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In the News - Friday, December 28, 2012



Winter storms get names too

Euclid leaves behind plenty of snow

  The storm that blew through Kaweah Country on the Sunday and Monday before Christmas Eve brought rain and snow to the local mountains but caused considerably more impact when it reached the nation’s mid-section and the deep South. It was such a big deal it was dubbed “Euclid.”

  Following Hurricane Sandy, the Weather Channel announced that their weather personnel were naming winter storms, too. In a news release, a Weather Channel spokesperson said that naming storms helps raise awareness, makes storms easier to track, and encourages more viewers to comment on social media like Twitter and Facebook.

  The naming of summer tropical storms and hurricanes originated in the 1940s as a way to compare storms and quantify the damages. In recent years, it’s apparent that winter storms can be devastating and deadly, too.

  Look no farther than Euclid for a recent example. Six deaths have already been recorded in this week’s storminess including two avalanche deaths in the Lake Tahoe area.

  Dec. 25, 2012, will go down in history as the most active Christmas Day ever for tornadoes with 13 categorized twisters. Hardest hit was Mobile, Ala., and several towns in Mississippi.

Euclid dumped rain and lots of fresh snow in the nearby national parks. As of Thursday, Dec. 27, there was 40 inches of snow on the ground at Lodgepole; 29 inches in the Grant Grove area.

  On Wednesday, Dec. 26, the Generals Highway from Hospital Rock to Giant Forest was closed to the public to allow the snowplows to clear the roads. At Wuksachi, there’s plenty of snow for snowplay, skiing, and snowshoeing.

  “It’s absolutely gorgeous up here so come on up and enjoy the winter wonderland,” said Brandy Frederich, Wuksachi’s assistant general manager.

  But there won’t be time for snowplay for awhile for a couple of Wilsonia families. Two cabins in the historic community adjacent to Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Parks received major damage from falling trees, which also knocked out power and cell phone service.

  In Three Rivers, the two separate storms that ended during the night of December 26 dumped nearly three inches of rainfall. The season total is now 7.79 inches with more rainfall expected by Saturday.

  What a difference a year makes; last season on February 14, 2012, the local total was 7.73 inches. That’s less than the current season’s total, and there are still six more weeks to pad those statistics.


Fire consumes house, belongings on Christmas Eve


  There’s never a good time for a house fire but when it happens on Christmas Eve it can be even more devastating. On Monday, Dec. 24, at 7:59 p.m., Tulare County Fire Department personnel responded to a structure fire at 24803 Avenue 324 in Lemon Cove.

  When firefighters arrived on the scene, the structure was 50 percent engulfed and a part of the roof had already collapsed. After containing and dousing the house fire, investigators traced the origin of the blaze to an extension cord running under a floor mat.

  A fire prevention investigator said that fires during the holidays are not uncommon and usually are caused by one of three things: faulty electrical connections, Christmas trees that become extremely dry, or overworked chimneys that are compromised when temperatures plunge during a cold snap. 

  Christine and Laurabelle Burns, formerly of Three Rivers and the residents of the Lemon Cove house, were not home at the time of the blaze but everything they owned was lost including eight cats and two dogs. Christine’s parents, Manuel and Mary Andrade of Three Rivers, are coordinating relief efforts for them. Dry goods like blankets, linens, towels, and other household goods may be dropped off at the Andrade home in Three Rivers. Call 561-4692 for information and directions.

  Monetary donations in the name of Christine and/or Laurabelle Burns may be made to an account that has been established at Valley Oak Credit Union.



School safety a top priority

for local administrators


  In the wake of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, Dec. 14, administrators across America are assessing school safety.

  Drew Sorensen, superintendent of the Woodlake Unified School District, met with the district’s seven principals on Wednesday, Dec. 19, to discuss the issue. Prior to the meeting,   Drew asked each of the sites’ top administrators to take a critical look at current policies and examine the physical plant at each site.

  “There is good policy in place and signs are clearly posted at each site that all visitors must check in at the office,” Drew said. “When a visitor fails to do so, they immediately arouse suspicion and someone’s attention.”

  If a person is observed acting suspiciously, teachers and staff are expected to notify main office personnel who in turn may use the public address system to relay warnings or order a lockdown. Several lockdowns have been necessary recently but all turned out to be precautionary.

  “We have a unique situation here in Woodlake because of the close proximity of five of our school sites on one street,” Drew said. “If one campus orders a lockdown, chances are all of the other nearby sites will, too.”

  Drew said that if a situation at a residence or a business in town warrants an ongoing police action, that incident might also call for a lockdown at all or some of the nearby schools.

  “In Woodlake, the district shares the cost with the city of one full-time police officer who is assigned to patrol all of the school sites,” Drew said.

  Drew said the issue remains that there are multiple entrances and exits. Security cameras and screening devices are not currently in place, Drew said, but they are measures that his principals and the board of trustees will consider in the future.

  One three-school suburban Chicago school district spent $175,000 the past two years beefing up their site security. Each school has a camera-equipped doorbell where a visitor must present identification that is scanned before that person can gain entry.

  “It’s a great system,” said one school administrator. “And the visitor’s demeanor can also be observed before they are buzzed to enter.”

  After gaining entrance to a vestibule area, the visitor waits momentarily while the results come back of the ID check. If no priors or pending charges come back on the person, they are admitted.

  In addition to these measures, each of the classroom doors open inwards and can be locked from the inside. There are also cameras to monitor campus activity and barriers in the parking lots to prevent vehicles from crashing into the schools’ buildings.

  At Three Rivers Union School, yard duty teachers are equipped with two-way radios and each classroom has a telephone. Strategically placed security cameras could improve campus security, one parent said, where barriers and fencing are not practical.

  “We’re an open campus so it would be difficult for us to close everybody out,” said Sue Sherwood, TRUS superintendent. “There are improvements we can make in our safety plan, and the board will be considering those at the next meeting. The safety of our students is our top priority.”

  On Thursday, Dec. 20, a teacher at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia notified his principal of a threatening Facebook post. Visalia police were able to identify a 14-year-old Woodlake male and arrest him for allegedly making terrorist threats again a student who attended the Visalia school. The incident was reportedly gang-related.


Take the plunge

on New Year’s Day


  Every New Year’s Day since 2002, hardy Three Rivers souls have congregated at river’s edge below The Gateway Restaurant to ring out the old and ring in the new with an icy dip in the Kaweah River.

  The annual “Polar Dip” was first organized by Marcos Guzman, a former Three Rivers resident who with his wife owned Whitewater Contemporary Art and Crafts (in the present-day Sequoia Outdoor Sports building). At the first Polar Dip, held January 1, 2002, Marcos was one of just four people who took the chilly plunge.

  In 2003, there were 10 people in attendance. And in 2004 the number grew to 18.

  That year, a photo taken by The Fresno Bee of the participants hit the AP news wire and was broadcast worldwide, landing in several newspapers and bringing notoriety to the event.

  These days, The Gateway Restaurant organizes and sponsors the event. The Polar Dip is free and open to all who want to participate. The Gateway also opens its deck to the public for viewing.

  On Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, the 12th annual Polar Dip will commence at noon.


Representing TRUS


(Photo caption) At the Wednesday, Dec. 19, regular meeting of the board of trustees at Three Rivers Union School, one new director, Jason Hawes (standing left), and an incumbent director, Valerie Abanathie (standing, right) took the oath of office for a four-year term ending 2016. Seated with Sue Sherwood, superintendent/principal/seventh-eighth-grade teacher (second from left), is the rest of the board (from left to right), Sue Winters, Scott Sherwood, and George Kulick.


Cyber champs

(Photo caption) Two championship Cyberquest teams from TRUS reenacted their presentations for the TRUS board at its December meeting. Cyberquest is a technological competition organized each November by the Tulare County Department of Education. Receiving a first-place trophy at the event was the TRUS seventh-grade team of Katie Pfaff, Mikayla Larsen, and Shelby Parker. They were coached by Barbara Merline, retired TRUS technology specialist, and their teacher, Sue Sherwood. The fourth-grade team consisted of Mitchell Parker and Sayem Hossain. They were coached by Isaac Warner (teacher) and Barbara Merline and were awarded third place.





Sequoia-Kings Canyon won’t be changing

President Tree’s number-three designation


  Editor’s note: The cover story in the December 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine prompted the following response by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks officials. In the article, a team of tree-climbing scientists were followed as they performed research on giant sequoias last February. As a result of this research, they dropped a bombshell: the number-three-ranked President Tree is larger than the General Grant Tree (number two).

  The local Park Service disputes these findings, but will add an asterisk to the President Tree’s listing.


By Dana Dierkes


  Which giant sequoia is the world’s second-largest tree? Recent research done by Steve Sillett of Humboldt State University and his colleagues suggests that the President Tree in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park in California is the world’s second-largest giant sequoia tree.

  But the National Park Service lists it as the third-largest giant sequoia tree. Why the difference?

  According to Nate Stephenson, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who has studied giant sequoias for over 30 years at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks:  

  Because branch volume is quite difficult to measure accurately, size rankings for the biggest sequoias usually have been based upon trunk volume only. By trunk volume, the General Grant Tree is second largest and the President Tree is the third largest.

  If you include branches, the order switches. But, no matter which measure of size you choose, both trees are awe-inspiring!

  Previously, the President Tree and many other giant sequoia trees were measured by Wendell D. Flint, as published in his book, To Find the Biggest Tree (2002). Because living sequoias add new growth each year but can also suffer losses due to breakage, tree dimensions change constantly.

  Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks continues to maintain its list of the 30 largest giant sequoias by trunk volume only. On this list, the President Tree is ranked the third-largest giant sequoia, with a note that if branches are included it is the second largest.

  Dana Dierkes is the public information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.


Wood ‘N’ Horse concludes 2012 show year


  The Wood ‘N’ Horse show team has finished its competition lineup for 2012. Not all the team members finished the year and several opted out altogether because of the economy.

  But owner and trainer Christy Wood and her show horse, Blue Suede Dude, better known as Dude, qualified for an invitation to show at the World Championship Appaloosa Show in Fort Worth, Texas, which took place from October 26 through November 4.

  “Dude didn’t really have to go this year because he just finished earning the points he needed to earn the title of Supreme Champion, the highest award in the show horse industry for his breed,” explained Christy. “But Dude is a talented horse and loves to perform, so we once again headed to Texas.”

  At the event, Christy showed Dude in seven classes, placing in the top five or higher in all of them and winning Reserve World champion in Preliminary Jumpers and Ladies’ Heritage. The team placed third in the Windermere Hunter class, winning $250 worth of products, a check, and a silver bracelet.

  Horse and Rider magazine has recently contacted Christy for an interview and an article will soon be published on Dude’s Supreme Champion award.

  “This is the third Supreme Champion that I have trained from my Three Rivers barn,” said Christy.

  In other Wood ‘N’ Horse news, for the past two New Year’s Days (2010 and 2011),   Christy rode with the Calizona Appaloosa Horse Club in the Rose Parade, where the group dressed themselves and their horses in authentic Nez Perce garb. Christy reported that the club won’t be riding in the 2013 Rose Parade but plans to return in 2014.

  The Wood ‘N’ Horse Training Stables are located on North Fork Drive in Three Rivers. To take advantage of Christy’s training talents, register for the upcoming “Horse Camp for  Beginners” next week from Wednesday, Jan. 2, to Saturday, Jan. 5, from 10 a.m. till noon each day.

  This camp is appropriate for all ages. Call Christy at 561-4268 for information or to register.


Blood bank seeks donors


  The Central California Blood Center is asking all blood donors to give immediately at any donor center. Although all blood types are needed, the Center especially needs type O-negative.

  There are blood centers located in Visalia, Porterville, and Fresno. Most are open Monday through Saturday. The Visalia center is located at 1515 S. Mooney Blvd.




Ralph Chapman

1914 ~ 2012

  Ralph Milton Chapman died Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 in Dyersburg, Tenn. He was 98.

  Ralph was born November 19, 1914, in Calipatria, Calif., and spent most of his life in California. He lived in Lindcove for many years. He was pastor of Lindcove Community Bible Church and owner of Woodlake Insurance Agency.

  Ralph is survived by his wife, Nellie, of Dyersburg; his two sons, Ralph Chapman and wife Cecilia of Woodlake and Willis Chapman and wife Melodee of Dyersburg; three daughters, Ideal Curtis and husband Les of Chester, Calif., Sharon Corkery of Ventura, and Saundra Murphy of Ventura; 15 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

  Services were held in Dyersburg, but interment will be at Woodlake Cemetery.

  The family requests that remembrances be made in Ralph’s name to Visalia Rescue Mission, P.O. Box 109, Visalia, CA  93279.



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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