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In the News -
Friday, NOVEMBER 2, 2007
After a week of unprecedented Santa Ana winds and devastating
fires in Southern California, it didn’t take long to see what was
next. Monday’s awesome display of nature that raked random parts
of the Central Valley seemed to siphon much of the storm’s imperfect
energy up and over the Kaweah canyon as the fast-moving system made its
way across the Western Divide.
Imperfect because the storm’s effect was major in some
areas but very limited just a few miles away. In its wake, it left some
areas that experienced a cloudburst, widespread runoff, sporadic flooding,
lots of loose rock, and more downed tree branches than area residents
could chainsaw in a single day.
Locally, Southern California Edison crews were scrambling
this week to repair downed lines, but in most parts of Three Rivers the
power remained on throughout the onslaught and only went out for little
more than an hour for the majority of the SCE customers in the region.
The exception to the sporadic outages was what residents
experienced up and down the South Fork. Their power went out in the early
morning hours and was not restored until 12 hours later on Tuesday afternoon.
It all began with a spate of severe storm warnings that were
issued by the U.S. Weather Service at Hanford shortly before 5 p.m. Monday
There were a line of significant storm cells developing and moving toward
the foothills, the warnings stated, accompanied by high wind gusts and
significant downpours that might cause localized damage and flooding in
the hardest hit areas.
The instigator of the surprise storm was a cache of tropical
low pressure parked off the coast of California for the last several days
that had been flirting with some cooler air aloft. When the air masses
finally collided over Central California, the foothills of Tulare and
Fresno counties had the perfect recipe for an imperfect storm.
Energy, in the form of small, sporadic cells began cutting
off from what suddenly had become a rapidly moving larger air mass tracking
eastward. Kaweah canyon residents experienced the leading edge of the
storm as a battle royal of horizontal lightning strikes as two of the
squall lines came crashing together from the south and the north.
What followed for the next hour or so until 9 p.m. were wind
gusts that topped 70 miles per hour in some canyon areas, one-inch hail
stones in some areas, incessant sheet lightning that lit the night sky
with eerie strobe lighting, and torrential sheets of rain that at times
were falling horizontally rather than vertically.
The consensus of most storm watchers was some shock, but
more awe. Old-timers could not recall ever seeing that particular type
lightning storm in Three Rivers.
Local rain gauges were all over the charts. By morning, most
had at least 1.65 inches, but one gauge in Washburn Cove off Kaweah River
Drive reportedly recorded a whopping five inches.
In nearby Sequoia National Park, the hardest hit areas were
Shepherd’s Saddle, the Hockett Plateau, Paradise Ridge, and Tar
Gap in the vicinity of Mineral King. Lightning was described as “cloud
to cloud” with considerable rainfall.
When the clouds parted on Tuesday, a light dusting of snow
was visible on Alta Peak and there were no fires immediately reported
in the Kaweah drainage. There were however several ground strikes that
reportedly caused fires in the mountains between Shaver Lake and Yosemite
Indian summer-like conditions with daytime highs around 80
degrees are in the weekend forecast. Ideal weather for football and yard
clean-up chores, cleaning rain gutters and preparing for a winter that
is forecast to have some semblance of ’normal’ storms until
at least the end of January.
Sequoia roadwork ending…
In any construction project, when the inspector signs the
so-called certificate of completion it usually is a time to celebrate
a job well done. At Wednesday’s walk-through and media tour marking
the completion of the current phase of the Generals Highway reconstruction,
there was elation as the upbeat team of managers looked back on the now
nearly completed 18_month contract.
had a good team out here so there was really nothing unusual in terms
of the work that was being done within the scope of the contract,”
said Scott Wolfert, Federal Highway Administration project engineer. “This
is the final inspection today where we generate a punch list of some [minor]
things to be completed. We’re really happy with the results given
the history of the project.”
Wolfert, who as the federal highways principal, is the representative
“owner” and responsible for the specifications and signing
off on the $11.5 million contract with Agee Construction Company of Clovis.
The history he made reference to was the fact that the original bid on
the 2.1 miles from Big Fern Springs to Amphitheater Point had to repackaged
to attract a successful bidder.
As recently as four weeks ago, the unpaved roadway was still
a mess, littered with construction materials, equipment, and debris. Thanks
to weather that mostly cooperated, the new highway is a showcase road
reconstruction, built for greater safety and a smoother ride.
The paving of the old roadway was the easy part, according
to Wolfert, but restoring the retaining walls presented a formidable engineering
difficulty in doing a job like this where the public is involved is incredible,”
said Chris Hickey, Agee’s chief engineer. “We never let the
contractual issues hold us up.”
The 18-month project, according to Alexander Picavet, parks’
spokesperson, finished on schedule and under budget. Picavet also pointed
out that the 30 or more workers at certain times were housed in Three
Rivers and spent lots of dollars locally.
is not your typical highway job,” said Dan Blackwell, chief of maintenance,
who as acting superintendent attended on behalf of Sequoia National Park.
“The fact that we’re here today speaks well for this project
and the team that did the work.”
Conspicuously missing for the walk-through were the reporters
from media that were quick to publicize the road construction caused delays.
Only the Visalia Times Delta, who dispatched a freelancer, and the parks’
local newspaper, made the effort to attend the historic occasion.
Among the more noticeable work that remained to be completed
were several sections of new curb that were washed out by Monday’s
storm. Those were all being repaired this past week while the inspection
team from Denver was on the job.
The traffic signals could be removed from Generals Highway
as soon as this weekend. There is no new construction scheduled for 2008
and it may be two or three years until the next phase is ready to go.
John McWilliams of Three Rivers, a co-owner of the new Discoveries
West Gallery & Archives in Three Rivers, cut the ceremonial ribbon
to kick off the grand-opening festivities last Sunday. In attendance were
dignitaries such as county Supervisor Allen Ishida and Meaghan Swinney
of Three Rivers, who is Miss Tulare County 2007.
Free public forum focuses
future of Tulare County growth
The public is invited to attend a panel discussion on “The
Future of Growth in Tulare County: Four Perspectives, Plus Yours.”
The event is sponsored by the Tulare County Citizens for Responsible Growth
and the College of the Sequoias.
The forum will be held Wednesday, Nov. 7, from 7 to 9 p.m.,
in the Ponderosa Building’s lecture hall (Room 350, located behind
the COS theatre).
Issues such as the direction of development, impacts on local
economy and farmland, water supply, air quality, transportation, and public
safety will be discussed. The Tulare County Citizens (TCC) group feels
these topics are timely due to the county General Plan process that is
Four panelists will offer insights and expertise: Mike Knopf,
engineer, planner, and president of Quad Knopf, Inc.; Greg Kirkpatrick,
founder of Farmland Conservation Strategies; Laurel Firestone, co-executive
director of the nonprofit Community Water Center; and Jeff Steen, citrus
rancher and TCC co-chair.
For more information, contact Brian Newton, by calling 904-5435
or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: The following is the first installment
in what is planned to be a regular monthly column by the Sequoia Foothills
Chamber of Commerce, intended to announce the organization’s activities
and events. Chamber board member Catherine Launey (Three Rivers Bed &
Breakfast), who has spearheaded this public-relations project, has hopes
that other organizations in Three Rivers will follow suit by also preparing
* * *
Put your business on the back cover of the 2008-2009 Three
Rivers phonebook and let your advertising dollars work for you!
The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce is updating the
next Three Rivers phonebook and offering new and exciting advertising
opportunities. Chamber members can show off their business on the phonebook’s
back cover by submitting a sealed bid for this coveted spot by December
31, 2007. Minimum bid is $1,000.
Please send your business name, contact information, and
bid amount to: Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 818, Three
Rivers, CA 93271. Call (559) 561-3300 for more information.
The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce submitted this
The monthly Town Hall Meeting, presented by the Three Rivers
Village Foundation, will include several topics such as updates on ambulance
service, the national parks, the chamber of commerce, and key county developments
in planning that will have future implications for Three Rivers. The meeting
will be held Monday, Nov. 5, 7 p.m., at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.
have five speakers to furnish updates on their respective activities and
organizations and there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion
on any topic that’s relevant,” said Tom Sparks, who conducts
the informal forums on behalf of the Foundation.
John Elliott, the Tulare County-District 1 planning commissioner,
recently returned from the 77th annual State Conference of the California
County Planning Commissioners Association in South Lake Tahoe. There were
sessions on cultural resources, general plans, oak woodlands, Native American
Heritage, Williamson Act, sand and gravel mining, and how to make county
agencies more attractive to a new generation of civil servants.
Elliott was also elected as a Central Section representative
to the 13-member executive board that governs the organization. It’s
an opportunity, he said, to invite the CCPCA to hold its annual meeting
for the first time in Tulare County.
Tom Sparks said there are also new developments relative
to Tulare County’s efforts to negotiate an ambulance service agreement
for 2008. Representatives from the Three Rivers Ambulance will furnish
an update and answer ambulance-related questions.
Alex Picavet, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks information
officer, will discuss local Park Service issues, while her husband, Fred
Picavet, a contract specialist with the parks, will report on behalf of
the Village Foundation regarding efforts to secure a grant that would
furnish flashing lights and a solar-powered speed feedback sign at the
highway crosswalk at Three Rivers School.
For more information about the upcoming meeting, call Tom
HIKING THE PARKS
A family’s journey into
wilderness and back
Days 4-5 (Part 5)
Nine Lake Basin layover days
After hiking with heavy packs for the past three days, our
family of four was happy to have a couple days of rest. The days were
sunny and warm, the temperature reaching nearly 80 degrees.
Smoke could be seen wafting above some of the ridges that
line the Big Arroyo trench to the south, a residual effect of the lightning
storm that we experienced up close and personal two days before.
The mornings were spent organizing gear, filtering water
and filling water bottles, fishing, playing Frisbee and backgammon, and
reading and lounging on sunny rocks. The main entrée for both days’
lunches was homemade pasta salad — a favorite backcountry meal of
ours — which was brought to life by soaking in water in a zippered
plastic bag throughout the morning.
On the first day, I had attempted to garner interest in an
exploration of the area. I was eyeing Mount Stewart or Eagle Scout Peak,
which were towering 1,500 feet or so over us to the west. Another distinguished
landscape feature that beckoned was the 200-foot waterfall just east of
our camp. Staying in a place called “Nine Lake Basin,” it
was easy to imagine what awaited beyond where that water was shooting
out of the chasm.
It looked like it would be a simple boulder-hop to the top.
Johnnie, our 17-year-old son, had worked his way about halfway up the
nearby ridge the previous evening.
No one was taking me up on my offer for an outing, but I
was feeling restless. It wouldn’t be wise for me to climb any of
the nearby peaks alone and, upon closer inspection, the waterfall looked
like a slippery route, so I meandered up the hillside above our camp and
due east of the lowest lake in the chain.
This was the perfect route for a lone hiker and to see all
to which the basin offers access. Upon reaching the top of mountain, the
terrain becomes a gentle gradient of glaciated granite and moist meadows.
I first traversed north to the largest Nine Lake (elevation
10,725 feet) and, beyond, to a smaller lake surrounded on three sides
by a steep rock face. This was the end of the basin in this direction
so I turned back south, seeing a small lake above me and passing a placid,
rockbound pond that was there solely because of snowmelt as there were
no inlet or outlet streams.
My route ended abruptly as I reached a cliff from where I
could see our tents below. I ventured east along this ridge and continued
to climb toward the enormous facade of the Kaweah Peaks Ridge.
I had enjoyed the marvelous views of these peaks many times from afar
but had never been close enough to reach out and touch them. But here
they were — Red Kaweah, Black Kaweah, Queen Kaweah, and Mount Kaweah
— rising starkly above the glaciers that cling stubbornly to the
western base of the massive ridge that boasts heights of nearly 14,000
I arrived at the base of the ridge by walking along the shore
of yet another lake (this was number five or six out of nine or more tarns
in this secluded glacial basin). I was stopped by snow directly below
Lawson Peak, which is just north of Kaweah Queen.
Again, I was turned around by the rugged terrain. I began
following the lake’s outlet stream and it led me to the edge of
another ridge that looked down toward our camp, where the idle stream
turns into the waterfall, roaring headlong down the granite slabs.
From this vantage point, it was easy to see that this is
not the route to take to mount this ridge. I followed the ridgeline back
north until the terrain leveled out enough that I could turn west toward
the hillside dotted with gnarled, weather-beaten whitebark pines, which
is where I had begun this afternoon outing and where I made my descent