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December 31, 1998


Freezing temps; highway fatalities

Former sheriff jailed; Catch-22?

Former CR president dies

New stop sign on Murray

Freezing temps; highway fatalities

The tail end of 1998 delivered Humboldt County's strongest arctic temperatures of the decade. Even though the life span of the cold snap was a mere six days, it wrecked havoc on the highways and its effects lingered on in the form of burst pipes and frozen plants.

The temperatures began dropping around midnight Dec. 20, breaking the record set on that day 1968. An icy stretch of Highway 101 was temporarily closed from Alton to Willits following a string of 15 serious accidents within a 12-hour period. Two crashes claimed four lives within 30 minutes of each other.

"In my eight years here, I've never seen the highway like this," said Cecil Smith, of the California Highway Patrol office in Garberville, according to a report in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. "The ice seemed to develop all at once in so many places."

Although the highway was reopened the next day, the cold snap persisted.

"The temperature continued to drop in the evenings and the days didn't warm up much at all," said Janet Trimbur, a meteorlogical technician for the National Weather Service in Eureka.

"We tied a record from 1990 on Dec. 21 and bottomed out that evening with 23 degrees."

By Christmas Day, "the low was 41 degrees and that was the end of it. The cloud cover and the rain kept the temperature up," Timbur said.

"The forecast has returned to its normal pattern of 54 degrees for the highs and 41 degrees for the lows."

Former sheriff jailed; Catch-22?

In what may be a catch-22, former Sheriff Dave Renner is behind bars this week in the very same jail he supervised from 1982-94.

Renner, who pleaded guilty in June to six counts of submitting false claims to a public official, can't work due to a medical condition. If he's not working, he's not eligible for Lassen County's electronic monitoring while on probation. If he's not on an electronic monitoring program, he has to serve his time in jail.

"There was no probation violation," said Public Defender Jim Steinberg, Renner's attorney. "From my perspective, he was upholding the conditions of his probation."

Renner had been teaching prison inmates in High Desert State Prison in Susanville in Lassen County prior to and for several months after he was convicted of the felonies. However Steinberg said Renner reportedly has a high blood pressure condition and was ordered by his physician not to work.

He had been off work for the last five weeks wearing his monitoring device at his home in Plumas County when he was arrested Dec. 23.

To complicate matters, Steinberg said he just learned this week that the warden at High Desert State Prison now says Renner cannot work there wearing the device.

"(Renner) had continued to work for months after his conviction of the felonies" while wearing the device, Steinberg said. The warden apparently had no policy of convicted felons being employed, just those who wear monitoring devices.

"It was news to Dave," Steinberg said.

Renner did not appear at the hearing Monday.

In a plea bargain in June, 18 counts of embezzlement, grand theft and destroying public documents were dismissed in return for Renner's guilty plea. The charges followed a grand jury investigation of the disappearance of about $60,000 from a discretionary fund under the supervision of the sheriff.

Former CR president dies

Former College of the Redwoods President Dr. Donald Weichert, 67, died Dec. 19 in Mount Shasta, Calif.

According to a family member, Weichert died of unknown causes, possibly a heart attack. A private service was held Dec. 23 in the Sacramento area.

CR President Emeritus Weichert served as president/superintendent of the Redwoods Community College District for 15 years from 1972 to 1987, when he retired.

"(Dr. Weichert) had a clear understanding of the mission of the college, including a strong commitment to vocational education," said Mike Wells, CR administration of justice instructor. "He was instrumental in the development of the campus and the establishment of the many outstanding programs in existence today."

Many programs and buildings were completed during Weichert's 15 years as president/superintendent including CR Community Stadium in 1973, the Creative Arts Building in 1974, the Health Occupations and Vocational-Technical Building in 1976 and the Administration of Justice Building in 1977.

New stop sign on Murray

The Humboldt Area California Highway Patrol is calling the public's attention to the recent installation of a stop sign in McKinleyville.

The intersection at Murray Road and McKinleyville Avenue adjacent to McKinleyville High School is now controlled by a four-way stop.

"It appears that many people are not aware that the sign has been installed and there have been several close calls because of motorists failing to stop," according to Public Affairs Officer Jim Van Horne.

The sign was installed on Dec. 22 as a permanent change and Van Horne wants to remind motorists that traffic laws at the intersection will be enforced. Prior to this new addition, McKinleyville Avenue traffic was controlled by stop signs and Murray Road traffic was uncontrolled.

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