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Valley People (March 1, 2023)

WE WON’T SOON FORGET last Thursday night unless this Thursday night is worse. Emergency services people were hustling all night to pull stranded motorists out of the snow as the unprepared slid off roads and trees came down everywhere. Can’t blame the unprepared, though; who can be prepared for a sea level snowstorm in Mendocino County? As a life-long ten-percenter — at any one time ten percent of the people have no idea what’s happening even when it is happening to them — I could have been stranded on 128 last night, too, having headed south an hour before the sky gods decided to remind us what a real winter is like.

MENDO PEOPLE are at their best in crises, among the many who rose to this unprecedented occasion count Steve Laviletta who told his Signal Ridge neighbors, “I just got done clearing Signal Ridge from Rossi ranch to Philo Greenwood. Proceed with caution.”

WITHOUT STEVE, nobody up there in the highest reaches of the Anderson Valley could have proceeded with or without caution.

AND THERE WAS “Kyle out of Comptche” who appeared out of nowhere on 128 near Yorkville who wielded chainsaw assistance to several motorists trapped by fallen trees. 

“Serious thanks to the one guy with a chainsaw that helped make it possible for us all to get down off that snowy hill outside Yorkville. Kyle out of Comptche, with the white Dodge Pickup, I’ll buy you a new bar for that chainsaw any day you’re in town.”

THIS REPRESENTATIVE Facebook comment appeared at 9:16pm: “We were driving to the coast and had to turn around about 30 min ago and go back to Cloverdale; too much snow for 2 wd, but also trees down; even big pick-ups we’re turning back because they said it was getting worse and worse driving towards the coast. Hopefully the roads will be clear tomorrow. 9:16pm Thursday night

OVER THE LONG YEARS, the Boonville schools have been closed many times for dubious reasons. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. It’s too wet. It’s gratifying to read the message from school Supe Simson that the Anderson Valley schools would be open on the Friday after snowbound Thursday, thus emphasizing that education is a serious business which a few hours of snow is not going to stop.

RENEE LEE on the big snow: It’s been a really loooong time! I have a picture of me as a youngster in our yard with about the same amount of snow as today. I was maybe 4 or 5 years old. I can’t remember snow that has actually “stuck” that much on the Valley floor since then.

ERNIE PARDINI: I’m not sure what year it was, but I was working for Harold Hulbert at the Chevron station in town and it snowed 6 inches in downtown Boonville. At the top of the hill it snowed 18 inches on flat ground. Floyd Johnson was worried about his sheep not being able to get anything to eat so he had my uncle Mancher haul a cat up to open the road out to his Bald Hills ranch. My dad took a picture of my uncle standing next to a cut bank of snow that was higher than my uncle standing next to it with his arm extended as high as he could reach.

MARK SCARAMELLA: The last time I remember measurable snow in the lower elevations of Mendocino County was back in February of 1989 the year before moving to Boonville when I was visiting my parents in Irish Beach. Here’s a picture I saved of that snow that my father took of Highway 1 at the time with the Pacific Ocean in the background on the west side of Highway 1. This was right at sea level, so the snow must have been comparably low in Anderson Valley.

FIREFIGHTERS get a lot of thanks from the community, but we’re not the only ones out there. Here’s AVFD Lieutenant Perez, heading out for the beginning of his night shift with CalTrans. We appreciate our public safety colleagues! (AV Fire Chief Andres Avila)

Moy Perez & Caltrans

A SOLID TWO HOURS OF SNOWFALL on the Valley floor from 7am until 9am Thursday morning, with hill people reporting three to four inches or more at higher elevations. Thursday morning's snow was unprecedented for the Anderson Valley, with drifts still piled up here and there in mid-afternoon.

MY FAVORITE SIGHT last Thursday morning as the snow came down heavy on Highway 128, was a pair of geese putting down in Prather pond until, I imagined, visibility returned and they could resume their journey.

DISEASED AND DROUGHT weakened trees, weighted down by up to a foot of wet snow in some places, fell onto long stretches of Highway 128 and Mountain View Road. Getting to them and then clearing them has been a slow, painstaking process. Some emergency crews said they were surprised that more power wasn’t out for longer periods over a wider area for more locals. 

(Photo Courtesy, Anderson Valley Fire Chief Andres Avila who lives in Yorkville.)

ADDED to the downed trees and tree-sized limbs littering long stretches of road, vehicles of all sizes are stranded in the affected areas, including large commercial trucks. These vehicles will have to be removed as well as tree debris, a process which will be further delayed by the area’s long-standing shortage of tow trucks, themselves stretched thin by the size of the snow-blasted area. Oh, and did we mention the downed utility lines?

TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY (literally) some frustrated drivers have been insulting the road crews and flaggers, blaming them for the road closures and delays. Angry posts have appeared on the Caltrans’s facebook page and elsewhere saying the freak storm problems are all the fault of Caltrans. 

AS WE GO to press Monday night, Highway 128 remained closed. 253 was open but local Caltrans crew advises, “Go slow.” Hwy 101 was back open between the Oregon border and the Bay Area and beyond.

FIRE CHIEF ANDRES AVILA, MONDAY AFTERNOON: Needless to say, we have been busy in Yorkville for the last few days. The rest of the district has held up fairly well with falling trees being the biggest impact. To date, no storm related injuries or significant traffic accidents have occurred. CalTrans and County Roads have put in a tremendous amount of work during this storm to get our roads usable again without injury. Wylatti Construction has now been contracted to take over the storm debris cleanup on Hwy 128 in the Yorkville area. This can be dangerous business so we are keeping our fingers crossed for the crews still working out there. In addition to Wylatti Construction, I also saw a company by the name of California Tree Solutions working in the area. Road crews are making good progress on clearing the Highway 128 with a follow-up crew moving east and working the highway shoulders to remove hazard trees and other brush still impacting safe commuting. Power is still out at this time in Yorkville but the PG&E crews are getting close to the end of the grid near the base of Haehl's Grade (near MM 46.16), so it would be likely that power restoration is coming soon for the main corridor in Yorkville. Private ranches and property owners will have weeks of cleanup and repair work before getting back to normal.  

A  PEACHLAND RESIDENT REPORTS: “We can get out, but the road is a huge mess. There are sightlines where there were not before due to all the trees that have come down. Neighbors did initial clearing on Friday afternoon and the fire department plus residents have continued to make it better bit by bit but it is still gnarly … Broken  branches and tree trunks beside or spilling onto the road that you have to squeeze around. Lots of work to do and lots of fire fuel once it all dries out.”

Pick's, Cloverdale

CLAUDIA CLOW WRITES: Kudos to the photographer. It’s a magical photo. Pick’s Drive In in Cloverdale celebrates its 100th year in business. It’s been an honor to be part of that history having now owned it for 33 years. 

ANDERSON VALLEY FIRE CHIEF ANDRES AVI:LA last week: “As of this morning, 128 is closed but accessible to emergency vehicles up to Haehl’s Grade, MM 46. After that it is only 4x4, no duallys or trailers. Multiple vehicles are still abandoned and stuck along the road, abundant treefall, and still a lot of snow once you get off the Highway. It'll be a couple days to get this back to normal. We have limited access via ATV and chained vehicles to get into the rural areas for now. This is definitely a unprecedented storm for the Yorkville Highlands.”

“The EMS Branch [Ambulance] over spent the FY budget due to back-staffing our vacant ambulance shifts. The county funded ALS grant of $66,000 was first established in 2014 to increase advanced life support (ALS) opportunities and/or to sustain existing services in Anderson Valley. AVFD currently relies on this funding to provide regular training, pay our ambulance manager, stipend our dedicated volunteers 30 per 12-hour shift, and the remaining amount goes to pay MedStar ambulance to staff open shifts when needed. As our staffing crisis continues to grow, more shifts have been requested from MedStar Ambulance than the budget allows. The current excess in expenditures will be covered by donations, assistance from our Mendocino County DA, reducing on other expenditures, and a slight (possibly temporary) increase in revenues for this year.” … “AVFD was able to assist our neighboring South Coast Fire Department early Monday morning when they had a structure fire consume their local community center. We were able to send a 3/0 staffed structure engine and one chief officer for overhead support. This type of mutual aid is not reimbursable but absolutely necessary and appropriate in order for fire services to combat large incidents challenging normal response capacities. We have many times requested neighboring agencies assistance for various incidents and appreciated the help. This was our time to give back.”

THE BOONVILLE QUIZ IS BACK this Thursday, March 2 at Laurens at The Buckhorn. We present The Quiz on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays. So prepare to exercise your brains. Cheers, Steve Sparks, The Quizmaster.

ANGELA DAVIS has discovered that one of her ancestors was a passenger on the Mayflower, the English boat that brought white puritans to the New World in 1620. She appeared on an episode of PBS's Finding Your Roots on Tuesday, during which she also learned that both her mother's father and her father's father were both white men and descendants of slave owners. Ms. Davis, 79, is a part-time resident of the Holmes Ranch, Anderson Valley. 

BILL KIMBERLIN: This is one of the last shots in “Raider's of The Lost Ark”:

How did they do that? Well, it was a matte painting. The artist paints the warehouse scene on glass, leaving an unpainted area where a motion picture of the worker pushing the crate with the Ark can be inserted and composited for the final shot.

I will be speaking at the Anderson Valley Historical Society's little red school house on March 19th explaining some of these visual tricks that I worked on.

CONGRESSMAN HUFFMAN'S appearance last week at Hendy Bridge took me back to the night a visiting class of high school kids from the California School for the Deaf were having a merry middle of the night time jumping off the bridge until Deputy Squires was called out to put the kibosh on the dangerous hijinks. The formidable deputy, not trained in signing, had no trouble making himself understood. Lots of local kids have made that summertime leap, almost all of them of the male persuasion, but there have always been rumors that a few girls have also jumped, and if you're one of them or know one of them I'd like to hear from you.

COMPLICATING the dispatch of Boonville's beloved weekly is a new edict from the U.S. Post Office that roughly half of our out-of-Mendo papers be mailed outtahere in plastic strapped bins, rather than the plastic bags we've used for many years. It adds a couple of hours to the weekly grind. 

THE NEW SYSTEM could be construed as elder abuse given our two-person geriatric staff, and our “office” has already been confused several times with an assisted living facility by delivery people, the assist arriving once a month in the capable and all-round-excellent Cory who completes the onerous task of cleaning up after us with unfailing good humor. The point! Get to the point, old man! The point is some papers will inevitably go astray until we have mastered this new process.

BETH SWEHLA: If you are driving by the high school you will see some yellow tape up near the bridge. I found a sink hole this morning. Mrs. Simson contacted the fire department to check on it. The opening is about 1 foot wide. Below ground there is an opening that is at least 2 x 4 feet. 

There has been a large sink hole in this area in the past. Please be careful.


Sarah Reith was born into a circus family in San Francisco and ran away to join the army as soon as she turned 18. She was a parachute rigger at the jump school in Fort Benning, Georgia, where one of her incidental duties was jumping out of an airplane ahead of a class of airborne students so the instructors could check the wind conditions. She used her GI Bill to earn a BA in creative writing at Mills College for Women. 

Sara Reith

Her worklife included being a bike messenger and a barista before going back to school in Germany, where she earned her MA in

German Literature in the shadow of a medieval castle. She is currently working as a reporter in Mendocino County and writing her second novel.

Reith joined KZYX as a community news reporter in 2017. In 2018-2019, she worked with local theater maven, Kate Magruder and reporter, Laura Hamburg on “Promise of Paradise: Back to the Land Oral Histories of Mendocino County.” The half-hour programs aired weekly on KZYX for a year. 

You can find Sarah Reith’s byline at KZYX, KMED, Redheaded Blackbelt, and Mendo-Fever. She covers local politics, the environment, law enforcement, and the arts in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties

THE HEADLINE was plenty sad in itself: “Cloverdale man, 92, lay for days after fall before being found.”

BUT READING ON, “Ninety-two-year-old Tom Notti lay where he’d fallen for five days before anyone realized it had been too long since they had last seen or talked to him.

One friend had taken ill. Another one’s car had broken down. A neighbor had left town for a while.

People were involved in their own lives and just didn’t notice they hadn’t heard from him.

Then a Meals on Wheels driver learned from friends that Notti had been out of touch.

She got his address and drove over. Peering through the rear window of his home, she saw him on the living-room floor, too weak and dehydrated to move.

It was a moment of grace and, even, briefly, cause for celebration that driver Shannon Holck’s well-known concern for her clients had resulted in Notti’s rescue. Everyone thought a happy ending was in sight.

But Notti became severely ill in the days that followed. He died while hospitalized in Santa Rosa on Tuesday, a week after his rescue…”

WE REMEMBER TOM & DIANE NOTTI from their four years of ownership of the popular Biscotti Notti bakery, curio shop and restaurant in the Farrer Building in downtown Boonville in the mid-1990s. (Now Mosswood Market.) The Nottis operated the bakery with their daughter-in-law Laureen Sullivan. All the Nottis were popular, although Diane Notti tried to keep Tom, the first-class biscotti baker, in the back baking area because Tom tended to the irascible, meaning he was easily irritated by dawdling customers. For a fact, Tom was eccentric and often very funny. After they sold the bakery to Glad (Severn) Donahue in 1997 (Café Glad) the Nottis retired to their home in Rancho Navarro and later moved to Cloverdale. While a Rancho Navarro retiree, Tom made the local news after telling us that he was “forced to defend himself” one morning against an attacking hummingbird with a blast from his shotgun. He missed, later declaring that the tiny creature must have had navigational issues and an anger management problem. Biscotti baking is a time consuming, labor intensive process which Tom loved more than the customers up front. He would arrive at the bakery at 5am almost every day to begin the double-baking process so that the various baked goods would be ready by mid-morning. We are very sorry to hear of his lonely death in Cloverdale. (Mark Scaramella)

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