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March 11, 1999


Weird Weather

New $$ for seniors

Blast under investigation

Civil case dismissed

May I see some ID?

Counting on more time

Weird Weather

Precipitation ChartEl Niño's kissing cousin has certainly smacked the Pacific Northwest this winter.

La Niña, a tropical weather phenomenon that cools the Pacific Ocean instead of warming it like its counterpart of the previous year, has beckoned the rain to Humboldt County with a repeat performance from February 1998.

At 10.32 inches gathered for the month, the Eureka area received rainfall amounting to 218 percent of normal, National Weather Service meteorologist Nancy Dean reported.

The rainy month coincides with last February's El Niño-driven total at a whopping 13.95. December and January rainfall were near normal, but November saw a whopping 17.4 inches. La Niña years are known for their early winters.

All along the West Coast, the weather pattern that has climatologists salivating over data also brought substantial snowfall to the northern mountainous regions of the Sierra Nevada and Cascades and ignored the southern resorts. This is typical of a La Niña pattern, climatologist Kelly Redmond said from his office at the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno.

"I don't know what kind of wax you use on rocks," Redmond said of the southern skier's quandary. Even 10,000-foot peaks are feeling the pinch. "Taos (N.M.) is not having a great year," Redmond said.

Southern California's premier resort, Big Bear Mountain, has only an 18-inch base of snowpack, according to the Associated Press ski report.

In contrast, the northwest resorts have been blessed. Since Nov. 20, Mount Baker holds the coveted top snowpack mark with 307 inches. Since November, the mountain resort in the northern Washington Cascades has received a record 833 inches of snowfall spurring a dangerous avalanche hazard. Snowpack amounts usually reflect only half the snowfall tallies, weather officials say.

Closer to home, a 26-year record was broken at Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Ore., with more than 200 inches reported.

More than four feet blanketed the mountain the closest major resort for Redwood Coast skiers in just three days in mid February.

Resort officials calculated a 10 percent increase in business, as 25,500 skiers took to the slopes over the President's Day holiday. Skiers from as far south as San Diego north to Seattle, Wash., enjoyed Mother Nature's record wet year.

In the Seattle area in particular, some residents are crying enough is enough. Recent reports indicate the region has endured 90 days of rain since November, and it's not over yet.

The moisture that is giving skiers something to cheer about may give the valleys below the snowmelt something to worry about. The weather service predicts March will bring on more above-normal rainfall to Oregon and Washington, and warmer temperatures that may cause flooding.

In Humboldt County, the weather service suspects the rainfall will level out to its norm at around five inches. We'll see.

by Susan Wood

New $$ for seniors

A loan recently received by the Humboldt Senior Resource Center will help fund a new day health care facility for seniors and disabled people in the Eel River Valley area.

The loan, not to exceed $265,000 in a 10-year term, comes from a state program called HELP II, which assists small and rural health agencies.

The center plans to use the money to lease and remodel the former St. Joseph's convent on Newberg Road in Fortuna, transforming it into a facility that will serve 45 seniors and disabled people daily. Services will include adult day health care, advocacy for seniors, an Alzheimer's resource center, case management, hot lunches and activities.

Mary Beth Wolford, the center's executive director, said HSRC services should "continue, hopefully without interruption" while the remodeling is in progress. HSRC expects to move into its new home July 1.

State Sen. Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, said the facility will provide great benefit to the community. "It offers an alternative to long-term care for seniors and gives family members of both seniors and disabled people a respite."

The center, a nonprofit agency, has served Humboldt County for 25 years.

Blast under investigation

A counter-terrorist task force team is looking into the cause of an explosion that blew the door off a Mormon church study center in Arcata this week. No one was hurt in the blast.

As of press time Tuesday, Arcata police were treating the Monday night incident as a crime but have no suspects in custody, Sgt. Barry Johnson said, standing next to a strip of yellow tape officers used to rope off the scene.

Johnson and other officers took federal agents from the FBI and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms units on a tour Tuesday afternoon of the two-block area at B and 13th streets.

Pieces of wood, glass and metal from the building and possibly the device littered B Street in front of the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Institute of Religion, located on a route that's heavily traveled by Humboldt State University students. Some debris landed half a block away.

Apparently, the bomb blast isn't Arcata's first, Johnson pointed out. They tend to go off every "few years," he added.

Johnson couldn't comment on whether the incident constitutes a hate crime, what the bomb left on the front porch was made of, or how crude it was. "It was certainly effective (though)," the sergeant said.

Callers from miles away reported seeing a flash, and one Arcata officer thought the blast was a lightning strike, he said.

Close to the building, neighbors reported a huge boom that reverberated through the street.

Elena Richter, who lives across the street, thought something hit the house. "It knocked pictures off the wall," Richter said of the loud blast and simultaneous flash.

On the opposite corner of the structure, Bob MacMullin reported smelling sulpher after the blast. When the smoke that went up in plume had cleared, MacMullin noticed holes in the building's front-room walls.

Civil case dismissed

A Humboldt County judge last week threw out a $5 million lawsuit alleging county Child Welfare Services disregarded the plight of a young Eureka boy kept in a cage by his biological parents.

Judge J. Michael Brown's decision of the nationally publicized lawsuit filed on behalf of Tony V., now age 8 and living with adoptive parents, was based on a law removing public employees from civil liability.

"We certainly believe the decision was a proper one based on its legal grounds," said defense attorney Nancy Delaney, who represents the county.

Delaney commended Child Welfare Services workers for using their best judgment in handling the case and for sticking by the rules of confidentiality while others did not.

But plaintiff attorney Brad Floyd said he plans to use "additional" information as a basis for reversing the immunity rule. Once the previous order is filed, he'll file a new motion asking the judge to reconsider his ruling.

The lawsuit contends that CWS, while operating under the wing of the county Department of Social Services in 1995, failed in its duty to protect the boy from "profound developmental injuries and physical harm for eight months after learning he was exposed to habitual and severe abuse."

The case was the subject of the Journal cover story Feb. 4.

May I see some ID?

Citizens and businesses should be on the lookout for a telephone scam in which callers are making fake charge card buys over the telephone in Eureka and Arcata, the Eureka Police Department warned.

Apparently, the callers are using an active card that belongs to someone else to make the transactions, EPD reported.

"We're not sure how the card is getting out there," Eureka police Detective Lynne Soder-berg said, adding the cardholder may not even realize what's happening with the card.

Police are reminding store clerks to verify the credit card number with the cardholder, and citizens are advised to dispose of their credit card information by shredding or burning any papers with personal information on them.

"My experience has been that (the merchants) won't lose a sale (if they ask for identification). They gain the customer's trust," Soderberg said.

Counting on more time

The Clinton Administration's Northwest Forest Plan has hit a bit of a snag in its species survey, and the federal agencies under its umbrella need until Oct. 1 to get a more accurate picture of their lands' inhabitants.

Biologists and technicians require more time to identify 32 of the 80 small woodland species such as snails, slugs, mosses and fungi that haven't been fully accounted for yet, the U.S. Forest Service reported. None of the 32 species have been identified as endangered, the Forest Service added.

Until the fall benchmark, the federal agency in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the Pacific Northwest region has determined that ground-disturbing activities like timber sales and recreation development would not harm the environment on its federal lands where these projects lie, Forest Service spokesman Rex Holloway said from his Portland, Ore., office. Recreation development includes activities like trail building, which with the other new activities were halted last October until the environmental assessment was made.

Over the long-haul, the Forest Service will allow the public its say on the document relating to the Northwest Forest Plan in mid-May. Those who are interested in giving their input during the 90-day comment period are asked to call the U.S. Forest Service at 503-808-2490 to be placed on the mailing list.

The environmental impact statement should be available for comment at all Forest Service offices, Holloway said, or by writing to the U.S. Forest Service, Survey and Manage EIS Office, 333 SW 1st Ave., P.O. Box 3623, Portland, OR 97208.

The Northwest Forest Plan was devised upon President Clinton's visit to the western region in 1993 for a forestry conference. At the time, the Forest Service had no comparable plan for managing species on its federal lands.

BLM-Portland spokesman Chris Strebig indicated that about 20 percent of his agency's land is available for harvest.

Now the two federal agencies must survey for the species that live in areas designated for ground-disturbing projects, in particular within the old-growth regions, Six Rivers National Forest spokesman Bill Pidanick noted from his Eureka office.

Then again, the federal government knew that, once the Forest Plan was in place, "adjustments would need to be made along the way" to carry it out, Pidanick said.


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