Deserts

WELCOME, DESERT DENIZENS!

Our deserts section covers the Anza Borrego Desert State Park and the communities of Borrego Springs, Ocotillo, Ocotillo Wells and Jacumba.


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POSSIBLE KUMEYAAY CREMATION SITE SPARKS NEW BID TO HALT BORDER WALL PROJECT

By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Photo:  Members of the Kumeyaay tribe danced at the beginning of the Women’s March rally in 2019. Photo by Chris Stone

November 27, 2020 (San Diego) - The surprise discovery of possible human remains at Kumeyaay cultural sites has sparked a new attempt to halt border wall construction — even with 14 of 15 miles of the bollards already done.


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SDG&E WARNS 2,700 CUSTOMERS OF POTENTIAL PUBLIC SAFETY POWER SHUTOFFS AFTER THANKSGIVING

East County News Service

Nov. 25, 2020  (San Diego’s East County)  – Stock up on coolers to keep your Thanksgiving leftovers chilled.  Due to a Red Flag Warning  issued by the National Weather Service and forecasted Santa Ana winds, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has notified approximately 2,700 customers in the communities of Alpine, Campo Reservation, Crestwood, Descanso, Julian, La Posta Reservation, Manzanita Reservation, Pala, Santa Ysabel, Santa Ysabel Reservation, Valley Center and Viejas Reservation, that it may have to turn off power to reduce wildfire risk beginning early Friday morning.      

 “The last thing we want to be telling any of our customers right now is that we may have to shut off power given the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and the ongoing COVID pandemic,” said SDG&E’s Chief Customer Officer Scott Crider. “Public Safety Power Shutoffs are a last resort to prevent wildfires, and our employees are dedicated to doing everything we can to minimize impacts should it come to that. We’re hoping Mother Nature cooperates, but in an abundance of caution we have reached out to our customers so they can be prepared.”

Several hundred SDG&E linemen, troubleshooters and support personnel will be working on Thanksgiving Day and through the holiday weekend to ensure that power can be restored as quickly and as safely as possible, should safety power shutoffs occur.


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JACUMBA HOT SPRINGS REACTS TO MASSIVE PROPOSED ENERGY PROJECT, ASKS FOR LOCALS TO SUBMIT CONCERNS IN WRITING BY DEC. 7

By Rebecca Person

November 23, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) --  Residents of quiet Jacumba Hot Springs, a longtime retreat destination for traveling nature lovers and health seekers worldwide, are raising their voices to object to a proposed solar farm directly adjacent to the town. At a meeting Nov. 11 in town, they gathered to learn more about the proposed project and weigh in on its impact on their lives.

Locals say the project, which would cover an area of 643 acres, 6 times the area of their town, will impact its economic base and atmosphere. It could destroy the town’s travel appeal on historic Old Highway 80 where tourists, bicycle, motorcycle and classic car clubs venture, hikers explore the scenic high desert known for its boulder formations, desert washes and native plants, oaks, sunsets and sunshine.  


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DRY WEATHER, FIRE DANGER RETURNS LATE THIS WEEK

By Miriam Raftery

November 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Dry weather is forecast this week, with fire weather conditions over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Temperatures will be at or slightly below normal with patchy dense fog tonight and gusty westerly winds Monday across mountain passes and in the deserts.  By late Thursday, moderate Santa Ana winds could bring gusts up to 50 miles per hour.


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SUPERVISORS APPROVE DARK SKIES PROTECTIONS FOR JULIAN AREA AND BORREGO SPRINGS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  Night sky in  Borrego Springs, by Dennis Mammana

November 18, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego Supervisors today voted to approve amendments to the county’s Light Pollution ordinance which will provide “Dark Sky Community” designation to both the Julian and Borrego Springs community planning areas.  The action aims to prevent light pollution, enhancing astronomy viewing and related tourism.

The action comes after the Julian Dark Sky Network asked Supervisors in 2018 to create a way for Julian to meet International Dark Sky Association recognition. Borrego Springs was the first California community to receive that designation in 2009.

"Our community is part of the 1% of the U.S. that can still see the Milky Way. Our distance from the urban glow of San Diego's skies and the surrounding mountains help with our sky quality, but preservation must be intentional," the Julian Dark Sky Network's website states.


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FIRST SNOWFALL OF SEASON BLANKETS MOUNTAIN AREAS, FREEZE FORECAST FOR HIGH DESERTS TONIGHT

East County News Service

Photo: Snow on Mount Laguna, by Dave Hogan

November 9, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Snow fell overnight on mountaintops in San Diego's inland region including Mount Laguna in East County, with more snow showers possible at higher elevations tonight.  On Mount Palomar, a new record low temperature of 25 degrees was recorded early this morning.

In the high desert areas such as Campo, below freezing temperatures as low as 29 degrees are forecast tonight.

Frost and freeze conditions could kill crops and sensitive vegetation, also potentially damaging unprotected plumbing, the National Weather Service warns.


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LIGHT RAIN POSSIBLE NEXT TWO DAYS, BUT HIGH WINDS AND FIRE DANGER BY TUESDAY

 
By Miriam Raftery
 
October 24, 2020 (San Diego) –  Measurable rainfall is possible Sunday and Monday, with drizzles Saturday night.  Up to a half inch could fall in mountain areas, though most areas of the county would receive only minimal precipitation in the range of 0.02 to 0.15 inches.
 
Tuesday is expected to be much drier with very low humidity and high fire danger. Moderate Santa Ana Winds are forecast to develop starting Monday, continuing Tuesday with north to northeast winds of 10-20 miles per hour and gusts up to 40 mph, blowing dust in desert areas.

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COVID RATES REMAIN LOW IN MOST REOPENED EAST COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Cajon Valley, first to reopen, has most cases.  Three other districts report cases; others lack transparency in disclosure.  

Update October 31:  The Cajon Valley Union School District has added a breakdown by schools of its COVID cases, which now number 15 students and 2 employees  (17 total) at 11 schools. 

By Miriam Raftery

October 21, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – How safe is it to send your child back to school amid a pandemic, or for teachers to provide instruction inside classrooms?

East County Magazine has checked out the websites of all districts in East County to determine how many cases have been reported at schools that have reopened thus far, and how transparent each district is in making this information easily available to parents, teachers and staff.

To date, the County Public Health Department has not reported any outbreaks (defined as 3 or more cases tied to a single location) at any East County elementary, middle, high school or community college district. However some school districts do have cases among both students and staff. It is unclear whether cases were contracted on campus, or how many others may have been exposed.

In some districts, information on schools with COVID cases are being publicly disclosed, but not in others. Asked about this discrepancy, County spokesman Michael Workman said, "A change in the order regarding schools is being discussed and may be in place soon. The state guidance referenced above covers school notification. It’s too early to say what our health order change may say."

Here are the results of ECM's investigation.


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PARKS CALIFORNIA VIRTUAL GUIDED TOURS GO BEHIND THE SCENES AT ANZA-BORREGO DESERT

Source: Parks California

October 13, 2020 (Anza-Borrego Desert) -- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park® encompasses some of the most diverse desert landscapes in the world – and now it will serve as the backdrop for a virtual California State Park adventure, ParkSpeak. On October 15, Parks California will connect community members across the state with a guided, behind-the-scenes tour of this state park to explore a rich archaeological heritage from the Kumeyaay and Cahuilla tribes. 


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FIERY FATALITY CRASH IN JACUMBA

East County News Service
 
October 12, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – The driver of a blue 2008 Toyota Camry died at the scene of a fiery single-vehicle crash shortly before 6 a.m.  The unidentified male driver lost control on I-8 west, just west of Carrizo Gorge Rod. The vehicle plunged down a rocky embankment, overturned and caught on fire. 
 
California Highway Patrol and fire personnel responded to the collision, but unfortunately the driver succumbed to his injuries on scene.  The Medical Examiner’s office was notified, responded and took possession of the deceased. 

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GEOGLYPHS OF THE DESERT AUTHOR TO SPEAK OCT. 8 AND 28

East County News Service

October 6, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Did you know that October is California Archaeology Month?  Consider marking the occasion by signing up for a talk by Anne Morgan, co-author of Geoglyphs of the Desert Southwest: Earthen Art as Viewed from Above. The mysterious and beautiful geoglyphs found in the desert southwest are one of the largest concentrations found outside of Peru’s Nazca Lines.


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MEDICAL EXAMINER RELEASES NAMES OF EAST COUNTY CRASH VICTIMS AND BODY FOUND ON HIKING TRAIL

East County News Service
 
Photo: Kiana Taylor's Facebook, SDSU Class of 2020, tossing her graduation hat in May 2020
 
September 17, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The County Medical Examiner has released the identities of victims who lost their lives in several East County accidents over the past two weeks including two lives lost in a fiery multi-vehicle crash near La Mesa, a pedestrian killed in El Cajon, a missing Lake Morena camper found dead in Hauser Valley, a Borrego pickup truck driver killed in a rollover crash, and a motorcyclist who died at the scene of a crash in rural Alpine.
 
Kiana Taylor, 22, of Poway died September 11, 2020 after a vehicle fire resulting from a collision on Sept. 9 that occurred at the intersection of 70th Street and El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego, on the border of La Mesa.  A vehicle entered the intersection and struck her vehicle, causing it to collide with other vehicles and catch fire. She was transported to UCSD Medical Center, where she died two days later of burns and abdominal blunt force injuries. 
 
Casey Diane Hargis, 22, of San Diego was a passenger in the same vehicle in the accident above when it was struck, pushed into other vehicles and burst into flames. After 911 was called, she was transported by paramedics to UCSD Medical Center and died the next day of vascular injuries from pelvic fractures.

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COMMUNITY CLEANUPS AND GREEN WASTE CHIPPING EVENTS IN POTRERO, JACUMBA AND CAMPO

By Miriam Raftery

September 17, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Community clean-up events are slated in three backcountry communities for residents to bring e-waste, furniture, box springs, appliances, mattress and other oversized trash (but no construction waste) from 8 a.m. until dumpsters are full. Chipping of green waste will also be available from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.  The events are scheduled for:

CAMPO:  Sept. 19 at Homemaker’s Thrift Shop, 987 Custer Rd.

JACUMBA: Oct. 17 at Jacumba Community Park, 44605 Old Highway 80

POTRERO: Nov. 21 at Potrero Community Park, 24800 Potrero Park Dr.


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BORREGO ART INSTITUTE CALLS FOR “FLORA AND FAUNA” ART FOR FALL SHOW

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Kathleen Raftery

September 13, 2020 (Borrego Springs)- - The Borrego Art Institute has issued a call for art with the theme “The Art of Flora and Fauna” celebrating plants and animals through art. Works selected will be shown at an art show Oct. 3-25.

An opening reception will be from 10-4 p.m. on Saturday, October 3, with an outside wine/water bar on the patio and a maximum of 25 people in the gallery at one time, due to COVID-19. Masks must be worn.

Works are accepted in the gallery Sept. 26-27 from 10:30 to 3 p.m.

For info and entry forms, contact gallery@borregoartinstitute.org.

All mediums are acceptable, with a limit of three pieces of art per artist. Work must be professionally finished; wall art must be ready for hanging using the institute’s hook and cable system. Pedestals are available for standing art. There is an entry fee of $10 per work for nonmembers; free for members.


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BORREGO RESIDENT KILLED IN ROLLOVER CRASH

By Miriam Raftery
 
September 4, 2020 (Borrego Springs) – A 52-year-old man from Borrego Springs died at the scene of a single-vehicle crash yesterday.  
 
The victim was driving a 2006 Ford F-150 pickup truck southbound on Borrego Springs Road north of State Route 78 around 4:11 p.m. when the vehicle crossed the center line and drifted across northbound lanes, then off the east edge of the road.  The pickup then struck a sign post and overturned.
 
“It is believed the driver was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision. Unfortunately, the driver succumbed to his injuries at the scene,” says Officer Travis Garrow with the California Highway Patrol.  

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SDG&E PLANNED OUTAGES IN TRIPLE-DIGIT HEAT AND STORMS MAY ENDANGER SAFETY OF RESIDENTS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: New power poles in Pine Valley are made of steel, not wood, for fire safety, as part of the upgrades that SDG&E has been installing across inland San Diego County.

Updated August 23, 2020 9:40 a.m. with responses from SDG&E.

August 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Amid a record-breaking heat wave with monsoonal thunderstorms, flash floods and lightning-sparked fires forecast as potential added hazards, SDG&E has announced plans to shut off power for hours during the heat of the day on Sunday and Monday across much of San Diego County.  

The outages are to upgrade wood poles to steel, among other equipment upgrades or maintenance planned.

The NWS has warned that the intense heat  this week can be life-threatening for those without air conditioning, yet the power outage will leave any residents who lack generators without access to safe, cool spaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic when many public, air-conditioned places are shut down.

Rural residents with electric well pumps will also be left without water for people or livestock to drink, as well as for fighting fires, as many rural residents equipped with tanks and hoses have done in past brush fires, unless they have invested in generators. Downed communications including internet and in some areas, phone service also leave residents unable to receive emergency alerts despite a high potential for emergencies during the extreme weather conditions.


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WILD WEATHER CONTINUES: THUNDERSTORMS, FLASH FLOODS AND HIGH HEAT

By Miriam Raftery

August 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County)  -- The monsoon season is here – with mountain thunderstorms expected each afternoon through Monday with brief heavy rain, small hail, lightning and strong erratic winds.  There is also a potential for flash flooding today and tomorrow across our inland region, as this map shows.

While thousands of lightning strikes across northern and central California have caused major wildfires,  Southern California has also had numerous lightning strikes, as the Earth Network image sent by the National Weather Service shows for Friday, Aug. 21:


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HEAT WAVE SMASHES RECORDS

By Miriam Raftery
 
August 20, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Triple digit temperatures are forecast yet again tomorrow across portions of San Diego’s inland region.  This week’s scorching heat wave has shattered some all-time records. On August 17, a temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit in Campo broke the old record of 103 set in 2001.  

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JACUMBA HIKERS GROUP BECOMES PART OF IMPERIAL VALLEY DESERT MUSEUM PROGRAMS

By Miriam Raftery

 
August 17, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – After multiple requests seeking new hiking leaders following the loss of several long-time leaders, the Jacumba Hikers group will now be administered by the Imperial Valley Desert Museum (IVDM).  The museum’s board voted on August 13 to accept the proposal.

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COOL ZONES OPEN ACROSS EAST COUNTY DUE TO HIGH HEAT

East County News Service

August 17, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Cool zones adapted to COVID-19 public health protections have been opened at eight county libraries across San Diego’s inland region during the current extreme heat conditions.  The locations are open from 12 noon to 5 p.m.Mondays through Friday (except the Borrego Springs location, which is also open weekends). 

Masks and social distancing are required by all visitors and staff.  Temperature checks are also required before entering a cool zone and time limits may be imposed due to limited capacity. No animals are permitted, except for service animals. Below is the full list of county cool zones:


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EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING

East County News Service

August 14, 2020 (San Diego's East County) -- The National Weather Service has issued an extreme heat warning in effect this weekend through Monday at 8 p.m. Dangerously hot conditions with temperatures from 98 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit are forecast across San Diego County’s mountains, valleys and desert areas as well as much of Riverside and San Bernadino counties.

Extreme heat will significantly increase the potential for heat related illnesses, particularly for those  working or participating in outdoor activities.

Follow these precautions:


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BRUSH FIRE ON HIGHWAY 94 IN JAMUL NEAR HONEY SPRINGS RD.

UPDATE AS OF 7:12 P.M.:  The forward rate of spread for the Hillside Fire has been stopped.  EB 94 at Rancho Jamul Dr. lanes blocked

East County Wildfire & Emergency Alerts

August 6, 2020 (Jamul) - Cal Fire San Diego is at the scene of a 2 acre vegetation fire in the area of Hwy 94 and Honey Springs Rd in Jamul.  Follow the #SpringsFire hashtag for more updates.  Highway 94 at Honey Springs Rd. lanes are blocked due to fire.  Please avoid area.

Cal Fire is also at the scene of a separate vegetation fire in the area of Hwy 94 and Hillside Dr in Jamul. Please avoid the area and follow the #HillsideFire hashtag for more updates.

Sign up for free East County Wildfire & Emergency Alerts at the top right side of our homepage, and you can also receive our free weekly e-newsletter with top local news. You can also follow EastCountyAlert on Twitter for brief text alerts on your mobile phone.


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PHOTO OF THE WEEK: NEOWISE COMET OVER EAST COUNTY

By Miriam Raftery

July 23, 2020 (Borrego Springs) -- Photographer Scott Burnham captured this amazing image of Comet Neowise over Borrego Palm Canyon from the edge of Borrego Springs on Friday evening, July 17.

The icy comet will make its closest approach to Earth tonight, and may be seen through July 25.

Once it’s gone, it won’t return for another 6,800 years. 


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TWO DEAD IN FIERY ROLLOVER ON I-8

By Miriam Raftery
 
July 10, 2020 (Jacumba)  -- A fiery vehicle rollover near the In-Ko-Pah brake check in Jacumba Hot Springs on Interstate 8 yesterday afternoon claimed the life of two patients and injured a third.
 
Cal Fire and the California Highway Patrol responded to the accidents.  First responders rescued two patients from the wreckage, both with major injuries. One was transported via air ambulance to a hospital Cal fire reports, but the other died at the scene, according to Cal Fire. A third victim was found dead in the vehicle.

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EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING ISSUED FOR DESERTS

East County News Service

 

July 9, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The National Weather Service has issued an extreme heat warning Saturday through Monday for San Diego County’s deserts, where temperatures of 115 to 120 degrees are expected.

 


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READER’S EDITORIAL: BORDER WALL IN JACUMBA WILDERNESS THREATENS GROUNDWATER FOR COMMUNITIES AND AN ENDANGERED SPECIES, THE CRUCIFIXION THORN

By Craig Deutsche

July 5, 2020 (Jacumba) - There have been a number of articles in large newspapers about the border wall and legal challenges. Most probably the story in California is only a detail in the big picture, although there might be several unique concerns here. One concern is that the Congressional designation of the Jacumba Wilderness in 1994 is very explicit and very restrictive in what is permitted within the boundaries.

More recently in 2019, the Department of Homeland Security waived seventeen federal environmental laws where border security was involved in Imperial County. These included the Wilderness Act of 1964, the National Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Waters Act, and the Antiquities Act of 1906. It is under this umbrella that the work proceeds. What is less clear, is whether it is possible to set aside state and county regulations that may otherwise apply.

The pipe shown in the photo runs five or six miles from several wells outside the Jacumba Wilderness Area to the construction area at the border. The pipe is 12 inches in diameter and is intended to provide water for concrete. [Aggregate for the concrete is visible in the second photo beside the equipment.] This water is drawn from a rather limited aquifer underlying several small communities in western Imperial County.


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RENEGADES, ROCK HOUSES, AND RESORTS: NEW BOOK CHRONICLES EAST COUNTY HISTORY

 

By Larry Johnson, President, Mountain Empire Historical Society

July 16, 2020 (San Diego's East County) -- Have you driven down scenic Highway 80 through its eastern stretch of San Diego County and noticed a lone chimney standing like a silent sentinel in a field, or a very old building that appears to date back to a previous era and wondered about their history?

If so, a new book written by historian and author Cherry Diefenbach called Renegades, Rock Houses and Resorts…the Stories of Jacumba Hot Spring and Surrounds may be just the ticket.

This nearly 500-page book provides a comprehensive history of the area using more than 1,200 photos, hundreds of old newspaper articles, and personal accounts from the descendants of early settlers. Many of the photographs have not been published elsewhere.

Finished after nearly five years of research, the book chronicles the colorful history of local mountain and desert comunities including Bankhead Springs, Boulder Park/Desert View Tower, Boulevard/Manzanita, Hipass/Tierra Del Sol, Jacumba Hot Springs, Live Oak Springs, Mountain Springs, and Oasis.

 

 

 


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PHOTOS OF THE MONTH: HORNED LIZARD, A FORMIDABLE FIGHTER

Debbie Ekhaml took these close-ups of a horned lizard (also known as a horned toad) in East County. 

Resembling a miniature dinosaur, the horned lizard has an impressive array of protective features ranging from camouflage to spiked horns to an ability to puff itself up and even squirt blood at an attacker.


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FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND FORECAST: FIRE WEATHER AND RIP CURRENTS

By Miriam Raftery

June 30, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The weather will be warming up over the Fourth of July weekend. But before you head to the beach, be aware that elevated surf is forecast to generate strong rip currents that will be hazardous to swimmers this weekend and next week.

On Sunday and Monday,  breezy winds, warmer conditions and low relative humidity will create elevated fire weather conditions, says meteorologist Casey Oswant with the National Weather Service. The conditions are “favorable for fast-moving grass fires,” Oswant cautions.


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