother was thinking about relocating to the area.
The friendly local mentioned to the man that, yes, there were a couple of places vacant and at least one of those properties would probably go up for sale soon. Two vacant homes, one a vacation rental, were burglarized that same day.
“It appeared that these guys were actually very nice crooks, if there is such a thing,” said Deputy Fansett. “They carefully found their way in and took flat screens and electronics. They could have made a big mess of the places but did not.”
The vacation rental reported a loss of a TV and DVD player valued at $700. Owners of the vacant property that belonged to a person who is recently deceased reported the loss of a flat screen TV.
The burglars knocked on the door of another residence but departed after a resident made it known to the duo that someone was home.
“We have a description of the two men but there are conflicting details on what kind of vehicle they were driving,” said Deputy Fansett. “One witness reported seeing a brown 1990s Dodge van but the way they described the windows it might have been an SUV.”
Deputy Fansett said the duo has not been linked to any other burglaries that have been reported to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department. This case is currently under investigation.
Anyone who might have seen these suspects or with information in any case is asked to call Deputy Fansett, 740-8894.
Village Foundation founder honored
The first order of business at Monday’s (April 2) Town Hall meeting was to recognize Marge Ewen for her outstanding community service. Marge, a resident of Alta Acres, has been a pillar of the Three Rivers Village Foundation, serving as a board member since the organization was founded in 2004.
Marge has been instrumental in making sure that the monthly town meetings run smoothly and the Foundation stays true to its mission of civic improvement in Three Rivers. Also, she has recently served as the foreman of the Tulare County Grand Jury, currently serves on the board of directors of the Three Rivers Memorial Building, and has been intimately involved with the preservation of the Mineral King Historic District where she maintains a family cabin.
Lee Goldstein presented Marge with a plaque for meritorious service and said that the Foundation couldn’t exist without members like Marge.
PRISONER RELOCATION— Captain Robin Skiles of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department opened the evening’s agenda with a discussion of the County’s prisoner relocation program. Captain Skiles said there is a silver lining in that these offenders (felons sentenced to less than four years in state prison) can be housed near their families and actually remain a part of the local community.
The state’s relocation funding, scheduled to cycle to the counties for three years, has already created some county jobs for personnel to supervise the additional inmates. Capt. Skiles said many of these inmates can be productive on work release or even earn an equivalent to a high school diploma (GED).
The counties from whence these low-risk prisoners came are in a much better position than the State of California to manage and train these inmates, Captain Skiles said.
While Supervisor Allen Ishida acknowledged that Tulare County is in better shape financially than most counties, he’s worried about where the funding will come from for the relocation program after the first year.
“If the unwinding of redevelopment districts is any indication of the credibility of the state we are all in big trouble,” Supervisor Ishida said. “What the Democrat -controlled legislature and governor have done to the cities and creditors in my opinion is criminal.”
FIRE TAX— Cal Fire Chief Derek Staberg furnished an update on the new parcel tax of foothills and mountain properties that is making its way through the California Legislature. Chief Staberg said only those parcels that are habitable will be taxed; parcels with multiple units (apartments or condos) will only be required to pay a single assessment.
The fee being proposed for fire prevention is $135 per parcel; any community with a Cal Fire Station like Three Rivers qualifies for a discount.
COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT— Robert Groeber, a newly elected CSD director, spoke on behalf of the Three Rivers Community Services District. Groeber said the CSD will inspect any well or septic system for no charge if the property is within the district. For residents outside the district, there is a $40 fee.
MEMORIAL DISTRICT— Frank Capalare, Three Rivers Memorial District board president, furnished an update for his organization. Capalare said the Memorial District is in good shape and currently has $150,000 in operating capital.
BROADBAND ACCESS— Lee Goldstein, who conducts the meeting for the Village Foundation, reported that the local movement to improve broadband is seeking providers to serve Three Rivers. As a way of comparison of how others in this global world view the importance of broadband to stimulate opportunity, the entire country of South Korea is served by a network capable of download speeds of 1GB per second; the majority of users in Three Rivers can’t even approach 10MB per second.
THE TOWN HALL forums are held at the Three Rivers Memorial Building on the first Monday of the month from 7 until 8:30 p.m. For more information, call Marge Ewen, 561-0123.
Fire inspections to begin
Although spring in the Sierra foothills is always lush and green, residents realize what’s lurking just around the corner: a hot, dry summer.
In January 2005, a state law became effective that extended the defensible space clearance around homes and structures from 30 feet to 100 feet. Proper clearance to 100 feet dramatically increases the chance of a house surviving a wildfire. This defensible space also provides for firefighter safety when protecting homes during a wildland fire.
Also, remove all buildup of debris from roof and gutters. Keep tree limbs trimmed at least 10 feet from any chimneys and remove dead limbs that hang over the home or garage. The law also requires a screen over chimney outlets of not more than half-inch mesh.
Sequoia National Park is gearing up for fire season. On Wednesday, April 4, a slash pile located about a half mile up Shepherd Saddle Road was burned, consisting of remnants from the March 18 storm.
Tulare County Fire Department personnel are scheduled to begin property inspections on Sunday, April 15. Refusal to abate any fire hazards could ultimately result in the County clearing the property at the owner’s expense.
American Legion seeks to
honor local decorated veterans
The American Legion is a social and mutual-aid veterans’ organization founded in 1919 by veterans returning from Europe after World War I. Its primary political activity is to lobby on behalf of the interests of veterans and service members.
The group has nearly 3 million members in over 14,000 Posts worldwide.
The American Legion Post 785 (Visalia) is currently on a mission of seeking the names of all veterans from Tulare, Kings, or Fresno counties who are recipients of one or more of the following awards:
Navy Cross, Legion of Merit, Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Homeland Security (formerly Transportation) Distinguished Service Medal, DHS (formerly DOT) Secretary’s Award for Outstanding Achievement.
The deadline to submit the names of these veterans is Tuesday, May 1. A special recognition night to honor these local heroes is scheduled for Saturday, May 19, at Visalia’s Holiday Inn.
For more information on how submit veterans’ names, call Bob Pineda, 303-8787, or Bob McNabb, 901-0732.
By Kelly Anez, DVM
A few months ago, NBC ran a news brief about a Beverly Hills woman who lost her pet dog. The pet had been in an altercation with a raccoon that subsequently tested positive for rabies.
As the dog was not vaccinated, it had to be put down. In another news story, a man in Cape Cod was bitten by a bat in January of this year and consequently died from the disease.
Beverly Hills? Cape Cod? Hardly the outback of civilization. Even these densely populated areas can harbor the deadly rabies virus among the wild animal population.
Raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes are the wildlife most commonly affected. Family pets and other domestic animals can get rabies if they are bitten by rabid wild animals.
When rabies from wild animals spills over to domestic animals, the risk to people is increased because of our close contact with pets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year 30,000 to 40,000 persons in the United States require treatment due to potential exposure to rabies.
The saliva of rabid animals can infect both people and other animals. People usually get rabies when they are bitten by an animal that is sick with the disease.
Early symptoms of rabies in people can include fever, headache, and weakness. As the disease gets worse, symptoms may include difficulty sleeping , anxiety, confusion, tingling sensation usually at the site of the bite, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, salivating more than usual, difficulty swallowing, and fear of water. Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.
In general, pets have a higher risk of coming into contact with wild animals that may have rabies than we do. Cats and dogs that have not gotten their rabies shots and are exposed to rabies must be quarantined or, more likely, put down, because of their risk of getting rabies after the exposure or affecting a human with the disease.
To help reduce this risk:
Visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all cats and dogs. This includes indoor pets as well. There are many documented cases of rabid bats entering homes and exposing both pets and family members. Rabies vaccines are very economical for both dogs and cats.
Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted animals that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly.
Do not feed or water your pets outside, especially at night. Keep your garbage securely covered. These items may attract wild or stray animals.
Kelly Anez is a doctor of veterinary medicine at Pacific Crest Equine in Exeter.
Roads opening for spring in
Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks
The local parks are coming out of winter hibernation and slowly waking up as the days warm and lengthen and the snow dissipates. Here is the schedule of road and facilities openings, which is subject to change if Old Man Winter decides to visit this spring.
Potwisha Campground, which was closed due to the toppling of dozens of trees during the March 18 snowstorm, has reopened. The Marble Fork Trail, which begins at the north end of Potwisha Campground, has also reopened after park crews removed the downed and hazard trees.
The Generals Highway between the parks has opened and will remain open unless snow accumulates on the roadway. There is some road construction to contend with: the Amphitheater Point roadwork that has been ongoing since 2010 and a one-lane road with traffic controls at Halstead Meadow (3.5 miles beyond Lodgepole) where a new bridge is being installed to help restore a more natural flow of water through the scenic meadow.
The Kings Canyon Highway (Highway 180) to Cedar Grove, usually open about mid-April, will open in stages this year. On Friday, April 13, the road will be opened to Yucca Point, just beyond Kings Canyon Lodge. On Friday, April 27, road access will be extended to Boyden Cavern on the Kings River. Visitors will be allowed access to Cedar Grove and Road’s End on Friday, May 4.
Lodgepole Campground is expected to open in mid-May after being closed for the winter. Typically open for camping year-round, the campground was closed to snow-campers this past winter.
The Giant Forest Museum has an opening day of Friday, May 11. The museum has been closed during the last two winters while the Lodgepole Visitor Center has been open during the winter months.
The road to Crystal Cave is scheduled to open Saturday, May 12. On that day, Sequoia Natural History Association will begin its 2012 season of cave tours.
The road to Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow is scheduled to open Friday, May 18. During the weekdays of this visitor season, the road will be open to private vehicles, but on weekends, visitors will have access to the area by shuttle bus or on foot only.
All of these dates, of course, are subject to the whims of nature.