Deserts

STORMS TO IMPACT REGION

East County News Service
 
April 5, 2020 (San Diego) – Two storms are forecast to hit our region this week, bringing rain, gusty wind, mountain snow and possible thunderstorms Sunday through Friday, the National Weather Service predicts.
 
The heaviest rain from the first storm is expected Monday and Tuesday, with snow levels dipping as low as 5,000 feet. No impacts on interstate freeways such as 8 or 15 are expected, however. 

MISSING WOMAN WITH DEMENTIA,86, LAST SEEN IN MIRAMAR, TRYING TO GET TO PALM SPRINGS

 

Update: Barbara "Betty" Wells has been found safe in Cathedral City in Riverside County.

By Miriam Raftery

April 5, 2020 (San Diego) – The Sheriff seeks public help to find Barbara “Betty” Welt, 86, reported missing yesterday by her daughter. She has dementia and speaks with a German accent. She was last seen yesterday getting off a bus in Miramar in a blue sweatshirt, maroon pants, black shoes and carrying a black purse. She was asking for directions to Palm Springs and may be trying to get a ride to her former home there.  

After going missing from her daughter’s home in Rancho Santa Fe, she got a ride to the Escondido Transit station before taking the bus to Miramar yesterday morning. She is 5 feet 4 inches tall, weights about 150 pounds, has hazel eyes and white hair.

VIRTUAL DESERT WILDFLOWERS TOUR

East County News Service

April 4, 2020 (Borrego Springs) -- The COVID-19 stay-home order and parking lot closures at all state parks has prevented many San Diegans from traveling to see desert wildflowers. Fortunately, the Anza-Borrego Foundation has put up a video tour of this year's blossoms, with this note:  "Since so  many of you cannot visit Anza-Borrego right now, we wanted to bring our spring bloom to you. Enjoy!

Take the virtual wildflowers tour here:  https://www.facebook.com/AnzaBorregoFoundation/videos/1112381709122228/

4.9 QUAKE NEAR ANZA ROCKS SAN DIEGO REGION

By Miriam Raftery

April 3, 2020 (San Diego's East County) --  A quake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale occurred this evening at 6:53 p.m. near Anza, at the boundary of San Diego and Riverside counties.  The U.S. Geological  Survey earlier ranked the quake a 4.6 but later upgraded its intensity.

The shallow quake, at a depth of about 6.6 miles, occurred along the San Jacinto fault which seismologists have previously indicated is capable of generating a powerful quake up to 7.5 in magnitude. There is a 5 percent chance that this quake could be a precurser to a large quake within the next 48 hours, seismologist Tom Rockwell with San Diego State University told the San Diego Union Tribune.

HUNGRY OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS? EMERGENCY FOOD DISTRIBUTIONS ANNOUNCED COUNTYWIDE

March 22, 2020 (San Diego) -- In addition to emergency food distributions, Feeding San Diego offers food assistance at many sites throughout San Diego County including rural, mountain, desert and urban communities. Click here to find a location near you.

 Feeding San Diego is working on adding additional distributions based on community input and the needs of specific populations. Listings of available emergency distributions will be updated daily and published at feedingsandiego.org/coronavirus.

NOTE: There are NO REQUIREMENTS to accessing any of Feeding San Diego’s food distributions.

TWO NEW STORMS TO BRING FLASH FLOOD RISKS AND SNOW TO OUR INLAND REGION

By Miriam Raftery

Photos: Alex Tardy, National Weather Service

March 11, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – A pair of storms are forecast to bring heavy rain this week and next, with snow dropping to 3,000 feet by next week.  Flash floods, lightning and mudslides may also occur.

PUBLIC COMMENTS NEEDED ON STATE PARKS PLAN TO RESTORE CLOVER FLAT WILDLIFE PRESERVE DAMAGED BY OFF-ROAD VEHICLES

By Patrick Williams, Back Country Land Trust

Photo; Typical Clover Flat OHV trail for closure and restoration:

March 10, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Mountain Empire residents and others interested in seeing the Clover Flat wildlife preserve near Campo restored can submit comments on the restoration proposal by May 4, 2020.  Below are details on the proposal and how to submit your public comments.

California State Parks  proposes to  restore off-highway vehicle (OHV) including quad and four-wheel drive damaged areas totaling five restoration acres at Clover Flat wildlife preserve. Damaged areas will be secured, then restored with native plant seed, wattles and mulch and signage will be placed to direct riders (mostly accessing the area from the RR access road) to legal OHV Corral Canyon or Lark Canyon riding areas.

State Parks OHV public review and comment instructions:

FREE SANDBAGS FOR THE STORM

Source: County News Service

March 9, 2020 (San Diego) – With heavy rains from an atmospheric river set to douse our region over the next several days, the County is urging residents to be prepared.  Mud, plants an debris washed away can clog storm drains, damage roadways and cause flooding.  

You can stock up on free sandbags at these locations in the unincorporated areas, but call ahead to be sure of availability, and bring a shovel to fill the bags:

FREE ART WORKSHOPS IN BORREGO SPRINGS FOR ALL AGES

By Miriam Raftery
 
March 6, 2020 (Borrego Springs) – Candlewood Arts Festival Gallery is hosting free art workshops for all ages each Sunday in March from 1 to 5 p.m. Aspiring artists are invited to make new projects with different artists each week:
 
Drop in anytime and stay as long as you wish at Candlewood Arts Festival Gallery, 587 Palm Canyon Drive, #125, at the mall in Borrego Springs.
 
For more information, visit www.CandlewoodArtsFestival.org 

APPEALS COURT BLOCKS RELEASE OF “BOLDER THAN MOST” RAPIST

By Miriam Raftery
 
February 27, 2020 (San Diego)—The appellate court on Monday voted to block release of Alvin Quarles, dubbed the “Bolder than most” rapist, into Jacumba Hot Springs.
 
The appellate court overturned a decision made by Superior Court  Judge David Gill to grant a conditional release to Quarles, who drew criticism for holding closed-door hearings that shut out victims and the public. 
 
A bill supported by District Attorney Summer Stephans, called the Sexually Violent Predator Act, has been introduced in the State Senate to require that hearings on release of sexual predators be held in open court, unless a judge can provide a compelling reason for secrecy.
 

​PASSAGES: RHONDA BURT, 57, HIKING LEADER

By Miriam Raftery
 
February 20, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Rhonda Burt, 57, died doing what she loved most – hiking.  On Saturday, Feb. 15, the hiking leader was on the trail with the Jacumba Hikers group through rugged terrain in the Anza-Borrego desert when she suffered a fatal heart attack.
 
She had stopped to rest several times. Another hiker looked back, saw her lying on the ground and rushed to assist her. 911 was called, A Sheriff’s helicopter and ambulance responded, but efforts to resuscitate her failed. Burt, a resident of Imperial, was pronounced dead at the scene, on McCain Valley Road in Boulevard.

PETCO FOUNDATION PROVIDED A VALENTINE SURPRISE FOR SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY STAFF

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

February 15, 2020 (San Diego) - Petco Foundation provided a $250,000 grant valentine surprise to staff at the San Diego Humane Society on Gaines Street on Feb. 13.

“As part of our mission we have committed $10 million to making a difference to shelters and pets during the valentine day week,” said regional field program manager Bill Gialenes with the Petco Foundation.  The $10 million will go to animal welfare organizations across the country.

Two hundred staff, guests, and volunteers gathered for lunch followed by the presentation of an oversized check for $250,000 to Dr. Gary Weitzman, president/ceo of the San Diego Humane Society from Gialenes.

GIANT WIND PROJECTS DRAW STRONG OPPOSITION FROM RURAL RESIDENTS AND TRIBAL MEMBERS: DEADLINE FOR COMMENTS IS TODAY

 

By Rebecca Person

Miriam Raftery also contributed to this article

Photos: An existing wind project on the Campo reservation has previously had multiple fires caused by exploding wind turbines, shown here, raising alarm among area residents over fire dangers and other potential hazards posed by the proposed new and far larger turbines

February 3, 2020 (Campo) -- Residents of Campo, Boulevard and Jacumba voiced their concerns Jan. 23rd at a meeting in Boulevard held by the County Planning Development Services staff addressing the construction of 120 wind turbines in Boulevard and on the Campo Reservation.

The wind turbines will be 596’ tall, taller than towers which dot the high desert that stand between 325' to almost 400 ft tall. 60 turbines are planned for the Campo Indian Reservation, and 30 turbines for McCain Valley near I-8 freeway in Boulevard. According to Donna Tisdale, chair of the Boulevard Community Planning Group, these may be the largest wind turbines ever erected on land. Turbines on tribal land would also abut her property in rural Boulevard. Setbacks from some homes would be far less than at many other wind projects, even though the turbines are larger.

Over 60 local residents gathered at the meeting and many spoke of the effects existing towers have had on their quality of life. Campo Band of Mission Indians tribal members who live on the Campo Reservation and oppose the project stated that they have presented a petition with 65 signatures asking their tribal council to overturn an earlier disputed vote to erect the giant turbines on the reservation.

COLD STORM, FREEZING TEMPERATURES AND HIGH WINDS TO IMPACT REGION

By Miriam Raftery

February 2, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Strong winds with gusts up to 75 miles an hour are forecast tonight through Monday afternoon, with a high wind warning in effect in our local mountains and light snow possible.

Monday through Wednesday, a hard freeze watch is in effect for the high deserts, where temperatures could dip into the high teens to low 20s and snow flurries are possible. In the low deserts and valleys, a freeze watch is also issued, with temperatures in the upper 20s to low 30s.

Along the coasts, a gale warning is in effect due to strong winds over coastal waters tonight and Monday.

SENATOR BRIAN JONES HOSTS BORREGO SPRINGS TOWN HALL FEB. 1

East County News Service

January 31, 2020 (Borrego Springs)  -- State Senator Brian W. Jones invites you to attend a Borrego Springs Town Hall on Saturday, Feb. 1 at the County Library, 2580 Country Club Rd., Borrego Springs.

A nonprofit expo will be held at 9 a.m. followed by a town hall from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Share your views, ask questions on issues important to you, and learn about great work being done by nonprofits in the community.

SANTA ANA WINDS AND WARMER WEATHER FORECAST TODAY THROUGH FRIDAY

By Miriam Raftery

January 29, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory for San Diego County’s inland region. The advisory is in effect from 4 p.m. today through 12 noon on Friday for San Diego’s mountains and valleys, with gusts up to 55 miles per hour forecast. In local desert areas, the wind advisory is in effect from 10 a.m. today to 6 p.m. tonight.

In addition to potentially damaging winds, the forecast also includes elevated surf at beaches with waves up to six feet, and a warming trend through the week with temperatures rising into the 80s by the weekend.

SUPERVISORS TAKE NEW STEPS TO ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS IN UNINCORPORATED AREAS, INCLUDING SHELTERS

By José A. Álvarez, County of San Diego Communications Office

January 28, 2020 (San Diego) -- The County Board of Supervisors today voted to adopt several measures, including sheltering options and expanded outreach teams, to deal with homelessness in unincorporated communities.

The measures, brought forward by Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Jim Desmond, are expected to help with homelessness in unincorporated areas that have seen a significant increase of people who don’t have a place to live. Recent encampments at Lamar Park, Spring Valley Park and in other outlying areas are the latest reminders that homelessness is a regional crisis.

“Like in the city of San Diego and the rest of California, homelessness has become a huge concern in the suburban and rural parts of our region,” said District 2 Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents East County. “Today’s board vote opens the door to creating a comprehensive approach to homelessness that includes immediate and long-range measures.”

CALLING ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS IN BORREGO SPRINGS

East County News Service
 
January 19, 2020 (Borrego Springs) - The Under The Sun Foundation is organizing a photography exhibition for the 2020 Candlewood Arts Festival and invites you to submit your works for consideration.
 
They are looking for photographic works that visualize your Borrego Springs - images that capture the essence of this unique community and the special sense of place cultivated in this corner of the Sonoran Desert.
 
The works selected for the exhibition will be put on display in the old library space in The Mall during the upcoming Candlewood Arts Festival, from February 29 - March 29, 2020.

FATALITY CRASH ON I-8 AT JACUMBA

By Miriam Raftery
 
January 14, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs)- - Alejandro Jiminez Mendoza, 46, of Heber died January 12 after an accident that occurred on westbound I-8 at Carrizo Gorge in Jacumba Hot Springs.
 
Heber was a passenger in a vehicle that struck the left shoulder media and plunged down to the base of the embankment. 911 was called and paramedics responded, but he was pronounced dead of traumatic injuries.  

WATCH FOR WINDY WEATHER

East County News Service

January 14, 2020 (San Diego's East County) -- A storm system will bring gusty winds as well as a chance of rain and mountain snow Thursday into early Friday morning. Winds at 35-45 miles per hour with isolated gusts up to 50-60 mph are in wind-prone mountain and desert passes.

Light rainfall of 1-3 inches is forecast in most locations, with up to 6 inches at higher elevations, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Adam Roser.  The snow level may drop to 5,000 feet, so be prepared if driving in mountain areas.

HEARING FEB. 3 ON PROPOSAL TO RELEASE YET ANOTHER SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATOR IN JACUMBA HOT SPRINGS; COMMENTS DEADLINE IS JAN. 17

By Miriam Raftery

January 6, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Despite recent protests over the highly disproportionate percentage of sexually violent predators placed in rural East County, the Department of State Hospitals is proposing to place yet another in Jacumba Hot Springs.  A hearing will be held Feb. 3 at 9 a.m. in San Diego Superior Court (1100 Union St., Dept. 2202) to determine whether Michael Poulsom should be placed at 45612 Old Highway 80, Jacumba Hot Springs, a community of just 561 residents, according to the 2010 Census.

Poulsom is diagnosed with Pedophilia Disorder. In 1985, he was convicted in Georgia of child molestation with two victims. In 1989, he was convicted in San Diego County of a lewd act on a child under 14. In 1995, he was convicted again locally for a lewd act with a fourth victim, also under 14 and served 15 years in prison. Prior to his release, the San Diego County District Attorney’s office filed a petition to have Poulsom civilly committed to a state hospital as a Sexually Violent Predator . He was committed, underwent treatment and petitioned for conditional release, which was opposed by the San Diego D.A. and the hospital. A year later he filed for release into the conditional release program for sex offenders, which the Dept. of State Hospitals supported over the objections of D.A. Summer Stephan.

The public may submit comments between Jan. 3 and Jan. 17 to be considered by the court. You can email comments to sdsafe@sdsheriff.org, or call (858)495-3619. Comments may also be mailed tol the SVP Release/Safe Task Force at 9425 Chesapeake Drive, San Diego, CA 02123.  Comments will also be accepted at the hearing.

LESSONS FROM PUERTO RICO TO CALIFORNIA: OFF-GRID LIVING OPTIONS

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

 Dec. 31, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) -- Emergency energy and electrical storage expert Eric Lobdell with Humless, a Utah-based company that provides universal energy management, has worked in disaster areas affected by wildfires and hurricanes, where he has helped some residents go off-grid. 

 

In the past couple of years, Lobdell has worked in the U.S. including territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, setting up systems to provide power. Humless recently landed a contract for installations to take communities 100% off-grid in Oregon, including 600 homes over a span of three years.

 

"After Hurricane Maria, I was part of a team that donated and installed off-grid systems in Puerto Rico," said Lobdell in a phone interview. “Our systems were able to provide lights and refrigeration to two different communities, both heavily affected by the hurricane. Being able to provide electricity for these communities reminded me of the reason I work so hard at what I do. I love being able to provide essential energy and storage systems to families, communities, and regions where grid power is not available or stable."

ROLLOVER CRASH ON SNOWY HIGHWAY IN RANCHITA KILLS WOMAN; DRIVER FACES CHARGES

East County News Service

Update: The victim has been identified as Alberta Fernandez De Zuniga, 61, of Borrego Springs.

December 26, 2019 (Ranchita) – A 61-year-old woman riding in the backseat of a 2019 Toyota Camry died this morning when the driver lost control and the vehicle rolled over, landing on its roof. The crash occurred around 6:50 a.m. on San Filipe Road (S2) south of Montezuma Valley Road. 

There was fresh snow on the roadway, and the Toyota was traveling at a speed that prevented the driver from maintaining control of the Toyota,” Officer Jeff Christy with the California Highway Patrol reports. “The Toyota traveled off the roadway onto the west shoulder where it collided with a dirt embankment. The female passenger, who was not wearing her seatbelt, was subsequently thrown forward from the rear seat into the front dash and windshield of the vehicle. At the same time, the Toyota rolled over onto its roof where it came to rest within the traffic lanes.”

MISSING MOTORCYCLIST FOUND DEAD IN BORREGO SPRINGS RAVINE

East County News Service

December 24, 2019 (Borrego Springs) – A Borrego Springs man, 66,was reported missing Dec. 22,  after borrowing a friend’s motorcycle at 4 p.m. for a 30-minute ride. The rider’s wife and the motorcycle’s owner began a search and then notified the Sheriff’s Department. Information was also posted on Facebook and many residents joined in searching but did not find the rider or the motorcycle.

On Dec. 23,  around 8:15 a.m., employees from the Borrego Springs Water District were checking well sites in the area and discovered the rider and motorcycle in a deep ditch about two miles from where he began his ride. The motorcycle was on top of the rider and he was unresponsive.

PROTESTS HELD OUTSIDE COURTHOUSE OVER PROPOSED RELEASE OF SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATOR IN JACUMBA NEAR BOULEVARD

East County News Service
 
December 21, 2019 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Despite Jacumba Hot Springs already having 11 of San Diego County’s 14 released sexually violent predators, the state is proposing yet another:  Thomas Joseph Cornwell, 41, who was convicted in 2008 on two counts of lewd act with a child under age 14.  
 
Local residents protested outside the Superior Court in downtown San Diego yesterday, where Judge Albert T. Harutunian III took the proposal under consideration after the judge earlier granted Cornwell’s petition for conditional release.
 
The judge will issue a written decision in the future on whether or not to allow Cornwell to be released under supervision in the 2100 block of McCain Valley Rd. in Jacumba Hot Springs, a facility that the Department of State Hospitals indicates has previously housed sexually violent predators. The site is near rural Boulevard and is also close to campgrounds in a federal recreation area and two federal wilderness areas.

READER'S EDITORIAL: WE MUST NOT EQUATE SEXUAL HEALTH TO DEVIANT SEXUAL BEHAVIOR

By Daniel Smiechowski, Bay Ho  

December 20, 2019 (Jacumba Hot Springs) -- The recent hearing in a San Diego courtroom to release another sexual predator in Jacumba Hot Springs is another bridge too far. Eleven of fourteen county sexual predators are already in rural East County. It’s clear that demographics play a role in further stigmatizing this dusty ramshackle outpost in San Diego’s high desert.

NEW BOOK DESCRIBES THE EVOLUTION OF THE ANZA-BORREGO DESERT REGION

Source:  Sunbelt Publications

November 23, 2019 (Anza-Borrego) - The Anza-Borrego Foundation (ABF) in Borrego Springs is sponsoring a free public book launch for A Natural History of the Anza-Borrego Region: Then and Now, just in time for holiday gift-giving on Saturday, December 14 at the Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center at 401 Tilting T Drive in Borrego Springs, starting at 4:00 p.m. Authors Mike Wells and Marie Simovich will  present the story of how the desert landscape and organisms that inhabit this desert area evolved to their present state and what the future may hold for these desert lands. Books will be available for purchase and refreshments will be served. All author royalties are assigned to ABF to help support Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The book was published by Sunbelt Publications of San Diego in cooperation with California State Parks and ABF. 

STORMY THANKSGIVING COULD BRING SNOW BELOW 3,000 FEET, THUNDERSTORMS AND HEAVY RAINS ACROSS REST OF REGION

By Miriam Raftery

November 23, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) – If you’re heading over the rivers and through the woods this Thanksgiving week, you might just wind up traveling through white and drifted snow, as the popular song lyrics go—not to mention rain and flash flooding, too, making for hazardous roadway conditions across southern California, the National Weather Service warns.

The National Weather Service predicts a major winter storm will bring significant snowfall of one to two feet above 5,000 feet by Wednesday, with the snow level dropping to 3,000 feet or even lower by Friday.  Snow could impact I-8 through San Diego County’s mountains, as well as areas such as Cuyamaca, Julian, Jacumba Hot Springs, Descanso, Mount Laguna and Palomar Mountain locally, as well as the Cajon Pass on I-15 for those heading north.

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