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In the News - Friday, OCTOBER 28, 2005


Taken by storm
Lightning knocks out power

   At anytime of the year, the sky over the southern Sierra region can become a battleground where cooler air associated with winter storms from the north collides with warm air in the upper atmosphere. Last Monday evening, those weather-making forces combined in Kaweah Country and produced some spectacular lightning and brief cloudbursts that dumped up to a quarter of an inch of rain in areas around Three Rivers.
   Although the rain was sporadic, the lightning and thunder was not as the intense display continued nearly nonstop for eight hours. Miraculously, the power remained on in most areas until 2:30 a.m. when the entire Kaweah canyon and the nearby national parks were blacked out.
   No major incidents were associated with the swiftly-moving storm but several residents reported damage to electrical devices like computers and modems. Some local residents and merchants were scrambling early Tuesday morning to use backup power sources to ensure that refrigerated foods would not spoil just in case the power remained off for too long.
   The power outages were caused by lightning strikes at several transformers in the area. Electrical service was restored in most areas after eight hours and was back on by 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
   The blackout had early morning commuters searching for coffee as most businesses remained closed. At the Totem, owner Jeff Weiss fired up the barbecue so his customers could have their regular jolt of java.
   At the Kaweah General Store, customers were able to get cappuccino and other coffee drinks from the refrigerator.

  “We never close during the power outages because that always seems to be when our customers need certain necessary items,” said Ken Gunnerud, store clerk. “Thanks to our battery backups, we’re here during our regular hours if anyone needs batteries, milk, a cold drink, or hardware to make a repair.”
   All that thunder and lightning stressed out people but it also affected critters too. Some pets came indoors for the evening and one owner said he gave his stressed-out dog a sedative.
   Deer are also plentiful in Three Rivers in the fall as they seek the greenery of residential areas where owners are still watering their landscaped yards. Wildlife officials are urging residents not to feed deer because when startled or denied the easy food source they can become aggressive.
   In September, a San Diego County man died when he was gored in the mouth after surprising a buck that was feeding in his backyard. Events like these are rare, officials said, but deer are not the gentle creatures that many perceive them to be.

  “This is the time of year when bucks are in rut, or exhibiting breeding behavior, and they become more aggressive,” said Ryan Broddrick, director of the state Department of Fish and Game. “Californians need to be careful that they do not break the law by feeding wildlife and compromise their own safety by attracting wildlife. While deer are not usually a public safety threat, problems can occur when they lose their fear of humans.”

Suspicious visitor

on 3R doorstep

   Criminals will try just about anything to make a buck and often target the elderly, so it's best to err on the suspicious side. Earlier this month, an elderly South Fork man may have been “cased” as a potential victim, and his family would like to know if anyone else in Three Rivers might also have been approached.
   It began on a Monday evening a couple of weeks ago at suppertime with a knock on the door of the isolated South Fork residence. The unannounced visitor was a woman in her 60s who carried some paperwork and claimed to be conducting a survey for the “Health Department.”
   Clarence Searcey, 92, answered the door, and his neighbor, Jerry Ann Poore, who lives nearby and says she keeps an eye on the elderly Searcey, came over to see what the woman wanted.

  “That woman was very strange but the last thing I thought was she was capable of some sort of criminal activity,” said Jerry. “She seemed so scattered, I could barely understand what she was saying and her attempts at making small talk were annoying.”
   Jerry said the woman wanted to know how many people lived in each house and their ages.

  “She was trying to record the information on some handheld device but was having a problem getting it to work,” Jerry said.
   The woman explained that anyone who would participate in a survey would be paid $30. After about 45 minutes, she left a flyer entitled “Public Health Survey, applied studies,” with a phone number to call to make the arrangements for an interview.
   Shortly after the strange visit, Searcey’s son, Lee, checked with several Tulare County agencies and found that nobody was aware of any survey, especially one in which participants were paid a fee. The woman was described as Caucasian and was driving a 1990s-era green sedan.
   Be advised, it is never prudent to open your door to any stranger, especially in isolated, rural neighborhoods.
   If anyone has encountered this woman or someone who has come to their house unannounced to conduct a survey, contact Jim Fansett, resident deputy, or call the Commonwealth, 561-3627.

ID sought for frozen airman

   The body of a World War II airman recovered last week from a receding glacier on the slopes of Mount Mendel was flown to Hawaii on Monday, Oct. 24, for further research. Ice climbers who were on the mountain, which is located in the northernmost portion of Kings Canyon National Park, discovered the man Sunday, Oct. 16.
   On Wednesday, Oct. 19, park rangers and a forensic anthropologist from the military’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command carefully chipped the man out of the ice. This U.S. military unit, which was formed in 2003 specifically to account for missing war veterans, has compiled a list of fewer than 10 missing World War II Army Air Corps members, one who could be a soldier who was the victim of a plane crash on Nov. 18, 1942, in Kings Canyon National Park.
   The discovery nearly two weeks ago has caught the attention of the news media. Daily reports have appeared in the region’s daily newspapers and on local television news. Local correspondents have even been dispatches to Hawaii and are camping out until the corpsman’s identification is announced, which could be several weeks.
   In addition, several reports have been broadcast worldwide on CNN, Fox News, and other cable news networks. On Thursday, the Today show reported the story.
   After being removed from the ice, the body, entombed in about 400 pounds of ice and granite, was flown to the Fresno County morgue and the thawing process commenced. The man reportedly has dark blond hair and was wearing a green cable-knit sweater over green thermal underwear. He also had on an unopened parachute stenciled with the words, “U.S. Army Air Corps.”
   The POW/MIA Accounting group reported that between 25 and 30 military planes crashed on training missions in California during the war years. The unit’s headquarters, which is where the airman’s remains were sent, is on Hickam Air Force Base in Oahu, Hawaii, and is home to the world’s largest forensic anthropological lab.
   Currently, there are 88,000 war veterans reported missing. Of those, 78,000 are from World War II.

Old fire station to get new tenants

   At the Tuesday, Oct. 25, regular meeting of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, members approved in concept a lease agreement for the re-use of the Three Rivers Fire Station. The approval of a final agreement is expected in a few weeks after the Three Rivers Community Services District (CSD) ratifies their role as “master tenant.”

  “We have a rough draft of the lease agreement with the CSD and they will be paying a set amount as rent,” Supervisor Ishida reported. “A portion of that rent will be paid by other users who will lease from the CSD under the terms of the agreement.”
   Ishida said that county counsel has reviewed the preliminary plan and it should be approved without any further revisions. The other community groups that will occupy the former Fire Station No. 14 are the Three Rivers Cemetery District, the Community Food Pantry, and the local Volunteers In Patrol (VIPs). Jim Fansett, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department resident deputy, will also have a desk at the facility.

  “The county will be responsible for the structure and the water while the CSD will take care of the maintenance,” Ishida said. “But before anyone can move in, we [the county] have to repair the water system.”
   But Ishida said he is confident that it won’t be long before the building is ready to occupy. The only caveat to the deal, he said, is that if the county would ever need the building, then the tenants would have to vacate.
   In other board news, Ishida announced that he is donating $1,000 from the county’s good works fund to the Three Rivers/Lemon Cove Business Association to help defray the cost of their upcoming promotional publications. Also, he said, the Lemon Cove Woman’s Club will receive $500 for the upkeep of their historic clubhouse, the former Pogue Hotel.

Mineral King fires underway

   It was actually planned for 2006, but since a prescribed fire near Dorst Campground wasn’t working out, Park Service fire managers moved up the calendar. Right on the heels of the 1,517-acre Highbridge Fire, the Highbridge East Prescribed Fire was ignited Monday, Oct. 24.
   The fire’s locale is north of the Mineral King Road, just up-canyon from Silver City and the previous Highbridge burn unit, at elevations ranging from 7,400 to 9,800 feet.
   Using both hand crews and a helicopter to ignite the fire, about 400 acres has been burned. Due to the week’s wet weather, the remaining 440 acres has been postponed, with ignition planned for early next week.

Winter road closures begin

   The Mineral King and Crystal Cave roads in Sequoia are scheduled for closure on Tuesday, Nov. 1, unless snowfall warrants earlier closures. The Moro Rock/Crescent Meadow road will close when snow-covered.
   Mountain travelers should now carry tire chains at all times.


WHS Foundation has goal

of new stadium bleachers

   The Woodlake Union High School Foundation is sponsoring a campaign for Tiger boosters to help refurbish the aging wooden bleacher seating at Robinson-Painter Memorial Stadium. Donors can purchase 11-foot lengths of new aluminum stands for $225 for orange (center) or $200 for gray (side) sections.
   Each length purchased comes with a handsome plaque inscribed with the donor’s name. The gift however doesn’t guarantee that’s your seat for games but it does ensure that boosters can own a lasting piece of the Tiger tradition.
   For more information or to find out where to send your check, contact any foundation board member or Victoria Romero in the school district office, 564-8081, ext. 14.
   On Saturday, Oct. 29, the Kiwanis Club of Woodlake is hosting a dinner/dance and silent auction at the Woodlake Memorial Building to raise bleacher funds. In true community spirit, the club will be matching the funds raised up to $3,000.
   Tickets for the event are $50 and must be purchased in advance. To order, call Barbara Hallmeyer, 564-2334.

Cardinals fly by Tigers

   The 27-0 whitewash job that the visiting Lindsay Cardinals (2-2, 4-3) did on the Woodlake Tigers (0-4, 2-5) last Friday couldn’t dampen the spirits of a huge Homecoming crowd. On the field, current students and Tigers of yesteryear celebrated proud and festive traditions during an evening highlighted by the coronation of the king and queen (see page 6) and an entertaining Tiger marching band.

  “It’s always great to see the community support for Woodlake High that we have enjoyed over the years,” Frank Ainley, longtime athletic director, said recently. “Here at Woodlake, it’s about more than winning. It’s about team spirit and how we carry ourselves on and off the field. That’s what Tiger Pride is all about and why we all feel proud to be associated with the program here at Woodlake.”
   In the JV game, the Cardinals won a shootout with the Tigers, 41-27. The loss dropped the JV record to (2-5).

Homecoming at Woodlake High

   For nearly two decades, WHS Homecoming has been a day where the past meets the future. The festivities begin with Career Day, where students forego regular classes to attend a variety of sessions of their choice and learn about careers such as teacher, pilot, massage therapist, chef, accountant, tattoo removal, TV cameraman, musician, doctor, truck driver, and hundreds more.
   Alumni are among the professionals who are on campus discussing their jobs and career paths with the students. The daylong event traditionally begins with a keynote speaker who is a distinguished WHS alumnus and culminates with the crowning of the Homecoming Queen and King at the evening’s football game.


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