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  In the News - Friday, OCTOBER 22, 2004

Wicked winter

weather wreaks havoc

Storm surge ends dry spell

   In the early morning hours of Sunday, Oct. 17, Kaweah Country received its first significant rainfall in six months. High winds caused power outages throughout the region that left some residential customers in Three Rivers without power for up to 12 hours.
   Residents in Three Rivers began reporting widespread outages shortly after 2 a.m. At 6:20 a.m., firefighters responded to a power pole fire at 41729 Sierra Drive that was quickly extinguished.
According to a CDF spokesperson, power pole fires were reported early Sunday morning at a dozen locations around Woodlake, Lemon Cove, and throughout Tulare County. Initial rains caused the fires as sparks arced from wire to pole due to the buildup of seasonal dust.
   By Tuesday, as the jet stream raced across Central California, a powerful low-pressure system, dropped out of the Gulf of Alaska, drawing Pacific moisture into the region. On Wednesday, the higher elevations above 7,500 feet had received one to two feet of snow.
   Rain gauges around Three Rivers averaged 1.50 inches of rain, the first significant precipitation since April 18. Some parts of the San Joaquin Valley received record amounts of rainfall for October 19.
   The uncommon early-season storm comes on the heels of a paltry year that only produced 13.01 inches for the entire season. The more than 1.50 inches in many areas has forecasters hopeful that the cycle of consecutive dry years will be ended.
   In Sequoia National Park, the storms caused several road closures. The Generals Highway was closed Tuesday, but reopened late Wednesday afternoon. The road to Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow was closed due to high winds and hazardous trees that pose a threat to motorists and hikers.

Five reported missing

in local high country

   As a result of last weekend’s storms, which caused whiteout conditions in the High Sierra, two reports of overdue hikers in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks were received.
   As of Thursday, Oct. 21, search efforts were ongoing in the vicinity of Mount Whitney for a party of four who were on a backpacking trip. Family members contacted the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office when the group did not return on Sunday as planned. A ground search was initiated and, as weather permitted, a helicopter joined the effort.
   Park rangers also responded to a second report of a missing hiker. The overdue solo backpacker was reported to be in the Bishop Pass area of Kings Canyon National Park. A search team on the ground was unable to reach the area earlier in the week due to adverse weather conditions. A search by helicopter was also initially hindered due to cloud cover.
   As of Thursday morning, the Park Service reported that all had been found.
   These hikers bring the number of missing or stranded hikers and climbers in the Sierra from Yosemite south to 17. Two Japanese climbers, who were climbing on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park but were unprepared for winter weather, have been confirmed dead.

Rain snuffs BLM burn

   The surprising rain in the early morning hours of last Sunday was not what Bureau of Land Management (BLM) fire crews had prescribed for Case Mountain. In fact, the heavy downpour snuffed out one smoldering 16-acre controlled blaze and ended any plans for more prescribed burning this season.
   Debbie Santiago, BLM fire information officer, who was on-scene at Case Mountain, said fire managers were aware there was a 20-percent chance of precipitation on Sunday, but were caught off guard by the swift-moving system.

  “The heavy rains not only cancelled any plans we had for more ignitions, but the dirt access roads were a mess,” Santiago said. “We couldn’t risk driving the equipment out, so we all hiked out and ordered a bus to pick us up.”
   Santiago said the entire crew of 40 made the hike down from Case Mountain to the Mineral King Road. The Case Mountain burn has been planned for the past three years and this was the first time in that period that ignitions were actually begun.

  “We started lighting a little later on Friday than usual because we wanted to give the Kern Valley Hotshots all the time they needed to prep the area,” Santiago said. “The crews were able to treat 16 acres before we decided to let the fire lie down for the night.”
   Santiago said on Saturday the burning had proceeded as planned. National Park Service fire personnel, who were working on the fireline for the first time since the death of firefighter Daniel Holmes on October 2, assisted the BLM crews.
   Holmes, an Arrowhead Hotshot, was killed when a tree branch fell on him during the ill-fated Grant West burn.

BLM plans 3R meeting

   With plans for more prescribed fire at Case Mountain on the back burner, up next for Three Rivers is a public meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m., in the McDowall Auditorium at Three Rivers School. The purpose of the meeting is to update Three Rivers about the progress being made by the BLM in the management of the North Fork recreation sites.
   Michael Ayers, BLM recreation planner, will conduct the meeting. Alysia Hancock, who replaced Ed Ruth when he retired as supervising law enforcement ranger, is also expected to attend the Three Rivers meeting.

3R mother, daughter

in rollover accident

   Having raised four daughters, Nadi Spencer has made the roundtrip commute to Woodlake from Three Rivers hundreds of times. But last Saturday night, as Nadi was driving her daughter, 16, home after picking her up at Woodlake High School, they narrowly missed being seriously injured or worse.
   That’s because as they were driving in their 1997 Nissan pickup east on Naranjo (Route 216), a 1993 Mazda that was northbound on Road 220 ran the stop sign, striking the bed portion of the truck on the passenger side.

  “The impact caused us to roll over three times,” recalled Nadi. “It was very strange not knowing where we were or what was happening.”
   The pickup came to rest upside down and alongside the roadway. Both the driver and passenger of the Nissan were wearing seatbelts, but no airbags deployed in the crash.
   Elizabeth Gonzales, 18, of Woodlake was identified as the driver of the Mazda. Several passing motorists and emergency personnel assisted at the scene of the 11 p.m. accident.
   The Spencers were transported to Kaweah Delta Hospital where they were treated for minor scrapes and bruises. No information about the condition of Gonzales was contained in preliminary accident reports.
   According to the California Highway Patrol officer at the scene, the accident occurred when Gonzales failed to stop at a stop sign. A final dispensation of the two-vehicle accident is pending.

A Matter of Life:

Donor sought for

young cancer patient

By Sarah Elliott

   She’s six years old and has already faced more challenges in her life than most will ever experience. And now Sara Ruehling is facing another in a string of hurdles that she and her parents are determined to overcome.

Abandoned at birth
   In the early morning hours on Aug. 17, 1998, a police officer in Nanjing City, China, found a newborn baby that was evidently abandoned near a highway along the Yangtze River. The baby was just another orphan in this country that has many due to its preference for male children and, in an effort to ease overpopulation, the institution of a “one-child policy” since 1979.
   Robert Ruehling and Ginger Curtis and daughter Kelsey traveled to Nanjing and, on May 23, 1999, adopted the baby girl. They named her Sara Aixin Curtis Ruehling.

The road to Three Rivers
   The Ruehlings moved from Boise, Idaho, to Arroyo Grande, Calif., in June 2000. In December 2001, they relocated to Three Rivers, where Ginger, the daughter of Russ and Verna Curtis, had spent her childhood years.
   In August 2003, Sara entered kindergarten at Three Rivers School. Life was good for this little girl whose life had begun so traumatically.
   But tragedy struck once again when, in February 2004, Sara was diagnosed with biphenotypic acute leukemia, an uncommon form of cancer. Initially, the family traveled with Sara to Children’s Hospital Central California in Madera County where she received chemotherapy for acute lympoblastic leukemia (ALL).
   On May 6, Kaweah Country residents rallied in record numbers at a blood drive for Sara. Also that month, the family was on their way to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University in Palo Alto, where Sara began cranial radiation treatment.
   At first, Sara responded to the treatment, but in August, she suffered a relapse. The physicians have since diagnosed her prominent leukemia to now be acute myelogenous (bone marrow) leukemia (AML).

Bone marrow transplant becomes necessary
   Currently, Sara’s doctors have determined that a bone-marrow transplant is the youngster’s best option for survival. She is now undergoing chemotherapy for the AML in hopes that remission will be achieved as the medical team prepares for a bone marrow transplant.
   Sara is now in her “second” remission, but finding a bone-marrow match for a Chinese girl in America is proving to be yet another urgent challenge that must be surmounted. An initial search found 30 potential donors, which were then narrowed down to three and, ultimately, no match was made.
   Sara’s adopted parents or sister would like nothing more than to be able to donate their own bone marrow so Sara could be on her way to recovery instead of allowing day after day to go by without a donor. But Sara will likely only find a close tissue match from another person of Chinese descent.
   And, therein lies the dilemma. There is traditionally a great need for Asian and other minority donors.

  “The sooner we get a bone-marrow match, the better,” explained Ginger.
   And this is where Three Rivers comes into the picture. Known by locals for its reputation as a miracle network of a community, it’s time to spread the word in an attempt to save Sara’s life.

The miracle of networking
   To help Sara, or another sick child, a blood sample is needed that will be typed and listed in the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry, which provides international access to donors. Potential donors should be between the ages of 18 and 60 and must be in good general health.
   Especially important, if Three Rivers residents know of a Chinese family or community that may be able to provide potential donors, then direct them to or ask them to call 1-800-marrow2 to receive information about the donor process.
   Sara’s parents have been tirelessly searching for a donor. They have, thus far, been in contact with regional blood centers, the Asian American Donor Program in Oakland, Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches from Los Angeles, and Families with Children from China in their quest to find potential bone marrow donors to be placed on the registry.

  “Sara is a beautiful, charming, sharp, witty, fun-loving six-year-old, who loves to draw, color, and ride her bicycle,” said her distraught mother. “She wants to do everything her 10-year-old sister does. One of Sara’s favorite things is still her bedtime stories.”
   As Three Rivers neighbors, it is necessary to ensure that Sara continues to enjoy her bedtime stories, as well as grows up to read them to her own children.

Lemon Cove native

contributes to Red Sox win

   The Boston Red Sox became the first Major League team to win a seven-game post-season series after starting down 3-0. Folks around Lemon Cove attribute at least part of the team’s success to coaching.
   Native son Brad Mills, whose parents, Charlie and Margaret Mills, still reside in Lemon Cove, is the Red Sox bench coach.

Notice of death

Major Wilcox
1921 ~ 2004

  Major F. Wilcox, 83, of Three Rivers died Thursday, Oct. 14, 2004. Private services will be held.

Woodlake High School

Tigers jumped by Horned Toads, 32-0

By John Elliott

   It was fortunate for Woodlake’s football faithful that last Friday night was Homecoming. The regal festivities between games were highlights on an evening when the Woodlake Tigers (0-6) suffered yet more growing pains.
   This time, the defeat came versus Coalinga (5-1) who were coming off a stunning road loss at Orosi. By the end of the first quarter, the Horned Toads from Harris Ranch country led 19-0 and were never seriously challenged.
   The Tigers started Steven Lopez, a senior wide receiver, who filled in at QB for the injured Ryan Baker. The offense had trouble even making a first down and Hallmeyer’s cannon failed to fire a single volley.
   But hope springs eternal with Coach Costa’s youthful team. Though down to 22 players on the varsity roster, three injured starters return this week and the Lindsay game also marks this season’s debut of Daniel Tiller.
   Tiller, a junior, who Costa expects to make an immediate impact, will start at outside linebacker on defense and see plenty of action on offense at running back. He played as a freshman at Woodlake and recently returned after living for the past two years in the Midwest.
   This week, Lopez will start at free safety as Baker returns to lead the offense against Lindsay. The emergence of Lopez at safety should help Baker’s execution on offense.
   The Tigers, despite a winless record, are working hard and looking forward.

  “We’re just trying to get the engine running on all cylinders,” said Coach Costa. “There’s no quit in this team. We have four games remaining and we’re trying to get a win as soon as possible.”
   The JVs suffered their second consecutive shutout, 33-0. The loss evened their record on the season to 3-3.

THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
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