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The Best of Kaweah Country
the News - Friday, OCTOBER 22, 2004
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
“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:
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
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
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 www.marrow.org
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
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
1921 ~ 2004
Major F. Wilcox, 83,
of Three Rivers died Thursday, Oct. 14, 2004. Private services will be
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
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
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
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.