The Latest: Storm brings heavy snow to California mountains

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on California storms (all times local):6:50 a.m.A major winter storm is moving across Northern California, bringing heavy snow and strong winds to the Sierra Nevada and steady rain through the region that is disrupting the morning commute.The California Highway Patrol says dozens of collisions have been reported Thursday morning on San Francisco Bay Area highways and reminds motorists to slow down.Officials in Southern California recommended people evacuate homes in and around Montecito, where 21 people died in a massive mudslide in January.In the Sierra, officials warn people to stay off mountain roads.Forecasters say the cold front will bring snow to the foothill areas of the Sierra as low as 3,500 feet (1,066 meters) before moving south. The U.S. Forest Service has issued an avalanche watch for the Sierra backcountry around Lake Tahoe.———12:00 a.m.Motorists are warned to stay off Northern California mountain roads as a major winter storm is expected to bring heavy snowfall and powerful winds Thursday.Meanwhile predictions of widespread showers across the southern end of the state early Friday are raising concern about flash flooding near wildfire burn scars.Several feet of snow are expected in the Sierra Nevada, where a blizzard warning is in effect. The National Weather Service tweeted simply: "Travel is highly discouraged."To the south, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said Wednesday that it was too early to tell if the system will bring enough rain to potentially trigger mudslides. He says evacuations are recommended in and around Montecito, where 21 people died in a massive mudslide in January. Continue Reading

In basketball or life, race is always part of the game in Storm Lake

STORM LAKE, Ia. — Storm Lake has gotten used to this. These kids haven’t had much choice. In recent decades, this town of 10,800 has become immersed in racial and cultural diversity. Initially, it was because of an influx of Hispanic meatpacking workers whose families put down roots.So now, multiple generations here are familiar with their role as Exhibit A in, “Whoa, this isn’t the bib overalls-and-Jell-O salad Iowa I’ve seen on the postcards.” If Storm Lake students — now speaking 24 languages from around the globe — aren’t being pilloried with racist taunts, they’re being held up as paragons of diversity and studied like strange creatures, as if they magically appeared out of the mist in the middle of lily-white farm country and the home turf of immigration hardliner Rep. Steve King. Good or bad, this school system and town get scrutinized based on race. Constantly. Just ask Carl Turner, the superintendent who spent much of the last week wrangling with the aftermath of what has become an infamous basketball game between his varsity boys and a rival team from Spencer. You might have heard the broad outlines of this gymnasium drama that made headlines from here to Haiti.Part of the context is the stark demographic difference between the schools: Storm Lake’s student body is 84 percent non-white, an outlier in the Lakes Conference. Spencer is the opposite: 88 percent white. The Jan. 19 game at Spencer included a gaggle of home-team fans who dressed in red, white and blue for an unofficial, student-led “USA” theme night.​​​​​​Some dispute that there were any “racist chants” from the Spencer students. I wasn't there to evaluate whether the "USA" theme represented aw-shucks patriotism or a racial jab.But based on my interviews with those who attended, there seems to be some consensus that, Continue Reading

Joining relief efforts to aid storm-hit Haiti

Haiti is no stranger to tragedy, but being ravaged by four consecutive major storms in a month is more than the long-suffering Caribbean country - or any country for that matter - can or should withstand. "It is as if Katrina had pounded the whole U.S.," said Jane Franklin, a New York writer, talking about the two Category 4 hurricanes that devastated Cuba. She could've been referring to Haiti. Haitians in New York, who number about 300,000, immediately mobilized to help. "For me this tragedy is very overwhelming," said a distressed Ninaj Raoul, founder and executive director of the Brooklyn-based Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees (HWHR). "The community here in New York is overwhelmed too. I mean, four storms in a row in a country that was already suffering from a food crisis? It's just too much." HWHR joined forces with Lakou New York, another group with a solid tradition of helping their community in New York and the people of Haiti in times of crisis. They had worked together before on projects such as flood disaster relief for Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 2004. This time their task is a titanic one. Since the middle of August, Hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike battered Haiti, leaving a trail of destruction and more than 1,000 people dead. And, as Raoul noted, this year's hurricane season is not over yet. "As in 2004, Gonaives became a muddy lake that trapped more than 250,000 people in a deathly grip," wrote Jocelyn McCalla, a Haitian-American community leader in New York. "Other areas to the south and north of the historic anchor - Gonaives is the city where Haiti was formally born as an independent nation - suffered greatly as well." The once-fertile Artibonite valley was devastated and crops ruined when a huge hydroelectric dam broke. "The danger of epidemics is a big one," Raoul said. "We want to start a water purification effort in the Mapou region." Never having fully recovered from the hurricanes of 2004, the Continue Reading

Lions Club won’t give up on algae problem in Fountain City Lake

In response to the article in the Sept. 25 edition of the News Sentinel regarding the maintenance of Fountain City Lake, we, the members of the Fountain City Lions Club, feel that certain issues need further explanation. The Fountain City Lions Club took responsibility for maintenance of the park and lake in the early 1950s. There were few problems in those early years that the club could not resolve. The trees in the park, although mostly mature, were healthy and posed little threat to the park or its visitors. There was no pavilion, fitness walk or lighting in the park. The playground area consisted of a swing set, a couple of see-saws, climbing bars and two steel slides. The lake had no picnic shelters, concrete walkways, state-of-the-art pump, timers or lighting for the fountain. The weir was a simple gate lifted and lowered by a windlass. Algae may have existed, but was very manageable. The waterfowl consisted of a few domestic white ducks.Today, there are numerous young trees, a fitness walk, a pavilion, more picnic shelters, a children's playground with modern equipment, benches and swings throughout the park, good lighting and more landscaping. The club, the city and many volunteers have worked hard to bring about these improvements.Beginning in the early 1980s, things began to change. The park became more and more popular, and the number of visitors increased. Local day cares began taking their charges to the park in small groups and in busloads. The once-healthy trees were showing signs of old age, with dying limbs, the need for topping, etc. Some began to fall during high winds and storms. Vandalism was on the rise, and many of the shelters, tables, benches and other structures were in need of refurbishment or replacement. Runoff increased because of more and more paved surfaces, and pollutants, including fertilizers, began to change the character of the lake."Easter" ducks began to appear in larger numbers, Continue Reading

Lake Okeechobee levels lower, but releases continue

The surface of Lake Okeechobee has fallen below 17 feet for the first time since the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, but it's not known when releases to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers will slow. "Certainly it’s something we’re exploring right now, but one of the things that has us uneasy about slowing things down is the tropical disturbance in the Caribbean that has some potential to bring rain to south Florida," said John Campbell, with the Army Corps of Engineers in Jacksonville. "But if we don’t see significant rain we’ll take a look at some forecasts and we'll see."The National Hurricane Center has given the tropical disturbance a 50 percent chance of growing into a named storm over the next five days. It's now just east of Central America and is expected to move into the Gulf of Mexico by the weekend.The Caloosahatchee and its estuary were blasted with the highest flows ever recorded in the immediate days after Hurricane Irma, which dumped about a foot, on average, across the region. Army Corps protocols say the surface of the lake should be kept between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level to protect tens of thousands of people living south of Okeechobee and massive farm lands there while also providing drinking water to millions of Floridians and irrigation water to the farms.  More: Gov. Scott proposes $1.7 billion in environmental projects for Florida About 6,800 cubic feet per second (around 4.4 billion gallons per day) was coming out of the lake Tuesday, with about 9,000 cubic feet per second pushing through Franklin Lock and Dam. The difference between the two represents the eastern segment of the river and stormwater flows there. The Corps released 144 billion gallons between Sept. 19 (the first day of releases after Irma) and Oct. 23., with about 133 billion gallons coming from the river's watershed. Together the lake and river pushed releases to record Continue Reading

Devo: One day after striking out five times, Pittsford’s Grant Heyman went 5-for-5

Maybe it's because Ron Shelton, the former Rochester Red Wings player who wrote the movie classic "Bull Durham," was just here last week, but Crash Davis was the first thing I thought of when I heard that Pittsford native Grant Heyman earned the distinction of being the first player in baseball history to strikeout five times and then record five hits in the next game.Kind of a dubious record, right?Heyman, 23, who plays for the Visalia Rawhide, the Class A affiliate of the Arizona Diamonds, tweeted on Monday about his odd claim to fame. Davis, of course, was the fictional slugger portrayed by Kevin Costner in "Bull Durham." Never quite good enough to stick in the big leagues, Davis hit more home runs than any other player in minor-league history, but it was a factual nugget he wasn't proud of, so his girl, Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) told no one about it. This happens in the last few minutes of the movie and if my memory serves me correctly, Davis hit that dinger while playing for Visalia, the California club which he signed with to finish out the season after being released from the Durham Bulls.A left fielder who is 6-feet-4, 222 pounds, Heyman is batting .250 for the Rawhide. As an eighth-round draft pick, he's trying to beat the odds. This is his fourth season in pro ball.His five-hit game came on Sunday in a 12-2 win over the Lake Elsinore Storm. His five-K night happened on Saturday but it actually ended with a single in his last at-bat so he went 1-for-6. He followed up Sunday's big day, which included three RBI, by going 2-for-4 with two RBI. Think about it, though, the highs and lows as an athlete and even as a hitter in baseball. Heyman showed a lot of resilience going from am embarrassing night to a brilliant one. Continue Reading

Flight chaos, cancellations persist at Delta days after storms

LATEST UPDATE: Delta meltdown: Delays drag into Sunday, but are improvingORIGINAL STORY: Delta Air Lines was still working Saturday to get its flights back on schedule after a round of Atlanta thunderstorms threw a wrench into its system four days ago.The airline had canceled more than 285 flights as of 12:15 p.m. ET, representing about 10% of the carrier’s daily schedule, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. Adding to the woes for Delta passengers, another 625 flights were delayed -- affecting about a quarter of the carrier's flights nationwide. Fliers at Atlanta's Delta hub faced "extremely long lines" throughout the airport Saturday morning, reported WXIA TV of Atlanta.FLIGHT TRACKER: Is your flight on time? All that comes after severe weather created major disruptions Wednesday in Atlanta, the world’s busiest airport that’s also home to Delta’s top hub. Delta, which prides itself on being the most punctual and reliable of the USA’s “big four” airlines, has not been able to get back on track since.Poor weather in the Northeast added to the problems later in the week, but Delta’s recovery from the Wednesday storms has been slow. Overall, Delta has canceled more than 3,000 flights since Wednesday, apologizing to customers as it has struggled to get many of them to their final destinations this week.The Atlanta Journal-Constitution takes an interesting and in-depth look at how "one day of thunderstorms in Atlanta caused a meltdown of Delta Air Lines’ flight operations this week." The newspaper's Kelly Yamanouchi notes an unusually long five-hour ground-stop Wednesday by the Federal Aviation Administration played a role, but adds the airline was nonetheless "caught flat-footed and (was) still struggling to recover" days later.Indeed, the scope of the disruption to Delta’s network that began with the Wednesday storms has been surprisingly large. It marks the Continue Reading


A DIP OF the fingertips into the water's edge at Coney Island yesterday morning registered the last lingering warmth of summer, the few degrees' difference between the temperatures of sea and air that was expected to result in the first big storm of the winter. The sky overhead still had a hint of blue, but there was a solid band of gray at the horizon. The sea was a relatively warm 40 degrees, and its moisture was even then rising to meet the subfreezing air whose sweep down from the north was indicated by the American flag that rippled over the Boardwalk. The flag was at half-staff in honor of Police Officer Eric Hernandez, who died after being set upon by a gang of thugs and then shot by a fellow officer in a heartbreaking instance of mistaken identity. The rope suspending the flag slapped audibly against the hollow metal flagpole as the ankle-high waves slapped onto the sand. Then a screeching came from the elevated tracks of the Stillwell Ave. subway station. This sound signaled a small blessing related to the approaching storm. It was the sound of a subway system whose every train was running on the weekend just as they do during the week. When pondered alongside the death of a wonderful young cop and all the unheralded tragedies that burden this city, the question of whether a few trains are running seems almost too trivial to consider. But in the continuance of life, even a small blessing is a blessing nonetheless. This particular one had a woman standing before the station's token booth marveling that the F train was actually stopping at every stop. "All day?" she asked. "All day," the token clerk said. The woman turned away with a smile flashing between the knit cap and woolen scarf she had donned against the deepening chill. Yours truly stepped up to the booth and inquired about the Q train, which had not been scheduled to run between Stillwell Ave. and Kings Highway throughout the weekend. "It's working fine right now," the clerk said. Continue Reading

AFTER THE STORM. Superdome rises from the ahes as New Orleans rebuilds

NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane practice field off Ben Weiner Drive was covered by 3 1/2 feet of standing floodwater for more than three weeks last September, and the first floor of the James Wilson Jr. athletic complex was submerged. Hurricane Katrina was here, destroying the weight room, the locker room, the academic services area and almost every piece of equipment in the athletic department when it hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29 and transformed the members of the school's football team into orphans in the storm. Barely six hours before the storm pounded the area, the team evacuated to Jackson, Miss., each player carrying a bag packed with two pairs of shirts and shorts, an extra pair of shoes and a toothbrush. They figured they'd be back within a couple of days. They came back three months later. The Green Wave eventually washed up in Dallas for 10 days as guests of SMU, then spent the rest of the fall semester attending classes at Louisiana Tech in upstate Reston. The team depended on the kindness of strangers for donated clothing and toiletries and played 11 games at 11 stadiums on 11 consecutive Saturdays. "If this doesn't work out, maybe I'll look into becoming a stadium designer," head coach Chris Scelfo said then, laughing so he didn't have to cry. Now, the Green Wave is back home, trying to rebuild from a 2-9 season in a city that is still suffering from the worst natural disaster in this country's history. Life will never be the same for Scelfo or his players, who began drills Friday morning. "I've talked to a lot people about becoming a man and this kinda finished me off," defensive tackle Mike Purcell says. "I know now I only need a place to sleep. It changed my whole perspective on life. " When the players returned to survey the Garden District campus to check on their belongings before a mid-September road trip to Shreveport, they found a lake where the practice field had been. "I think you could've kayaked in it," Purcell says. When they Continue Reading

Tropical Storm Bill moves slowly through Texas, bringing another round of heavy rainfall to weary state

DALLAS — Tropical Storm Bill moved slowly over inland Texas on Tuesday, bringing another round of heavy rain to a state weary from recent deadly floods, evacuations and washed-out roads. The storm came ashore shortly before noon along Matagorda Island with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph before starting to weaken Tuesday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Typically tropical storms gather power from the warm waters of the ocean and weaken over land, but meteorologist Victor Murphy of the National Weather Service in Fort Worth said it was plausible this one could regain strength. The Texas soil remains saturated from last month's historic rainfall, meaning the phenomenon scientists call the "brown ocean" effect is "still on the table," Murphy said. Personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency who were sent to Texas and Oklahoma after severe flooding over Memorial Day weekend will remain in the region to help prepare for Tropical Storm Bill and help clean up in its aftermath, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "I'm not afraid; we've had so many storms," said Maria Cedillo, who stopped by fishing boats docked in Corpus Christi on Tuesday to buy crabs. "When there's a big one coming we move out. But this isn't one of them." According to projections by the National Weather Service, average rainfall through noon Wednesday for portions of Texas will be 3 to 6 inches, but some isolated areas could see up to 12 inches. Arkansas and Oklahoma could get up to 9 inches of rain in the coming days, and Missouri could get more than 7. After last month's historic rains and floods, the forecast was expected to complicate ongoing flood-containment efforts. Major flooding could occur along the Trinity River as it extends through East Texas, according to the weather service, with one portion northeast of Houston nearly 4 feet above flood stage Tuesday. The Guadalupe River north of Corpus Christi also is swollen as it Continue Reading