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In the News - Friday, December 19, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

Wintry weather

in holiday forecast

   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 northeast.

  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 mountains.
   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 snow white.
   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.

  LOCAL CONDITIONS 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 Valley.
   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 normal.

  PRECIP TOTALS—  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 feet.

  CHRISTMASES PAST— 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 season.
   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 3.96 inches.
   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 season.

Weapons ban overturned

in national parks

   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 and wildlife.”
   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 Independence Hall.
   Hunting will still be illegal within national park boundaries.

Cal Fire begins

do-it-yourself burn permits

   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 ATM machine.
   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 natural vegetation.

  “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 cited.”
   A citation means a court appearance and a conviction that could bring a fine of $200 to $300, Marquez said.
   For more information on the burn permits or any other fire-related questions, call Cal Fire fire prevention at 732-5954.

Santa recycles

and other traditions

   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 made recently.
   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 by fleece.
   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.


THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
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