Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Track California reservoirs, rivers and snowpack data

If you’re interested in tracking reservoir storage, river flows and the snow-water content in the Sierra, the state has a web site for you — California Data Exchange Center, known as CDEC.

I am particularly interested in the amount of water frozen in the snow. Water content gives you an idea of how much water can be expected next spring and summer when the snowpack melts.

About this time of year, I like to compare the snowpack at this point to the snowpack last year. You can do that at this page.

As of Nov. 21, the Sierra is about the same as it was last year.  It is less than average, but most of the season is still ahead.

River flows become more important later in the wet season, but any time is a good time to look up reservoir levels. Reservoirs are the bank account of water from previous seasons. They’re still looking pretty good, even though last year was a little dry.

Follow CDEC, and you’ll have an idea of what farmers, hydroelectric projects and many industries are watching this winter in California.

As PM-2.5 increases, so does risk of heart attacks

Over Thanksgiving, a friend asked how the San Joaquin Valley’s air quality might affect someone with a heart problem. It’s a good question now when the most dangerous air issues arrive.

There is evidence that heart attack risk rises as particle pollution, known as PM-2.5, increases.

What’s PM-2.5? Think soot from wood burning in fireplaces, though it also comes from diesel exhaust, chemicals in the air and microscopic moisture droplets.

By chance, an air-quality activist last week sent me a link to an article in progress on the Journal the American College of Cardiology. It included a section on PM-2.5, saying the odds of a fatal heart attack for nonsmokers rise 22% for each 10 microgram increase in PM-2.5.

The health standard is 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air. On Jan. 1 this year, one Fresno monitor was 70 micrograms higher than that federal standard.

You don’t need to do the math to see that even people without heart or lung problems were suffering through an air crisis at the time.

The article advises anyone with cardiac problems to avoid exposure during episodes of PM-2.5. Last winter, that would have meant avoiding the outdoors for weeks in December and January.

Obviously, the Valley has many violations of the federal PM-2.5 standard. The biggest hot spots seem to be Fresno and Bakersfield, but there are PM-2.5 violations in many places.

What about this year?

A quick look at the California Air Resources Board site tells us that PM-2.5 hasn’t been a problem yet. If we have a lot of stormy weather this year, we might not have a long run of bad days as we did last year.

But dry, stable weather — as we seem to be having now — can make things miserable. So keep your eye on the weather report, and check with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District web page before you light a wood fire at home.


Real Estate: Realtors help launch neighborhood watch


(Archive photo of London Properties signs. Mark Crosse/The Fresno Bee)

London Properties is helping Valley homeowners launch neighborhood watch programs.

Realtors with the Fresno real estate company have met with police and sheriffs departments in Fresno, Clovis, Madera, Sanger, Kingsburg, Chowchilla and Merced to find ways to reduce crime and start neighborhood watch programs, said Patrick Conner, president and broker at London Properties.

“Safe neighborhoods mean higher home values,” Conner said. “Higher home values are better for our home owners and for Realtors. That’s why we’re here to help.”

The company will provide watch groups with street signs, meeting facilities and printing services for free. It will also manage a database of addresses in those neighborhoods so the group can mail the homeowners meeting notices.

“The biggest hurdles are having someone lead the program, being able to reach everyone and posting appropriate signage,” Conner said. “We have those resources and we are committed to healthy and safe neighborhoods.”

Fresno mayor checks her phone — and draws a ticket

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin checked her cell phone at the wrong time and in the wrong place Tuesday — and got a ticket for her troubles.

The mayor was in her car stopped at Blackstone and Herndon avenues Tuesday morning when she brought her phone up to her face to read an email, city spokesman Michael Lukens said. That’s when a Fresno police officer stopped her and wrote a citation for emailing while driving.

Under state law, using a handheld cell phone — whether for talking, texting or emailing — while driving is an infraction. The base fine for a first offense is $20, according to the California Highway Patrol, although added penalties can more than triple the base fee.

Lukens did not identify the content of the email. No word on whether the mayor will contest the citation or simply pay it. Infractions can be paid by phone — but not while driving.

San Joaquin Valley folks: Have a Happy Thanksgiving

It’s turkey time.

I haven’t baked a turkey in years. I think what soured me on baking a turkey was the year I mistakenly thought placing two flimsy aluminum baking pans together would be stronger for the 15-pound turkey to bake.  Turns out, it created some kind of insulation that slowed the cooking. Who knew? I think we ate turkey about 11 p.m. that night.

Hoping all of you cooks out there have better cooking sense than me.  But I wanted to share a link from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thanksgiving food safety.

Oh, and that year that the turkey took forever to cook. When it was done, it as so tender and moist, it fell off the bone.  So all was not lost.

Valley native Lisa Villa makes history in Maine

Some 40 years ago, local attorney Al Villa became the first Hispanic elected to the Fresno City Council. On Nov. 6, Visalia-born Lisa Villa, his niece, made history as well by becoming the first Hispanic elected to the Maine legislature.

Lisa Villa, a 47-year-old Democrat, won the House District 98 seat with 55% of the vote.

Continue reading →

Business: Trail-Gear packs more boxes for Christmas project

(Children pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child in the home of Rosana Faegre, vice-president of operations for Trail-Gear, a Fresno business. Photo provided by Faegre.)

Last week, a Fresno manufacturing business stopped production for about an hour to participate in a charity project: Operation Christmas Child.

Trail-Gear, Inc., which makes off-road auto parts, filled 200 shoe boxes with small toys and personal items to be shipped to poor children around the world. The company participated for the first time in its seven-year history. Read my story here.

Rosana Faegre, the company’s vice-president of operations, emailed me Wednesday to say the company got a bunch of phone calls and donations after the story ran.

Faegre enlisted the help of some children and their mothers to put together an additional 38 boxes that were donated to the program.

Real Estate: Granville starts another downtown project

Construction has started on a new GV Urban project in downtown Fresno.

The concrete pads are in place for 1612 Fulton, a 30-unit mixed-used development next to Biz-Werx, a business center at Fulton and Calaveras streets. The center was also built by GV Urban, a division of Granville Homes.

The new development will have 18 single-floor residential units that range from 645 to 706 square feet with an attached garage, a balcony or patio, washer and dryer hookups and stainless steel appliances.

Another 12 three-story live and work units will also be built. The first floor will have a 199-square-foot office space while the second and third floors will have a total living space of 1,297 square feet. The units will have a two-car garage and balcony.

The development is expected to be finished by next summer.

Real Estate: Tulare Realtors raise money for school scholarships

The Tulare County Association of Realtors is doing more than just selling homes or monitoring the real estate market.

The association held a bowling tournament last month to raise money for scholarships that are awarded to area high school students.

This year’s tournament was held Oct. 25 at the Visalia AMF Lanes where 37 teams and about 160 members participated. The association raised $4,657.57.

The tournament was one of several fundraising events — including a casino night, golf tournament and a picnic — that the association holds throughout the year to raise money for community organizations, said Karl Hampton, the association’s executive officer.

“Our Realtor members live, work and play in the community…the fact that their organization helps support and improve the community is very important to them,” Hampton said.

408 days — what a difference

Mark it down — a mere 9,792 hours (408 days, including today) until Obamacare goes into full-scale effect.

That’s just around the corner.

What were we doing a mere 9,792 hours (408 days) ago?

We in the Valley were waking up to read in The Bee about visiting Boise State’s 57-7 victory over Pat Hill’s Bulldogs in front of a Friday night crowd of 33,871.

The loss dropped Fresno State to 2-4. We didn’t know it at the time, but Hill’s career with the Bulldogs was toast.

The 408 days between that nonconference disaster and today disappeared in a flash

The 408 days between now and Jan. 1, 2014 will disappear just as quickly. The change in America is going to be as fascinating to watch as that Boise State game at Bulldog Stadium.

At least for newspaper reporters.