Friday, 14 June 2024

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Annika Ostberg Deasy, in this undated photo, was returned to her home country of Sweden earlier this year. She was sentenced in 1983 to prison for the murders of Sgt. Richard Helbush and Stockton restaurateur Joe Torre. Couresty photo.

 

 

 


LAKE COUNTY – Nearly three decades after she was sentenced to prison for the murders of a Lake County sheriff's sergeant and a Stockton restaurateur, a Swedish woman was returned to her home country, where she will be allowed to finish her prison sentence and rejoin society.


Annika Ostberg Deasy, 55, was flown home to Sweden in early April as part of an international prisoner transfer program, as Lake County News has reported.


In November, a Swedish court granted Deasy's request that her indeterminate, 25 years to life sentence be made determinate. The court gave her a sentence that amounts to about 29 years, according to Ashok Ramani, her US attorney.


That means Deasy would be eligible for release in Sweden in May of 2011, according to Swedish authorities.


Deasy was sentenced to prison in August of 1983 on two charges of first-degree murder for the spring 1981 shootings of Joe Torre of Stockton and Sgt. Richard Helbush.


Her boyfriend, William “Bob” Cox, was reported to have been the trigger man in both murders.


The couple had met with Torre to sell him some meat, during which Cox shot him. Prosecutors had alleged that Deasy tried to set Torre up, but Ramani said her defense contended that she was there for the meat sale when a confrontation began, during which Torre was killed.


While Deasy and Cox were on the run and traveling through Lake County the following night, they had a flat tire. When Helbush stopped to help them just after midnight on May 2, 1981, Cox shot him three times in the back and once in the head, took his wallet, service revolver and patrol car, and left his body by the side of the road.


The couple were captured hours later following a shootout on Cobb with local deputies and a California Highway Patrol Officer. Cox later committed suicide in jail.


Don Anderson, then a deputy with the sheriff's office, helped apprehend the couple. Today Anderson – a defense attorney – said he can see the case from more than one angle.


In an interview last month, Anderson noted that Deasy has served a long time in prison. However, he added, “Helbush was a friend of mine and not only did they kill him, she tried to kill me.”


Hopkins said this week that it's his opinion that Deasy has not taken responsibility for her part in the killings.

 

 

 

 

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Sgt. Richard Helbush died on May 2, 1981, when he was shot after stopping to help Annika Deasy and boyfriend Bob Cox. Lake County News file photo.

 

 

 


He cited statements she make to officers about the shootings and the shootout that followed that present “a completely different picture of her involvement than she now claims,” he said.


Hopkins said she and Cox had a pact, and that they weren't going to be taken into custody. He also alleged that she know Cox was going to kill Helbush when she distracted him by looking through her purse. During the shootout she reloaded Cox's gun and was trying to find it went he went down outside of the car. Anderson said in a previous interview that he apprehended her as she was trying to find the gun.


The decision to send Deasy home to Sweden earlier this year was condemned both by Hopkins and Sheriff Rod Mitchell, who were concerned that no local input was welcomed in the decision.


But Ramani, who worked on Deasy's efforts to return home, believes she's done just that, and that in looking at her future prospects, prosecutors have misconstrued aspects of her case.


“The prosecutors necessarily have to focus on the past,” he said.


Ramani proved a powerful ally for Deasy, whose case he began working on as lead counsel several years ago.


Keker & Van Nest LLP of San Francisco, the firm for which Ramani works, previously had represented another Swedish prisoner, Mikael Schiold, who sought, successfully, to return home after he was convicted of murdering a San Francisco contractor. As a result, the Swedish Consulate brought the firm in on the Deasy case. Keker & Van Nest worked both cases pro bono, said Ramani.


“What struck me about her case was she was such an extraordinary example of how someone actually managed to rehabilitate themselves and turn their lives around completely while in prison,” Ramani said.


He said she had far to go – and she went the distance. It would be hard to find another inmate who has made the same kind of transformation, Ramani said.


Deasy's fateful path had included drug addiction and numerous bad choices, and what Ramani said were a series of tragedies in her young life.


She came to the United States while a child, become involved in drugs and ran away from home to San Francisco, where she later was implicated in the 1974 death of Donald McKay, for which she was convicted of manslaughter, as Lake County News has reported.


But after she was sentenced for the Torre and Helbush murders, Deasy was a model prisoner with no infractions, who was in charge of the Narcotics Anonymous, and raised and trained puppies in a special program, Ramani said.


In both the United States and Sweden there has been a continuing debate over whether or not Deasy should have been returned to Sweden and whether she should be released.


In Sweden, where Deasy's case is far more well known, her case has been viewed by many as an example of an overly harsh American justice system. There, she's also been the subject of books, countless articles and a documentary by journalist Tom Alandh which features an interview with Anderson.


The fact that she was involved in the two deaths hit a nerve, said Ramani.


However, he said the argument that Deasy should remain in jail forgets a critical concept in the justice system.


When a person is sentenced to prison, it's not just to punish them, but to give them time to think about what they did and to take positive steps to turn their lives around.


It's important to remember, Ramani said, that society has decided that if prisoners take their terms seriously and reform themselves, at some point they'll get a chance to return to society.


“You have to ask yourself what else she could have done to rehabilitate herself? I don't think anything,” he said.


The Swedish courts did an exhaustive review of the American proceedings and records in Deasy's case, said Ramani, which led to the decision to set her release.


Ramani, who saw Deasy shortly before she left and has continued corresponding with her, said she thought of Sweden as a happier place, and since arriving there, “She feels like she's home.”


Mitchell said the death of a peace officer can elicit strong feelings, and for those in the law enforcement family, they can feel like “it's never long enough” when considering how long a person convicted of killing an officer should be kept in prison.


When Deasy's trial was taking place Mitchell was a young deputy who had just joined the Lake County Sheriff's Office. He said he's seen the crime scene photos and the evidence.


The fact that the law includes the possibility that someone who had a sentence like Deasy's eventually could go free is a presumption that people can grow and change, said Mitchell.


Noting that, “Addiction can drive a lot of people to a lot of things,” he said the facts of her rehabilitation may justify her release, but he didn't know enough about her circumstances to make that judgment. “Nor am I qualified to know what's in someone's heart.”


He said addiction doesn't excuse what Deasy did, and the justice system didn't overlook it, giving her a “pretty severe” sentence.


Mitchell said he hoped she owned her responsibility in the deaths of Helbush and Torre.


He said he believes in the jury system. “The best part of the system is that people who are not involved make the decision,” and it's free of emotion.


Ramani said he intends to stay in touch with Deasy, saying she's a rare client “that you really feel moved by.”


The real proof of her rehabilitation will be what she does once she's out of prison, he said.


Deasy, who remains fluent in Swedish after so many years away, is expected to go to a rehabilitation program called Basta located south of Stockholm, and may end up working as a veterinarian's assistant while continuing work in substance recovery groups, he said.


Ramani said he believes she'll do good things for Swedish society when she rejoins it in 2011.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT – Police are investigating an incident in which a driver hit a pedestrian in Lakeport on Monday evening.


The driver in the collision, Matthew James Craig, 27, of Lakeport, later was arrested for felony driving under the influence causing great bodily injury, according to Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke.


Burke said the collision occurred at 11:35 p.m. Monday.


A 38-year-old woman was in the 1800 block of S. Main Street near the Lakeport Lagoons when Craig allegedly hit her with his 2004 Chevrolet Impala, Burke said.


The area has few crosswalks. Burke said the investigation is still trying to determine where the woman was when she was hit, if she was off the sidewalk and, if so, why she may have been in the roadway.


The woman was airlifted to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Burke didn't release her name, and didn't have information about her condition on Tuesday.


Craig, who has no previous contacts with Lakeport Police, was booked into the Lake County Jail early Tuesday morning, with bail set at $10,000. He later posted bail and was released, according to jail records.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKE COUNTY – With dozens of classified staff set to be laid off next month, the Yuba Community College District is trying to find ways to spare job losses as it faces growing fiscal restraints.


At an Oct. 14 meeting held in Clearlake, the district's board voted to lay off 56 classified employees, as Lake County News has reported. That number later was adjusted to 58.


The college reported that the job losses will occur at the district's Marysville, Woodland and Clear Lake campuses, as well as district offices.


The layoffs are set to go into effect on Jan. 22, according to college spokesman Adrian Lopez.


The district, which covers eight rural counties including a portion of Lake, had a $48 million budget in the last fiscal year, and is expected to have just over 7,800 full-time students this academic year, according to a message Chancellor Nicki Harrington released earlier this fall.

The Yuba Community College District is facing a $4 million reduction in its operating budget due to state budget cuts, and 84 percent of the college's budget is spent on personnel costs, according to district officials.


California School Employees Association (CSEA) unit negotiator Donna Veal-Spenser said layoff notices have been coming out since the board's Oct. 14 vote.


Between retirements and layoffs she reported a total of 76 positions that could be lost – 51 at the Yuba College main campus in Marysville, 19 at Woodland and six at Clear Lake. Veal-Spenser said all of those numbers should change.


“It's bad,” she said.


Since the October vote – which was greeted by picketing employees who crowded into the meeting chambers, asking board members to consider other measures to meet the fiscal shortfall – the situation has changed, thanks to efforts on behalf of staff, faculty and administration.


In November, the college board of trustees unanimously passed a resolution requesting that all district staff make concessions to help offset state budget cuts, Lopez reported.


The board asked all of the college's employee groups to take reductions equaling a 3-percent pay cut. District management staff also took cuts or made voluntary concessions, which amounted to $65,000.


Other cost-cutting measures the district has reported taking include not filling positions left vacant by resignations or retirements, reducing adjunct – or part-time – faculty positions, cutting department operating expenses and compressing academic schedules.


Based on those concessions, grant funding and an employee resignation, the board of trustees was able to restore four positions at its Dec. 9 meeting, according to Lopez.


The positions in question included the director of Yuba College's Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program – which young science and engineering students had asked the board to spare at the Oct. 14 meeting – two science lab technicians at Woodland Community College and a campus operations specialist at Beale Air Force Base.


Also on Dec. 9, the college board of trustees told Harrington to bring back a budget with 1 percent less of a reserve – totaling about $450,000 – in order to restore more of the positions slated for layoff, Lopez said.


The district's chief negotiator then met with the employee bargaining units on Dec. 11, Lopez reported.


The negotiations have gone in a positive direction, Veal-Spenser said.


The classified employees voted on Dec. 15 to accept a memorandum of understanding with the district that includes employees taking four furlough days during the fiscal year, she said.


There also may be some future discussion regarding retirement incentives, she added.


Veal-Spenser said they're hoping to see at least half of the layoffs restored, but she said that all of it depends on negotiations with the district.


“We don't know yet what positions are going to be brought back for sure and what the district is going to be proposing,” she said. “We're still going to have to hold their feet to the fire.”


While classified and management staff have provided concessions, some other units – like police and adjunct faculty – haven't yet, Lopez said.


The board's next meeting is Jan. 20, just two days before the layoffs go into effect, Lopez said.


In order to continue trying to save as many jobs as possible, “Meetings will be taking place between now and then,” Lopez said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKE COUNTY – With trial set to begin early next month, one of the men charged with a September murder is asking the court to allow him to be tried separately from his co-defendant.


Melvin Dale Norton, 38, and Shannon Lee Edmonds, 35, are facing trial for the Sept. 22 stabbing death of 25-year-old Shelby Uehling, who had moved to Clearlake from Montana several months before he died.


Prosecutor Art Grothe said jury selection is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 12, and he couldn't estimate how long it might take to choose a jury for the case.


However, those plans could change due to a new motion filed by Stephen Carter, Norton's attorney.


Carter's motion seeks to have the two men – who have made joint court appearances since their arrests, including their Oct. 6 preliminary hearing – tried separately.


“We are bringing this motion because it is in our client's best interests to do so,” Carter said this week.


Norton faces charges including murder, being an accessory and a strike enhancement; Edmonds also faces a murder charge plus a special allegation of using a knife. They've pleaded not guilty to all charges.


At the Oct. 6 preliminary hearing, visiting Judge Raymond Giordano of Sonoma County found there wasn't sufficient evidence to charge Norton with assault with a deadly weapon likely to cause great bodily injury or a special allegation that he used a billy club to beat Uehling, as Lake County News has reported.


However, those charges have once again been filed against Norton, according to court records.


Carter's motion argued that trying the men together could result in an “extremely prejudicial association” because of the public attention focused on Edmonds beginning in December 2005, when he allegedly shot to death Christian Foster and Rashad Williams as they ran from his home during a burglary.


Edmonds was not charged in the case, but Renato Hughes, a friend of Foster and Williams, later was tried under the provocative act law, which allows a person to be prosecuted for any deaths that result from a violent crime in which they took part, and which could be expected to have a lethal result.


The trial had extensive local and regional media coverage, and as a result was moved to the Bay Area, as Lake County News has reported.


Carter suggested in the motion that Edmonds is “necessarily and inextricably associated” with the Hughes case, and that affiliation “is extremely prejudicial to Mr. Norton and will jeopardize Mr. Norton's right to a fair trial.”


In addition, some of Edmonds' testimony from Hughes' preliminary hearing has been introduced as discovery in the Uehling murder case, according to the case documents.


Carter's motion also included a page of discovery in which Edmonds, during a phone call recorded by law enforcement, reportedly made the statement, “Melvin didn't do anything. He was just there. Alright? He didn't do anything ...” As defendants in separate trials, Edmonds could be called to testify about that statement.


Based on a statement in one of the motion's exhibits, Carter's motion stated that Edmonds plans to argue self-defense, while Norton will argue that he isn't responding for Uehling's death, and those two defenses could confuse a jury, the motion suggested.


The hearing on Carter's separation motion is set for 8:15 a.m. Monday, Jan. 4, in Department 3, according to court records.


“I am opposing it,” Grothe said regarding Carter's motion.


The standard for joining defendants in a prosecution is that they were connected in the alleged crime's commission, Grothe said.


“We definitely want to keep them together,” he said.


Doug Rhoades, Edmonds' attorney, said he doesn't plan to support Carter's motion.


“I would oppose that motion also, only because I feel his client has some culpability, which may diminish Mr. Edmonds' culpability, and therefore I'd like them to be tried together,” Rhoades said.


Despite the motion, Grothe doesn't expect the trial to be delayed, noting that neither of the defendants has waived time. That means their proceedings have time limits within the system.


After a judge is assigned, Grothe estimated there will be a number of motions to work through before trial starts.


Both Norton and Edmonds are being held in the Lake County Jail, with bail for each set at $1 million.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

YOLO COUNTY – A Clear Lake man was arrested in Yolo County earlier this month for allegedly possessing drugs and a counterfeit vehicle registration tab.


Jack Oliver, 38, was taken into custody on Dec. 18 following a traffic stop, according to Sgt. Lance Faille of the Yolo County Sheriff's Department.


Faille reported that at about 6:30 p.m. Dec. 18 sheriff's deputies stopped Oliver on Interstate 5 north of Zamora.


Riding with Oliver was 55-year-old Richard Oakley, a transient who had a felony warrant out of Napa County for methamphetamine possession. Faille said deputies found Oakley in possession of hashish and less than an ounce of marijuana.


During the search, deputies determined that Oliver had a counterfeit registration tab, which is a felony, and they additionally found five ounces of marijuana in the vehicle's engine compartment that Oliver allegedly admitted belonged to him, Faille said.


Both Oliver and Oakley were booked into the Yolo County Jail, according to Faille's report.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKE COUNTY – December's rains are helping to replenish local creeks and a very low Clear Lake, but despite much-needed influxes of water the lake is still at a 15-year low.


On Sunday, a US Geological Survey water gage showed that Clear Lake was at 0.69 feet Rumsey, the measurement used specifically for Clear Lake. On Dec. 27, 2008, the lake was at 1.16 feet Rumsey.


November and December typically are the months of the year when the lake is at its lowest level, based on a survey of lake level records.


Clear Lake is considered full at 7.56 feet Rumsey, according to the Lake County Water Resources Division.


Water Resources explains on its Web site that the lake's natural level is maintained by a rock sill – the Grigsby Riffle – located at the confluence of Cache and Siegler creeks near Lower Lake. The lake's natural low water level is “Zero Rumsey,” a measurement equivalent to 1318.26 feet above sea level.


Rains over the past two weekends have raised Clear Lake a small amount overall. While the lake is low, it was at its lowest point for the year on Nov. 20, when it was at 0.45 feet Rumsey, according to US Geological Survey records.


The last time it was as low, or lower, than that Nov. 20 measurement was in November of 1994, when records show it was down to 0.39 feet Rumsey.


US Geological Survey stream gages around the county also showed creek levels picking up over the past two weekends.


The lowest level recorded for the lake over the past century was -3.50 feet Rumsey, recorded in late September of 1920, according to Water Resources. The lake's maximum gage height, 11.34, was recorded on Feb. 21, 1986.


Yolo County Flood Control & Water Conservation District, which owns the water rights to Clear Lake as well as to Indian Valley Reservoir, reported that the reservoir was at 12,834 acre feet on Dec. 22, down by more than 6,300 acre feet from December 2008.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT – A string of commercial burglaries that started earlier this month is continuing across the city of Lakeport.


Three Lakeport businesses were burglarized and a fourth had a broken window on Dec. 21, as Lake County News has reported.


The burglaries continued on Dec. 24, when Lake County Cleaners and The Healing Earth, both on N. Main, were hit, according to Lakeport Police.


On the same day, Kerrie's Quilting on N. Main and Prestige Tattoo on S. Main were vandalized, with the glass on the quilting shop's door broken out, police reported.


“We've been getting hammered,” said Police Chief Kevin Burke.


Burke said the motive for the burglaries on Dec. 24 appear to be the same as those on Dec. 21, when windows were broken out and petty cash was stolen.


He said his department has some leads in the burglaries.


“It's very unusual for us to get hit like this,” he said. “This volume is really unusual.”


Burke has talked to some business owners and is urging them to increase lighting. He's also putting on extra officers at night to try to stop the burglaries.


Lake County Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Melissa Fulton said she was sending out an alert to chamber members.


“You've got the issue of people looking for quick cash,” a problem made worse by the tough economy, Fulton said.


Clearlake Police logs show that the city of Clearlake doesn't appear to have had similar problems with commercial burglaries. However, the Highlands High Campus computer lab was burglarized on Dec. 16, and there have been several home burglaries over the past month.


Sheriff Rod Mitchell said that his department isn't seeing any unusual spike in burglaries.


“Last year at this time we had a large increase,” he said. “This year we didn't see it.”


He said his deputies are working in partnership with Lakeport Police regarding a Monday traffic stop that resulted in an arrest for a stolen vehicle and stolen property.


At 11:25 a.m. Monday a “be on the lookout” was broadcast for law enforcement officers to watch for a red 1994 Mazda pickup stolen from Monte Mar Drive in Lucerne, Mitchell said. Approximately 25 minute later, Deputy Todd Dunia spotted the pickup traveling eastbound on Highway 20.


Dunia pulled over the pickup, which was being driven by John Alvie Ferrell, 23, of Lucerne. Mitchell said Ferrell initially gave Dunia a different name.


Ferrell wasn't alone in the pickup, which also allegedly contained some stolen property, including a 12-gauge and 20-gauge shotgun, Mitchell said. The guns allegedly were stolen from a different location than the pickup.


Dunia arrested Ferrell, who was booked into the Lake County Jail on several felony charges, including being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, receiving stolen property and possessing a stolen vehicle. Mitchell said Ferrell also is being charged with giving a peace officer a false identity.


Ferrell remained in custody on $10,000 bail on Tuesday, according to jail records.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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Ron Keas captured this unusual sunset on Monday, December 28, 2009.






LAKE COUNTY – Winter's days may be short, but they can have spectacular endings.


On Monday evening local photographer Ron Keas captured another spectacular Lake County sunset.


Throughout the year Keas has shared his talent for capturing great moments around the county, including morning and evening light shows.


View more of his photos at http://www.3dviewmax.com/ .




SAN FRANCISCO – An earthquake early warning system for California is feasible in coming years, according to research presented earlier this month at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.


The ongoing study demonstrates that an earthquake early warning system for earthquake-prone California is possible and lays out how such a system could be built, according to the US Geological Survey.


Earthquake early warning systems, already successfully deployed in Mexico, Japan and Taiwan, can detect an earthquake in progress and provide notice of seconds to tens of seconds prior to actual ground shaking.


Building on developments in other countries with significant earthquake risk, scientists are exploring early warning in the United States.


After a three-year earthquake early warning study funded by the US Geological Survey was completed in August 2009, a second project funded by the agency was launched to integrate the previously tested methods into a single prototype warning system.


When completed, this pilot system, called the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN) ShakeAlert System, will provide warning to a small group of test users, including emergency response groups, utilities, and transportation agencies.


While in the testing phase, the system will not provide public alerts, the US Geological Survey reported.


The CISN ShakeAlert system will detect strong shaking at an earthquake's epicenter and transmit alerts ahead of the damaging earthquake waves. The speed of an electronic warning message is faster than the speed of earthquake waves traveling through the earth.


Potential applications include stopping elevators at the nearest floor, slowing or halting trains, monitoring critical systems, and alerting people to move to safer locations. In warning systems deployed abroad, alerts are distributed via TV and radio networks, the Internet, cell phones and pagers.


The earthquake early warning test uses real-time data from the CISN, which is part of the US Geological Survey's Advanced National Seismic System, through which the agency aims to broadly improve earthquake monitoring and reporting in the United States. Funding for the CISN is provided by the US Geological Survey and the state of California.


The study is a collaboration among the USGS, the California Institute of Technology, the University of California-Berkeley, the Swiss Seismological Service and the Southern California Earthquake Center.


In the next two years American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding will be used to upgrade many of the older, slower seismic instruments throughout the CISN. These older instruments introduce time delays and would slow down early warning alerts.


Earlier this year, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said that the US Geological Survey would fund $29.4 million in earthquake network upgrades nationwide through stimulus money.


The upgrades are expected to improve the timely delivery of information to high-hazard regions such as the Bay Area.


The US Geological Survey will replace old instruments – some of which have not been upgraded in 40 years – with state-of-the-art, robust systems across the highest earthquake hazard areas in California, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, the Intermountain West, and the Central and Eastern United States.


Salazar said nearly 75 million Americans live within earthquake prone areas.


Statewide, California has more than a 99 percent chance of having a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake within the next 30 years, according to scientists using a new model to determine the probability of big quakes, officials reported. In the Bay area specifically, there is a nearly two out of three chance of an earthquake of that magnitude in that time period.


The funds will be used to upgrade the seismic and geodetic stations that monitor earthquakes; improve communication systems to make them more robust and reliable; lay the groundwork to enable earthquake early warning; support students at universities in California who will be involved in the installation, providing a unique educational experience and helping to train the next generation of earthquake scientists; and help save jobs that are threatened by cuts in state funding in California.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKE COUNTY – Get ready for some extra special sparkle on New Year’s Eve when the second full moon of December – which makes it a blue moon – shines over your festivities on Thursday.


To be called a “blue moon,” the moon must be full for the second time in a calendar month, which will occur on Thursday, Dec. 31 – New Year’s Eve – for the first time in almost 20 years.


A blue moon occurs every two and half years, but the last time there was a blue moon on New Year’s Eve was in 1990 – and the next will be in 2028.


Although the moon will not appear to be blue, the modern definition a blue moon is relatively new, and began in the 1940s, according to NASA.


The Farmer's Almanac of Maine offered a definition of blue moon so convoluted that even professional astronomers struggled to understand it, according to a recent NASA statement. The definition involved factors such as the ecclesiastical dates of Easter and Lent, and the timing of seasons according to the dynamical mean sun.


To explain blue moons to the masses, Sky & Telescope magazine published an article in 1946 entitled “Once in a Blue Moon,” where the author James Hugh Pruett cited the 1937 Maine almanac and opined that the "second [full moon] in a month, so I interpret it, is called Blue Moon."


Philip Hiscock of the Department of Folklore at the Memorial University of Newfoundland states that, "The phrase 'Blue Moon' has been around for more than 400 years, and during that time its meaning has shifted,” according to the NASA release.


NASA further stated that if you said that something occurs “once in a Blue Moon,” to a person in Shakespeare's time, they would attach no astronomical meaning to the statement – it only meant something that very rarely occurs, like the phrase the “Twelfth of Never.”


Each full moon also has a name and the full moon on Thursday will be the “Full Long Night Moon,” so named because the Winter Solstice, when the sun “stands still,” occurred on Dec. 21, marking the time when lengthening night begins its decline and the daytime begins to lengthen.


In addition to a full moon and blue moon on New Year’s Eve, which could bathe Lake County in lunar light (cloud cover permitting, as rains are forecast to continue through Friday), a partial eclipse will also be visible from Europe, Africa and Asia.


For more on blue moons, visit the following:

www.ips-planetarium.org/planetarian/articles/folkloreBlueMoon.html and

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/29dec_bluemoon.htm?list193967 .


E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

CACHE CREEK – Winter brings with it an opportunity to view amazing wildlife in Lake County.


The Bureau of Land Management will host free guided hikes on Saturdays in January and February to view wintering bald eagles in Lake County's Cache Creek Natural Area.


Hikes will be held Jan. 16, 23 and 30, and Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27.


The California Department of Fish and Game reported that the bald eagle is a regular winter visitor in the Cache Creek area, where they can be seen roosting or soaring from mid October through mid August.


California state law classifies the bald eagle as a “fully protected bird.” The bald eagle was added to the federal list of endangered species in 1967, and to the California list of endangered species in 1971 after its numbers dropped to 30 nesting pairs in California.


Use of the pesticide DDT was reported to have had the most effect on the bald eagle's population, although numerous other impacts also were reported to have dropped its numbers, including habitat changes because of timber harvests, agriculture, poisoning and shootings, according to the Department of Fish and Game.


Lake County is reported to have two nesting territories for bald eagles, one in the far north and the second in far south at the Napa County line, according to state records.


Fish and Game also reported that bald eagle numbers and the territories they inhabit also are increasing across the state.


Participants in the January and February hikes will meet at the Redbud Trailhead parking area, eight miles east of Clearlake Oaks on Highway 20 at 10 a.m. The trailhead is just west of the North Fork Cache Creek Bridge (38° 59' 13.20" N, 122° 32' 22.50" W).


The four-mile hikes last three to four hours. The trail includes a steep 600-foot climb in the first mile, so hikers should be in good physical condition.


Hikers should wear sturdy hiking boots suitable for wet conditions and dress for cold weather. They should carry water, a lunch and binoculars, as most eagle sightings are at a distance. Hikes will be canceled in rainy weather.


Those who join the hikes will enjoy scenic vistas of the Cache Creek Canyon, where eagles often soar over the creek or perch in streamside trees. Participants often spot other wildlife including tule elk, golden eagles, osprey, herons, red-tailed hawks and egrets.


Those interested in participating should reserve space for a specific date by calling the BLM Ukiah Field Office, 707-468-4000.


Early reservations are suggested for the popular hikes, which are limited to 25 participants each.


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THE GEYSERS – A new research project in The Geysers geothermal steamfield has received funding from the federal government.


University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering professor Fred Aminzadeh and his colleagues have won Department of Energy funding for a 3-D geothermal mapping and modeling effort.


The effort will focus on The Geysers area, a high-potential geothermal energy site straddling Lake and Sonoma counties that is already home to commercial operations.


The two-year, $1.5 million project will be carried out in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Geysers Power Co., the operator of existing geothermal power plants in the area.


The objective is to develop new methodologies to characterize the northwestern part of the Geysers geothermal reservoir, gaining better knowledge of their porosity, permeability, fracture size, fracture spacing, reservoir discontinuities (leaky barriers) and impermeable boundaries.


The immediate focus will be creating improved methods for better characterization of fractures in an enhanced geothermal system.


“This will be accomplished by creating a 3-D seismic velocity model of the field using the micro-seismic data, collected under another Department of Energy-funded project,” said Aminzadeh, research professor in the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and managing director of the USC Energy Institute’s Global Energy Center.


Several complementary processing approaches will be used to develop and test new techniques for data collection and analysis. The approaches include micro-seismic data analysis both for compressional and shear waves using soft computing, anisotropic inversion and fractal concepts.


“Geothermal energy is potentially an extremely important energy source, particularly for California,” said Don Paul, executive director of the USC Energy Institute. “Many of the techniques used in oil and gas well engineering are applicable to geothermal, and we look forward to the opportunity to apply this technology in a new area.”


Two other USC faculty members will contribute to the effort: Charles Sammis from the earth sciences department at USC College and Muhammad Sahimi from the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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