this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
If you like winter weather
with your holidays then just about anywhere
in the lower 48 will be just great. The
series of storms that churned ashore into
California earlier in the week is now
bringing more snow and frigid cold to
the nation’s midsection and the
LOW SNOW— Many locales
in the West experienced one weather record
or another. Snow fell in places like the
hills above Berkeley and in Las Vegas.
The rarely seen snowflakes created lots
of Bay Area excitement near Mount Tamalpais,
Mount Hamilton, and in the Santa Cruz
Tahoe ski operators rejoiced
as more than four feet of the white stuff
was the norm for elevations above 7,000
feet. Vegas visitors barely looked up
from their indoor sports but for those
who did they saw desert bright turn to
On Wednesday, it was frigid
up and down California. The highest temperature
for the day was 67 degrees at Desert Center.
At Lake Tahoe, the mercury flirted with
single digit readings near 0.
On the same day, Big Sky,
Mont., went to work in minus-17- degree
weather. Across the Dakotas, in the 24
hours prior to the big chill, the mercury
plunged from the 40s to below zero and
Chicago saw a record snowfall.
While the rest of the nation and most
Californians shivered, Kaweah Country
felt like it might snow, but overnight
lows on Thursday morning only dipped down
to the upper 30s. Those rather balmy readings,
helped in part by a moisture-laden cloud
cover, were a far cry from the subfreezing
temperatures that settled in and around
many parts of the lower-lying Central
In the nearby mountains,
places like Mineral King and Lodgepole
reported two feet of snow at their respective
snowstakes. But while the recent precipitation
certainly brought joy to our world, Kaweah
Country to date is stuck in a rain shadow
that has Three Rivers significantly below
The current season-to-date-total for Three
Rivers is 4.36 inches; the recent storms
that occurred last Sunday to Monday measured
1.16 inches of rainfall; that one-inch-plus
of rain fell as 15 inches of snow at 7,000
In comparison, one year ago (Dec. 18-19),
a cold Pacific storm dumped two inches
of rain locally. That storm brought the
2007 season total to 7.67 inches. A Christmas
day storm added even more to that season’s
total, which finished with a May 23-24
rain event for 18.42 inches for the entire
The recent season of 2005
is much more reminiscent of the current
one. On this date three years ago, Three
Rivers received .44 inches of rainfall
bringing that season’s total to
But here’s the miraculous
part of the 2005-2006 season. The last
rainfall in Three Rivers occurred on May
21 and that .71 inches brought the season
total to a whopping 28.26 inches.
Let’s all hope and
pray that we’re on track for another
for a wondrously wet encore of 2005-2006.
But whatever ever weather comes your way,
may you and yours have a blessed holiday
Weapons ban overturned
The Bush administration has
overturned a 25-year-old federal rule
that severely restricted loaded guns in
national parks. But people will soon be
able to carry concealed, loaded guns in
most national parks and wildlife refuges.
Under the new rule that will
take effect in January, visitors will
be able to carry a loaded gun into these
areas, but only if the person has a permit
for a concealed weapon and if the state
where the park or refuge is located also
allows concealed firearms.
The new rule goes farther
than a draft proposal issued last spring
and would allow concealed weapons even
in parks located in states that explicitly
ban the carrying of guns in state parks.
Some states allow concealed weapons, but
also ban guns from parks.
The Interior Department rule
overturns a Reagan-era regulation that
has restricted loaded guns in parks and
wildlife refuges. The previous regulation
required that firearms be unloaded, disassembled,
and placed somewhere that is not easily
accessible, such as in a car trunk.
The regulation allows individuals
to carry concealed firearms in federal
parks and wildlife refuges to the same
extent they can lawfully do so under state
law, Assistant Interior Secretary Lyle
Laverty said, adding that the approach
is in line with rules adopted by the federal
Bureau of Land Management and the U.S.
Forest Services. Those agencies let visitors
carry weapons consistent with applicable
federal and state laws.
The National Rifle Association
hailed the rule change, which will take
effect next month before President-elect
Barack Obama takes office.
The rule will restore the
rights of law-abiding gun owners on federal
lands and make federal law consistent
with the state where the lands are located,
said Chris W. Cox, NRA’s chief lobbyist.
The NRA led the effort to change gun regulations
that they called inconsistent and unclear.
Senator Dianne Feinstein
(D-Calif.) said the new rule is a mistake.
“The Reagan-era rules have stood
the test of time and make our national
parks safe for all who visit them,”
she said. “The Bush administration
changes will make our national parks more
dangerous and will upset the delicate
balance that exists between park visitors
Guns will still be prohibited
in federal buildings, such as visitor
centers and other buildings in national
parks. Guns are also banned at such national
park sites as the Statue of Liberty and
Hunting will still be illegal
within national park boundaries.
Cal Fire begins
In the last two years, during
Cal Fire’s transition to shared
foothills coverage with the Tulare County
Fire Department, there’s been some
confusion as to how local residents might
obtain a hazard- reduction burn permit.
With the annual closing on December 1
of Cal Fire’s Three Rivers station,
located adjacent to the Valley Oak Credit
Union, no Cal Fire personnel remained
on duty to dispense the invaluable paperwork.
Local residents who called
at the Tulare County Fire Station No.
14 on South Fork Drive were told to contact
Cal Fire headquarters in Visalia. On Wednesday,
Dec. 17, the Tulare District of Cal Fire
announced that they would be installing
a burn permit kiosk at their Three Rivers
station on Sierra Drive to remedy the
inconvenience and streamline the process
for local permits.
The new kiosk was made by
personnel from Mountain Home Camp and
placed into service on Thursday, Dec.
18, and it’s easier than using an
Here’s how the do-it-yourself
filing works. The applicant simply picks
up a copy of the document that contains
three copies. After filling in all the
applicable information, the permittee
completes the application process by depositing
two copies (one for Cal Fire and one for
the San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Control
District — SJVAQCD) at the kiosk
and keeping one copy for themselves with
instructions on how and when to burn.
Fire season officially ended
last month in the Tulare County region.
Cal Fire began issuing the burn permits
in Three Rivers on November 15.
There is no charge for the
burn permit. Chief Paul Marquez said the
Tulare unit kiosk program is modeled after
one being used Fresno County.
“It’s really easy to use and
saves a trip down to Cal Fire headquarters
in Visalia,” Chief Marquez said.
“The neat thing about the kiosks
is that the permits are available 24/7.”
The state agency issues 250
to 300 burn permits annually in the Three
Rivers district. But Chief Marquez cautioned
that the permits do not allow for the
burning of scrap lumber or trash, only
“A small warming fire is allowed,
especially during the recent cold weather,”
said Chief Marquez. “But we are
carefully monitoring the burning for air
quality impacts, and violators will be
A citation means a court
appearance and a conviction that could
bring a fine of $200 to $300, Marquez
For more information on the
burn permits or any other fire-related
questions, call Cal Fire fire prevention
Santa dropped off his paper
and plastics at Ramon’s Recycling
in Three Rivers. While doing so, he took
time out from his busy schedule to discuss
some important lifestyle changes he has
For instance, the reindeer
are no longer confined, but allowed to
graze freely on the North Pole plains.
The fur trim on his suit has been replaced
He also is attempting to
quit his pipe-smoking habit, not just
for his health, but to prevent the secondhand
smoke from harming the children he is
always around. And he and Mrs. Claus are
easing off of the eggnog and sugarplums
in an attempt to lose a few pounds.
And to get more exercise
plus save on gas mileage, Santa parks
his sleigh and walks to all the houses
in each neighborhood.
These stories and so
much more in the weekly print edition
of The Kaweah Commonwealth.