Planning for the Future is Prudent

This is an open letter from Steve Cook to Frank Hotchkiss in response to Frank’s recent article: Bikes over Cars – Which Do You Prefer. Steve Cook writes articles for Santa Barbara View called Santa Barbara by Bicycle.


I read with concern your article in the Santa Barbara View titled: Bikes over Cars — Which Do You Prefer. Concern, for a number of reasons, including:

• your suggestion that a telephone poll be conducted to survey residents when the majority of U.S. households use a cell phone as their primary phone. How do you expect to reach these households? Virtually no one answers their phone if they do not know who the caller is, and few want to run up their cell phone minutes talking to someone about a survey. In particular, 2012 data show that 60.1 percent of adults aged 20-29 live in a household with only cell phones. 58.2 percent of renters only use cell phones. 51.8 percent of adults living in poverty use only cell phones. And, men, as a group, are more likely to use only cell phones than women. These are 2012 data, so we can assume the percentages are larger today. So, my question is: who are you targeting with your ‘unbiased’ telephone survey? Will these individuals answering the telephone survey be more or less likely (biased) to ride a bike in SB?

your percentage is low per the latest data for Santa Barbara. As I recall, the number is closer to 7%, not 3.5% One thing to remember, as I’m sure the planners have told you, is that one bike on the road displaces one car on the road as 80% of the cars are used by sole occupants. Further, a bike on the road does not indicate a non-car owner, as most bikes are ridden currently by car owners. Those of in this category ride bikes for a number of reasons, including: improved health, better parking, convenient shopping, quicker commutes to nearby services. Would you prefer to see the number of cars on the road increase by 7%? I think not.

• the positioning of your article is bikes vs. cars. Why not both? Myself, I have 5 registered vehicles, and many bikes. Given the opportunity, I much prefer to ride my bike, including for commerce. And, when I ride my bike, I’m freeing up a parking space for someone who won’t or can’t ride, or who needs to purchase a high volume of goods in excess of the carrying capacity of their bike. With a more bike embracing infrastructure and ‘mentality’ in town, there is no reason not to expect that the percentage of riders for commerce will increase substantially. There are many great bike designs for cargo and groceries and we see them in town, and on the westside regularly.

the future is hard to predict. Many people were in the camp that the cell phone could not change and the direction of design would come solely from Microsoft, Nokia or Motorola well off into the future. When Apple introduced the iPhone many prominent people said it would be a failure. As we all know, this began the dawn of a new era in technology usage due to fundamental design. We have an opportunity to do something similar in our little town with bicycle transportation if we pull together to make it happen. We will also need to do some thinking about driverless cars in the not-to-distant future: they are coming. And they will not likely need to park as much either as they will probably be shared among groups of friends, much like personal, driverless taxi cabs. The future of cars is neither speed or convenience alone, but intelligent coordination of pooled resources and coordinated car-to-car management of routing, speed and collision avoidance. Will you turn your back when Google comes knocking on our door to light the path for advances in this arena too?

• safety. One of the leading rationales for increasing bicycle infrastructure in a city is to improve the safety for bicyclists. With more bike ‘lanes’, and with appropriate education of both bike drivers and car drivers we can see increased bike riding in our town. This is not the only way to do so. For example, we can increase the number of people in town riding bikes by training them how to legally ride safely by ‘taking the lane’, thus using more of the existing lanes in town primarily for bicycles. This is the preferred method to ride by many as opposed to using a bike lane, and when done properly, it can as safe, if not more so, than using a dedicated bike lane. You see, the existing lanes are not “car lanes” — they are lanes and are legally available to be used by bicycles. Of course, this will have some impact on car drivers since most of our lanes are sub-standard and the car drivers will be waiting to legally pass the increasing number of bicycles. And, as you know, car passing won’t happen on the majority of our streets due to the small lane width and the many double yellow line markings. So, without more bike lanes you can expect traffic to become more encumbered in town as we move forward.

• Bike corrals – there are two approved corrals which will be implemented in the coming months downtown next to many businesses. These corrals were approved, as you know, with the consensus of the adjacent businesses. The reason they are wanted is to increase the density of the consumers on a block given that one car space displaced with a corral will allow for many bicycles (i.e., 8 to 1 or 12 to 1 improvement in shoppers). This is smart planning. The research shows that business receipts go up when these improvements are implemented.


• The assumption that all bike riders are not safe bike drivers. Like all drivers, there are those that run lights, stop signs, and go the wrong way on streets because it is more convenient. We have laws to enforce these errors of judgment and execution and we should enforce them. The Bicycle Coalition has regular training classes to teach people the rules of the road — both in class and on the road training. We encourage you to come to a class.

I invite you to join us in re-thinking how we commute, shop, and enjoy our town. This does not need to be us vs. them. This does not need to be progressives vs. non-progressives. This should be smart planning based on research that is proven successful in other cities and towns.

As Alan Kay said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” So, let’s work together and make these needed improvements happen.

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Friday Night Lights at Butterfly

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Friday Night Butterfly Lights

I’ve always enjoyed taking my camera out after dark. A long exposure can reveal all kinds of interesting things you didn’t even know were there. This was Friday night at Butterfly Beach. The moon was bright enough in the sky to easily catch the details at a faster shutter speed than this. But I intentionally lengthened the exposure to try to capture a more dreamy effect. In the middle of my exposure the people at the right walked up carrying some kind of small light, a cell phone presumably, which made for some unexpected interest in the form of an abstract light painting along the wall.

-Bill Heller

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Ecofacts: Seaweed – Too Much of a Good Thing

Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch

Eco FactsSeaweed is algae, and is, as with so many things, necessary and all good. Until there’s too much of it. As home and food for myriad creatures, as a CO2 sink and as an ecosystem filter, it consumes great quantities of nitrates, ammonia, phosphates and metals, thereby filtering the water of elements that are undesirable for other life forms. It performs many valuable functions.

If there is too much “nutrient loading” of coastal waters from agriculture (fertilizers,) human and animal waste (livestock production, fish farming or aquaculture, sewage treatment), urban runoff and industrial effluents, the algae proliferates – blooms. This then has some very undesirable effects. The bloom dies and is eaten by bacteria which suck the oxygen out of the water, suffocating creatures. The blooms cover the surface and block sunlight from reaching the algae/seaweeds below, and some of the algae themselves are toxic to fish, marine birds. mammals and humans. Extreme versions of this are the dead zones which exist in coastal waters around the globe, large swaths of waters where there is almost no life. The second largest is in the Gulf of Mexico, now the size of Connecticut.

Algal blooms happen in brackish and freshwater bodies too. Just last week, a bloom in Lake Erie kept more than 400,000 people from being able to drink the water in their homes.

Here in Santa Barbara, our Bird Refuge becomes not a good one at all at times, reddish and smelly, and when the “red tide” happens on our coast it is a downright creepy place to be. Algal blooms may be natural, but for their frequency, size and intensity, you can thank us. One good note here, the zone in the Gulf is now two thirds the size it was 14 years ago.

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Saturdays with Seibert

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

It’s possible that you have seen the guy walking through town with two mules, or maybe seen the posts on Edhat about him. I “liked” his Facebook page last year, one of 27,000 others.

Earlier this week he posted this on Facebook. Regarding the giant fig tree here in SB.

On our trek north after appearing in court in LA we were getting the message that we should always stop and visit the tree. So we did. After being there for about 45 mins. We left and went to the post office to get a letter then proceded to hwy 154 and foothill blvd where we found some open space so we decided to stay there for the night then go up san marcos rd. and over the pass in the morning. We were not looking forward to walking over the pass. We had not been feeling all that good for a couple of days it was going to be hot and our energy was low. But we could not stay where we were any longer so we packed up and left in the morning. It wasn’t long before we became aware that our energy was very good we were walking at a very good pace. We got to san marcos road and proceded up to the pass. We stopped only once to take a picture then went to the top. Apon arriving we could not beleive how easy it was how much energy we had we pondered the question where did the energy come from why was it so easy to get heer. Two days later the answer came out of left field. THE TREE. We brought our hope faith and energy to the tree and the tree gifted us the energy needed to go over the pass. The Mules will always heed the message to visit the TREE when passing thur Santa Barbara.

The Mules

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Bicycles over cars: Which do you prefer?

Opinion by Santa Barbara City Councilman Frank Hotchkiss

City of Santa Barbara planners are proposing to eliminate car lanes and on-street parking in hopes of luring bicyclists to commute to work. This might also reduce traffic and lessen pollution, however slightly. But since only about 3.5 percent of all Santa Barbarans ride bikes — and most of them are recreational riders, not commuters — the actual benefits of this would be negligible. People are just not interested in riding to work.

Is this bike push a good idea? Frankly, I don’t think so. Why? Because reducing automobile travel lanes would increase congestion. Reducing on-street parking, particularly for local businesses, could be disastrous because patrons couldn’t park near shops and stores, and therefore wouldn’t patronize them.

Transportation planning should facilitate getting from here to there quickly and conveniently. Initiatives that defeat this purpose do not benefit ordinary people but a select few with a narrow agenda: Bicycling. That’s my opinion, but your opinion is more important than mine. What do you think?

Staff bicycling enthusiasts, along with advocates such as the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, maintain that if biking is made more convenient, you, I and many others will join them (actually, only some of them, since many of them don’t ride bikes to work, either) in pedaling to work every day. To that end, the city is planning a number of “outreach” sessions where the public is invited to comment.

Jaded as I may be, I suspect that this will be pointless. Bicycle enthusiasts/advocates will show up en masse to promote any expanded biking plans, while the rest of the city shrugs and gets on with its life. Then the staff will report back to the City Council “overwhelming support” for changes that staff and the advocates wanted all along. Enthusiasts will prevail, while the majority of Santa Barbarans remain unrepresented. Remember, about 96% of Santa Barbara residents aren’t bike riders and probably never will be. They want the daily convenience of automobile transportation to facilitate their lives.

Councilman Dale Francisco and I have suggested that to gauge public opinion and preference accurately, we should conduct an independent telephone poll to determine what you really want, whether it’s increased biking lanes and facilities, retaining what we have now but not increasing them, or reducing the number of lanes designated for biking, and returning them to greater automobile usage. This will cost about $15,000, and will be free of bias.

I don’t know if there is a clear-cut consensus on these questions. Some folks think that bicycling is the way of the future. They may be right. Others think bikes are fine for some but by no means for all. They are never going to ride to Trader Joe’s, Ralphs or CVS to pick up goods. For them, their cars are their sole, best means of transportation.

I’d like to know what you think.

Please feel free to send me an e-mail at I look forward to your response.

One thing is for sure: Bike riders are obligated to follow the rules of the road just the same as automobile drivers. I hope they take their responsibilities seriously to avoid accidents, particularly to pedestrians who can get mowed down by a speeding cyclist ignoring a stop sign, crosswalk or traffic direction.

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Las Positas Dead End Roundabout

Sent by Cars are Basic

Disaster Supplies Kit

On Tuesday afternoon at Public Comment at the City Council of Santa Barbara, the enclosed demand letter was delivered to the 3 main branches of the City of Santa Barbara government (elected, administrative, and legal), PDF right.


Las Positas Dead End Roundabout

Additionally CAB had Consent agenda item #10, Las Positas Roundabout, pulled and read separately. CAB pointed out the City has an alternative presented by their Staff that will cost $600,000, and CAB’s alternative would cost approximately the same amount of money. The Las Positas Roundabout in this phase is estimated to cost $1.6 MILLION of your tax dollars.

This is a one way morning and one way evening issue as stated by Staff. Therefore there is little to no reason to suggest a roundabout will lessen traffic congestion at these times.

Adding landscaping that will include more water use and maintenance then the alternative provided by staff and CAB. CAB estimates this will add close to another $100,0000 bringing the total up to $1.7 million dollars.

The projected costs of $1.6 million is not the total costs of the project because of the pedestrian and bicycle aspects dictated by this plan…..a plan that can be avoided by using the Staff Plan costing $600,000.

When done this unnecessary abhorrently expensive white elephant will be in the range of $2.1 to $3.1 million tax dollars.

The Vote by the Council was 6-1 for. Dale Francisco voting no. With Councilman Francisco’s no vote regarding the amazing Bicycle Master Plan Update he is solidly voting with the long range and fiscal responsibility in mind. Also as of today the City of Santa Barbara has either refused or is incapable of providing a “ball park” number for the BMP.

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Is Increased Oil Production Worth the Risks?

By Santa Barbara View contributor Katie Davis

Here in Santa Barbara County we have co-existed with the oil industry for a long time and if Measure P passes in November, will continue to do so for a long time to come. The initiative exempts all current oil operations and so does not affect any current oil jobs or revenue. It also doesn’t limit future oil wells using conventional techniques.

yespWhat Measure P is designed to do is to head off the expansion of specific, high-risk techniques – fracking, acidizing and steam injection – that are causing environmental destruction, water contamination and health impacts in California and elsewhere. While primitive versions of these techniques have existed for decades, advances in the technology have brought a substantial increase in their use, as well as the associated risks and problems.

The question Measure P poses is whether that dramatic increase in risk to Santa Barbara County is worth the small amount of additional oil produced for the benefit of a few.

These processes all use a tremendous amount of water and generate greater air pollution and carbon emission than conventional oil production. They use toxic chemicals and generate polluted water that can contain arsenic, lead, benzene, radioactive compounds and other dangerous substances that can contaminate water via spills, high well casing failure rates and other means and put our health at risk. This polluted water must be re-injected underground to dispose of it. But this process has triggered earthquakes in places like Ohio and Oklahoma.

The oil companies tell you this is safe, but the oil regulators disagree. In California, the state Department of Oil and Gas recently shut down eleven wastewater injection wells over concerns they were being injected directly into aquifers used for drinking water. The EPA has just released a report saying that monitoring of injection wells is insufficient, specifically stating that, “The safeguards do not address emerging underground injection risks, such as seismic activity and overly high pressure in geologic formations leading to surface outbreaks of fluids.”

Santa Barbara County has little water to spare even in the best of years, let alone a time of extreme drought. Many communities near oil fields like Lompoc, Vandenberg Village, Orcutt and Los Alamos are completely dependent on groundwater that could be contaminated by large proposed oil projects. Our County is riddled with fault lines capable of large earthquakes. Our economy is based on farming, wine, tourism and technology and a healthy environment that are put at risk by nearby high-intensity oil extraction. Agriculture alone contributes $2.8 billion to the local economy.

Extreme oil extraction creates few jobs and many of these are temporary or imported specialists. The small increase in oil production we’d see from these techniques is not worth the risk to the other 99% of our economy, our population, our health, our food and our irreplaceable resources.

Instead of drilling for more oil here in Santa Barbara County, we should be taking active steps to cut our dependence on fossil fuels in order to reduce our impact on global warming and help move California into a cleaner, twenty-first-century energy economy. Voting yes on Measure P is the best way to move us toward that goal.

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An Appreciation: The Library

By Cheri Rae

doorThe very thought of the library brings me back to my childhood when I rode my bike to the local great sanctuary of books, with the cool air, the quiet rooms, the smart and helpful librarians. It was a place I could go and feel I belonged. Most of all it was the freedom to browse the card catalog and wander amongst the shelves filled with endless rows of literary works. More than that, I could take home an armful of these treasures to read on my own time, in my own room.

Reading books in the summertime provided windows on the world for a girl growing up in the small town of Orange: They took me places I couldn’t have imagined; they taught me about people I learned to admire; they helped me dream about possibilities that had never occurred to me.

When my daughter was small in Santa Barbara, every Tuesday and Thursday morning we walked to the library for storytime. Back then, the long-time childrens’ librarian Shirley Morrison read with great dramatic flair; she and her helpers opened the books and let the stories fly out, charming and delighting the audience with their enthusiasm as they unlocked the secrets held between the covers of those colorful books.

It’s been quite some time since I got to sit with a group of little kids in the library, celebrating the stories contained in books. But last Thursday, I had the chance to witness a graduation ceremony for 15 enthusiastic new readers—students at Franklin School—who were recognized for their participation in a summer reading program. These children, each of whom had read more than 10 books during the program, were termed “Reading Ambassadors.”

The library staff enthusiastically welcomed them, commended them for their achievements, and reminded them how they could read aloud in funny voices, tell jokes while they read to their friends, and point out details on pictures. As a recorded version of Pomp and Circumstance played, each child was called up by full name—resulting in giggles and laughter from their friends—and asked to sign a chart-sized document, the Reading Ambassador Promise. It read:

I hereby promise to read stories to my friends and family

And share the fun of storytelling with my community.

With proud smiles and shy handshakes, each child was recognized, applauded and appreciated for making the effort to embrace reading.

Talk about positive reinforcement! These kids received goodie bags filled with discount coupons for local products and attractions, a free book from Granada Books, stickers, and even free admission to Legoland. Since it was a hot day, they even got popsicles to eat on the library lawn.

The message they all embraced is that the library is a cool place where they fit in. Once child noted, “You can borrow books for zero dollars.” Another observed, “And there are computers.”

Smart kids: They already understand the library belongs to them, and with computers, they library provides access to written materials, even for those who may have difficulty reading, due to dyslexia or other learning differences. Downloadable audiobooks—so kids can hear with their ears, rather than read with their eyes—offer another form of access to the magical world of reading. And the library also offers adult literacy services, where well-trained volunteer tutors discreetly help grown-ups decode the elusive secrets of the written word.

The decorative arch outside our Central Library—formerly the main entrance—is worth revisiting: it depicts Plato and Aristotle and our city’s coat of arms, and surrounding them are the shields of the great libraries of the world: University of Bologna, Bibliotheque Nationale, University of Salamanca and Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

Those storied European libraries have their place. But what goes on inside our local community treasure—each and every day—is every bit as significant in providing access to the written word to individuals right here at home. And for those newly minted Reading Ambassadors, the whole world is wide open for them to discover.

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Renovating Library Plaza

Also on the Santa Barbara City Council docket is the renovation of Library Plaza.

sblib According to the Agenda, The landscape architect firm of Campbell & Campbell was hired in 2011 to complete the conceptual and preliminary design phase. Design work was halted in 2012 due to the elimination of the Redevelopment Agencies.

Design work resumed in July 2013 with the restoration of design funding. At that time, the scope of the project was expanded to include the entire library parcel. This was done in light of the need to address ADA access at the south entrance and due to the concurrence of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s redevelopment and expansion project. The Museum has made several requests for use of library property to advance their proposed design. The Library Plaza project received project design approval from the Historic Landmarks Commission on June 18, 2014.

The development of the final design is expected to take six month and cost $150,000 which will come from the Fenton Davison Trust. The concept includes removal of walls to improve visibility and open sightlines throughout, improved universal access to the library, the incorporation of temporary or permanent artworks and a water feature and the incorporation of sustainability concepts. Santa Barbara City staff estimate that total design, project management, supplies and construction costs could reach $3,900,000.

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The $1.6 Million Roundabout for Las Positas and Cliff Drive

Today at their weekly meeting, the Santa Barbara City Council will likely discuss and award $149,238 for final design services for the triangle at Las Positas Road and Cliff Drive. The design services will be awarded to Kittelson & Associates, Inc. to “complete final design plans, specifications, and cost estimates required for the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Las Positas Road and Cliff Drive.”

For the roundabout at Las Positas, the total project cost will be over $1.6 million.



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Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

I need glasses, by Dan Seibert.

Driving up State street this morning I passed La Arcada and spotted a figure on the bench up ahead. My first thought was, “Oh, they put another bronze statue in front of the museum.”

A few seconds later I realized my mistake, it was a human. A bit later I stopped by La Arcada and shot another photo. I really need glasses.


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UCSB Drops To #3 in Spot Party School Rankings

UCSB-Evening-Path-by-Bill-Heller-IMG_17887Last August, UC Santa Barbara jumped from number 18 to number two in the annual Party School Rankings compiled by the Princeton Review. Just released today, UC Santa Barbara has dropped a spot to number three in the rankings, topped only by Syracuse University and the University of Iowa. Rounding out the top five are West Virginia and the University of Illinois. UCSB received a top three ranking due in large part because it’s the only campus in the country with its own beach. Repeating at the top of “stone-cold sober schools” was Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

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EcoFacts: More from the Sea

Catching up on our weekend content after Fiesta, here is Barbara Hirsch.

My eyes were opened, reading about kelp and other marine algae, and my curiosity whetted. Could all that plant matter out in the great oceans be used even more as a source of nourishment for our growing population, without us over harvesting the hell out of it, as we are wont to do with anything we want….to do?

Other than with sushi, and perhaps an occasional seaweed salad, most of us Americans would assume we have little experience with seaweed, even if we probably have a daily relationship with them (carageenan and alginates being super common food ingredients, et al.) Anyway the ocean’s plant world and us? Well, so deep a subject, so is a tiny bit and links to a wealth more.

Seaweeds have been harvested for centuries in coastal cultures around the world, for both plant and human food. They are characterized first by their phyla and color – red, green and brown. Nori, one of the red ones, is very nutritious, and is used for the sushi wrap and also those seaweed snacks showing up everywhere in the (annoying) plastic boxes. It has the highest economic value of all the seaweeds. Dulce is another red algae.

Kelp is the most common brown algae, and the most harvested. Although it’s primary uses are for the above mentioned derivatives, it is also a nutritious food on its own, as is Wakame, another brown algae. A common green algae is sea lettuce, and is, as the name might imply, edible.

Here is another enjoyable video, kind of goofy but informative, on harvesting your own food from the sea.

P.S. Those brightly colored seaweed salads and ginger at Japanese restaurants are not naturally so, and often have other less than healthful ingredients too. Darn.

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CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation)

Ali Azarvan volunteered for 25 local non profits in May and shares his chronicles:

Before I started my May Days campaign, I reached out to my good buddy, Andrew Firestone, and asked him if he had any local non-profits that he felt strongly about – CALM was one of the first charities he had mentioned. I’m so glad he did. CALM has a simple and important vision – a world where child abuse no longer exists. Obviously, this is a vision that we can (and should) all get behind.

Andrew introduced me to Cecilia Rodriguez (Executive Director) and Lori Goodman (Director of Development) who are both kind, creative, and intelligent women. More importantly (for me), they were both excited about my May Days project – and they set up the most organized and effective day I’ve had yet. Their idea was to make me a board member for a day – needless to say, I could NOT have been more excited for this adventure.

I first received a tour of their amazing facilities in an awesome location in Santa Barbara – and by “awesome” I mean “I want an office there immediately”! As they were giving me the tour, the first thing that caught my attention was that they have nearly 100 paid staff members! Now I’ve spent a lot of time with a lot of charities lately – and 100 paid staff is huge. They are obviously doing great work for what is, unfortunately, a prevalent problem. . . even in perfect little Santa Barbara. They also showed me an amazing video, below,  that does a great job of encapsulating their mission – check it out if you want a quick and thorough understanding of this amazing charity.

Continue Reading →

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Andree Clark Sunset

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Andree Clark Sunset
One of several absolutely spectacular sunsets this week thanks to high clouds in the area from Hurricane Hernan. This was the view from the Andree Clark Bird Refuge, one of the amazing natural places in the Santa Barbara area, named in memory of the sister of the refuge’s primary patron, Huguette Clark. A special thanks to Alan Rose at KEYT, for the heads up early in the week about the impending high level moisture. Knew it was going to be a good week when I heard that.

-Bill Heller

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