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In the News - Friday, October 16, 2009

All stories written by John or

Sarah Elliott unless otherwise noted


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

Warm storm batters

Kaweah Country

These photos and more in the

October 16, 2009, print edition...

Soggy picnic in the Middle Fork of the

Kaweah River on the morning of

Wednesday, Oct. 14.

Tree and power lines down on South Fork



The sun peeks through the clouds and

shines down on the Kaweah's North Fork.

The Middle Fork of the Kaweah as seen

from the North Fork Drive bridge.

  On Monday, Oct. 12, high clouds rolled in and the temperature plunged. At 7,500 feet in Mineral King the thermometer never got out of the 40s and snow loomed in ominous looking dark clouds.
At nightfall there were some scattered snow flurries in the mountains; the lower elevations were under overcast skies as the cloud ceiling gradually began to drop.
   By 8 a.m. Tuesday, a light rain began to fall in the foothills as the temperatures hovered around 60 degrees. Above 7,800 feet in Mineral King and in the Wuksachi Village area of Sequoia National Park, there was a dusting of snow.
   The heaviest rainfall occurred after midnight. As temperatures warmed into the mid-60s, the torrential downpours were strangely reminiscent of the El Nino season of 1997-98.
   At sunrise, South Fork Drive motorists were greeted by a large tree that had fallen across transmission lines blocking traffic in both directions. One distracted driver struck part of the large tree and had to be extricated from its branches. The road was reopened a couple hours later after repair crews restored the power and the telephone lines.
   The tropical air mass accompanying all that moisture in the early morning hours of Wednesday raised snow levels above 9,000 feet. At the Farewell Gap weather station at 9,600 feet in the upper Mineral King Valley the peak of the snow accumulation occurred at 4 p.m. on Tuesday when 7.8 inches was recorded.
   In the next 24 hours, the warmer air melted most of the mountain snow. On Wednesday night, only a few inches remained on the very highest peaks above 10,000 feet.
   But the storm created lots of excitement on the Middle Fork of the Kaweah as the river runoff rushed over its recent banks and cut channels in several places that have not had water since 2002. That’s when the last rain flood on November 8 caused a similar rise. Readings on the Middle Fork near the Chevron station eclipsed 20,000 cubic feet per second in that 2002 event.
   At 7 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 14, Lake Kaweah was taking in lots of water; a reading of 20,930 cfs was recorded at the Middle Fork gauging station. By 6 p.m. the storage at Lake Kaweah had reached 22,945 acre feet, nearly four times the pool that was in the lake one week ago.

  “We had to move the boat docks several times and the marina was under water in several places,” reported Matt Murphy, Lake Kaweah park ranger, “but there really wasn’t any damage.”
   In Three Rivers, the storm dumped between two and three inches of precipitation, depending on the location of the rain gauge. The NOAA weather station at the Three Rivers Historical Museum recorded 2.44 inches of precipitation; the Tulare County Fire Station on South Fork Drive checked in with 2.05 inches.
   So where did all that water in the river come from? The obvious answer is nearby Sequoia National Park. Ash Mountain received 3.74 inches of rainfall while Lodgepole at 6,700 feet received eight inches of rainfall. It typically takes --- hours for that water to flow down to the Three Rivers environs.
   The best thing about all the water that came down the Kaweah River was that the channel got an initial scouring that will help convey even more water during the next big weather event. Stay tuned.

Missing backpackers found

as weather clears

   Invariably, the first major storm of the season catches a few backpackers trying to get in one more trip before snow in the higher mountain passes abruptly ends the hiking season. The storm that began in the local mountains on Tuesday hampered efforts to find three male backpackers who were reported overdue on Monday evening, Oct. 12.
   Brothers Jordan Zeman, 25, and Jake Zeman, 23, along with Lanier Rogers, 25, all from Southern California, started their ambitious 65-mile itinerary on Wednesday, Oct. 7, from Road’s End in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. They did not return Monday as planned so a search was initiated Tuesday by park rangers.
   On Thursday, Oct. 15, after the stormy weather and cloudy skies had cleared, a trio matching the description of the lost backpackers was located ledged out within a mile of Cedar Grove near Roaring River Falls.

  “The river (South Fork of the Kings) was so high during the recent storm that the tourist trail to the falls had to be closed,” reported Adrienne Freeman, parks public affairs officer.
   Adrienne said the terrain was steep and extremely dangerous where the hikers were located. By mid-day park rangers were mobilizing in Cedar Grove and trying to decide whether to short-haul via helicopter or rope climb to reach the rocky perch.
   Apparently, the men had detoured from the Avalanche Pass trail and tried to follow a shorter route off-trail via the treacherous Roaring River drainage.
   A retired park ranger who lives in Three Rivers recalled a number of rescues (and recoveries) in the same area. He said a fortunate thing about this one is that the three men are together.
   NPS rangers remind all persons hiking in the higher elevations that weather in the mountains is extremely volatile. Backpackers and campers should be prepared for winter conditions no matter what the season and stay advised of local weather forecasts.

TRUS board ponders Yokohl,

seventh-grade teacher hired

By Brian Rothhammer

   Board members Bob Burke, Kristina Roper Graber, Scott Sherwood, Valerie Abanathie and Superintendent/Principal Sue Sherwood met at the Three Rivers Union School library for their regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 14.
   Among the items discussed was the present and future impact of the proposed Yokohl Valley development relative to the TRUS district. Superintendent Sherwood indicated that the special board meeting held last week in Exeter on the matter was “...informational in regards to Exeter,” but not very specific pertaining to Three Rivers.

  “It will be at least 15 to 20 years before they get into the section that will be ours,” said Sue of the proposed Yokohl subdivisions, and that she was “sure there will be a push for redistricting by then. Nobody is signing agreements while it is still in the planning phase.”
   Scott agreed, adding that the Yokohl development “...will be in phase three before it impacts us.” The board agreed that the district should stay informed on the project as it progresses.
   There has been an issue with water quality at TRUS, and bottled drinking water has been used to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff and students. Three Rivers Community Services District general manager Randy Pares corrected the problem after inspecting the well and tanks.
   As it turned out, a slight opening at the edge of a screen allowed access to a small furry critter who was promptly invited to leave.

  “I am so glad we found this,” said Pares. “It was an easy problem to correct.”
   The 2009-2010 literature list was approved and includes such classics as Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel) and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, along with several contemporary titles. Most of the books used in TRUS classrooms are also on the California Department of Education’s approved list.
   Robert “Rob” Ojeda was unanimously approved as the newly hired seventh grade teacher, replacing Manuel Garcia, who taught at the school for the past four years. There are currently 157 students enrolled at TRUS.
   Proposed field trips were approved including an innovative program entitled “Civil War Time Travelers.” The fifth-grade exercise involves a field trip to Kearney Park in Fresno for what is billed as the largest Civil War re-enactment and living history exhibit in the United States, and culminates with a student-produced eight-page Civil War newspaper.
   A presentation will be given at McDowall Auditorium today (Friday, Oct. 16) at TRUS from 2 to 3 p.m. by Julie Bergman, past president of the Central Asia Institute (CAI), who will discuss conditions at the schools run by CAI in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She will also share insights of the bestselling children’s book Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Journey to Change the World… One Child at a Time by Greg Mortenson.
   The TRUS student council has a positive use for all of those annoying one-cent pieces that tend to accumulate – Pennies for Peace! Rather than just tossing cents aside, students will have jars in classrooms through Monday, Nov. 9, to collect pennies for the CAI schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pennies from the community are also welcome and at least one local business has pledged to make a donation.

Severe weather correlates

with Nobel Peace Prize

   A team of State College, Penn., meteorologists uncovered an interesting weather correlation after the recent announcement that President Barack Obama was the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Obama was the third sitting president and the fourth overall to win the award.
   What was interesting to the weather scientists was that severe winter weather followed each of the three presidents being awarded the peace prize. Now the question is being raised if this year will follow the historic trend.
   Theodore Roosevelt won the award in 1906 during his term as president. The winter of 1906-07 brought a severe Nor’easter that blanketed the eastern seaboard with 10 inches of snow from Washington to Boston. Some historians liken the event to the perfect storm.
   Woodrow Wilson won the award in 1919 while in office. The following winter produced several severe storms including a late January storm that will always be remembered for its ice, sleet, and drifting snow.
   Another storm followed in February that dumped deep snow from Maine to Virginia. It has been called one of the most severe winters ever experienced.
   In 2002, Jimmy Carter won the peace prize and the northeast was again besieged by record-breaking snowfall in that winter. Boston recorded 23.6 inches of snow on February 17 alone.
   Preliminary forecasts for 2009-10 are predicting a cold and snowy winter for the Northeast and an El Nino for California. It’s a curious coincidence indeed.

Ad art

   Jessy Tuttle, an eighth-grader at Three Rivers School, is the Grand Prize winner of the Halloween Carnival poster contest. Each year, students in every TRUS class from kindergarten through eighth grade are invited to participate in the contest. First, second, and third place and honorable mention awards are presented in each class as well as one grand-prize winner. The posters are distributed to businesses throughout town to advertise the Carnival. Students receive free game tickets as prizes.

Conway legislation

signed into law

   Assembly Bill 1438— A study released last month by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that residents of Tulare, Fresno, Kings, and Madera counties drink more soda — and are also fatter — than other Californians. More than a third of Valley adults drink soda daily and up to two-thirds are obese.
   These disturbing trends might show signs of reversal as a result of legislation by Assembly woman Connie Conway (R-34th District) signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger this week. As a result of Assembly Bill 1438, the grant cap of the federally funded Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund will be increased, which ensures that disadvantaged communities receive more water infrastructure projects and upgrades.
   Within the central San Joaquin Valley counties included in the UCLA research on soda consumption and obesity are a greater proportion of economically-disadvantaged communities. And without access to clean drinking water, another selection must be made when adults or their children are thirsty.
   That’s where the sugary sodas fill a niche. They are readily available and inexpensive, especially when compared with bottled water or fruit juices.
   Certainly, consumer education is key to reduce consumption as well as the dire health consequences that come with being obese, but having clean, safe water with the turn of a tap should not be taken for granted or underestimated.
   Groundwater is a key drinking water source in the San Joaquin Valley, providing about 90 percent of all drinking water supplies. Grants are awarded to low-income communities that cannot otherwise maintain affordable rates to improve safe drinking water infrastructure, and as a result of AB 1438, the grant cap was raised from $1 million to $3 million and up to $10 million in defined hardship cases.

  “Anything we can do to capitalize on existing resources to promote public health and access to water is a victory for all,” said Assemblywoman Conway.
   Assembly Bill 1025— Also signed into law last week by Governor Schwarzenegger is Conway legislation that is aimed at keeping sex offenders and drug dealers off school campuses. The new law, which will take effect July 1, 2010, brings added security to school campuses by closing a loophole in current law that allows volunteer coaches to work with children without any kind of background check.
As of next year, volunteer coaches, whether hired by a school district, booster clubs, or school-related recreation boards will have to go through the same type of background checks that teachers do before they can work with children.
   More new laws— Governor Schwarzenegger called on lawmakers to overhaul California’s tax system, which he called “outdated and antiquated, and no longer works in our technology and information-based economy.” In addition, he signed a bevy of bills into law on Monday, Oct. 12:

  —May 22 was proclaimed Harvey Milk Day, recognizing the San Francisco city supervisor and gay rights activist who was slain in 1978. Milk was posthumously awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom recently and his life was the subject of an Academy Award-winning film last year.

  —Ammunitions sellers are required to collect and keep information from all buyers, including a thumbprint, signature, and driver’s license data. All sales must be in person, thus eliminating Internet and mail-order transactions.

  —The Donda West Law, named after the mother of rap artist Kanye West, who died from complications after she underwent cosmetic surgery, prohibits elective cosmetic surgery unless the patient first is cleared by a physical examination.

  —Paparazzi and other photographers can be fined up to $50,000 for taking and selling unauthorized photos of celebrities and others or their children while participating in “personal or familial activity.”

  —Same-sex marriages performed in other states before California’s November 2008 ban on gay marriage will be recognized in the state.

  —Political candidates are prohibited from paying their spouses or domestic partners to work on their campaigns.


10 household products to avoid


  If these products are lurking in your home, they can be threatening your health. They can penetrate the lungs, cause asthma and allergies, poison the liver, damage the heart, and irritate the eyes and skin.
So grab a trash can and rid the house of these:
   1. High fructose corn syrup. HFCS is a type of sugar that has been processed and combined with corn syrup to produce a cheap, easily dissolvable sweetener. But this sugar is quickly absorbed by the liver where it is converted into fat. Since your brain doesn’t recognize HFCS as a regular food, it never shuts off the appetite center, so you keep eating. Blood sugar levels rise, massive amounts of insulin are recruited to metabolize it, and then you crash and feel hungry again. It is found in soft drinks, fruit juices, salad dressings, baked goods, and more. Read the food labels of products in your pantry and refrigerator and throw out all products that contain HFCS.
   2. Chlorine bleach. Household bleach contains the chemical sodium hypochlorite and is used to whiten clothes and kill germs like mold, bacteria, and viruses. It’s not good for the environment and not good for you; it evaporates quickly to irritate your nose, eyes, throat, skin, and lungs. Non-toxic alternatives are baking soda, white vinegar, or alcohol and peroxide-based products.
   3. Insecticides. Mosquitoes can be annoying and carry diseases. But keeping them at bay doesn’t mean you need to drench you and your property in carcinogenic pesticides. Instead use a natural repellent that contains essential oils such as lemon, eucalyptus, and lavender. Burning citronella candles outdoors, staying indoors at high biting times, and removing still water where mosquitoes lay eggs are healthier strategies.
   4. Hard alcohol. Not all alcoholic beverages are alike, Beer, wine, and spirits, also referred to as hard alcohol, can be damaging when drunk in excess; they can damage the liver (cirrhosis), cause esophageal cancer, internal bleeding, heart failure, pancreatitis, and gastritis. And some breast cancers can be fueled by alcohol. Although one glass of red wine a day can offer health benefits, spirits have a higher alcohol content and contain more synthetic chemicals and sugars.
   5. Moth balls. For generations, it has been customary to sprinkle a few mothballs made of naphthalene in a box of sweaters to prevent moths from feasting on the fibers. Today, a better choice is to use natural alternatives such as cedar chips and lavender sachets. At the end of the season, remember to clean clothes first, then zip them up.
   Next week: Numbers 6 through 10.


Elaine Melton Knopf
1931 ~ 2009

   Elaine Melton Knopf of Visalia died Friday, Oct. 9, 2009. She was 78.
   Elaine was born July 30, 1931, in Walport, Ore., to William and Irene Coolbaugh. The family moved to the Cuddy Valley of Frazier Park where she was raised and educated.
   She met Tom Melton in Bakersfield, where they were married. Tom was employed with offshore oil companies, so the couple lived overseas for many years. In 1975, Elaine and Tom settled in Three Rivers with their children.
   The couple was married for 34 years when Tom died in 1988. Following his death, Elaine moved to Visalia.
   She later met and married Don Knopf. They were together for two years until his death.
   Elaine loved to play bridge and bunko, read, scrapbook, and travel but her greatest love was being with her grandchildren. For the past six years, she enjoyed traveling with her companion, Robert Allen.
   In addition to her two husbands, Elaine was preceded in death by her sister, Beverly Coolbaugh of Pasadena.
   She is survived by her four children, sons Brad Melton and wife Valerie of Woodlake, Thomas Melton and wife Julie of Georgia, and Gregg Melton and wife Alison of Visalia; daughter Luonia Rix and husband Lee of Nevada; and her eight grandchildren, Mat Curtis (30), Jake Curtis (25), T.J. Melton (25), Alex Melton (23), Jonathan Melton (19), Lindsey Rix (18), Devin Melton (14), and Abigail Melton (5).
   Per Elaine’s wishes, no service will be held. On Sunday, Oct. 11, the family held a barbecue to celebrate her life at the Visalia home of Gregg and Alison Melton.

Arlyss Stump
1924 ~ 2009

   Arlyss Stump, a former resident of Three Rivers, died in McKinney, Texas, on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009. She had just turned 85.
Arlyss was born in Granville, N.D., on Sept. 11, 1924, to Nellie May and Myron Allen, the third of four children. She was raised on a grain farm in North Dakota and graduated from Minot (N.D.) State Teachers College.
   During World War II, she worked for The Boeing Company in Seattle, Wash. In 1946, she moved to Visalia to begin her teaching career.
While in Visalia, she met William Sherman Stump. They were married in 1947.
   When their son was born in 1951, Arlyss took a break from her teaching career to raise him. But she returned to full-time teaching after completing her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State University and, in 1979, a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco where her focus was on the development of reading skills in young students.
   In 1980, Arlyss co-authored a book entitled Your Child Can Read Better. Her teaching career in the Visalia Unified School District took her to numerous elementary schools and culminated with her being awarded with the 1992 Teacher of the Year award. She retired soon after.
   Arlyss was a longtime member of First Presbyterian Church in
Visalia. While in Three Rivers, she was a member of Community Presbyterian Church.
   She was an active member of the Theta Tau Theta Sorority, the California Retired Teachers Association, and the Philanthropic Educational Organization.
   Arlyss was preceded in death by her husband of 57 years, Bill.
She is survived by her son Brian Stump and wife Ann of McKinney, Texas; grandson Kevin William and wife Alisha with great-grandson Sawyer William of Plano, Texas; granddaughter Julia Morrison and husband David with great-granddaughter, Ava Claire of Richardson, Texas.
   In lieu of flowers, the family requests remembrances be made to one of two memorial funds: First Presbyterian Church Memorial Fund, 215 N. Locust, Visalia, CA 93291; or The PEO Scholarship Fund, c/o Ann Petersen, 306 N. Canby, Tulare, CA 93274.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
© Copyright 2003-2009 The Kaweah Commonwealth