Bookmark and Share

rss logo Top San Francisco Area Local News Stories

Source: MedleyStory

Firefighters battle raging wildfire near Pollock Pines

More than 2,500 firefighters battled a raging wildfire near the town of Pollock Pines early Wednesday after it grew by thousands of acres overnight and threatened 500 homes, authorities said.

According to Calfire, the King Fire is only 5 percent contained, has burned through 18,500 acres, forced hundreds from their homes and injured two people.

“It’s pretty emotional,” said Stacy Catrambone, who was forced to evacuate her home. “You leave the area and it’s kind of like I just had to let go because they (the firefighters) are doing their job and risking their lives for us.”

Meanwhile, crews continued mopping up operations in Weed early Wednesday after a wildfire burned through the small Northern California town destroying or damaging 150 structures including two churches and a community center.

On Tuesday, the "Weed Like To Welcome You" town sign still stood, but nothing else was normal as stunned residents assessed the damage, took stock of what they lost and gave thanks for what was saved.

"At the peak, essentially the entire town was evacuated," state fire spokesman Robert Foxworthy said.

Disastrous as the fire was for the community of 3,000 people, daybreak brought gratitude and relief that there were no reports of death or even serious injuries.

The intense blaze erupted Monday south of Weed. Winds gusting up to 40 mph pushed the flames into town, where they quickly chewed through a hillside neighborhood.

Officials said a significant number of the structures burned were houses; three firefighters lost their homes in the blaze. The cause is still under investigation.

"It went through here so fast it was unbelievable. I've never seen anything like this," Jim Taylor, a retired butcher who has lived in the town for 30 years said Tuesday. "I'm not a real religious person, but somebody was looking out for me."

Taylor said fire bombers dropped retardant over his house. As his home and his deck furniture turned pink from the retardant, another house nearby erupted into flames. Across the street, pine and oak trees were burned to a crisp, and small flames and smoke drifted up from chunky embers.

The town and the forest that surrounds it were a tinderbox after three years of drought. And Weed's winds are notorious. The steady breezes were what attracted town founder Abner Weed to build his lumber business there in 1897, after he realized that wood dried more quickly when fanned by nature.

The town's saw mill, once the world's largest, was among the structures damaged in the blaze.

"Once the fire kicked off, you had wind driving it from the south. It got into the crowns of trees, and then it was moving extremely quickly from structure to structure, block to block," said Dennis Mathisen, another state fire spokesman. On Tuesday, chimneys were the only thing still standing in the rubble, and broken pipes spurted water over the blackened landscape.

The remnants of the Holy Family Catholic Church were still smoldering, its metal girders twisted on the ground.

"I mean it was devastating," said Maureen Campbell, the church's music minister who was baptized, confirmed and married at the church, along with her children. She lost her home to the fire.

"The house up there is no big deal. It can be rebuilt," she said. "But this is my family church, you know? It's much more endearing to me." .

Published: Wed, 17 Sep 2014 08:23:58 -0700

San Francisco trying shaming for quake safety

San Francisco is trying shaming to make its buildings safer for shaking.

The city plans this week to slap large signs on hundreds of apartment buildings to publicly shame their owners into complying with an earthquake-safety ordinance passed last year, the Los Angeles Times  reported Tuesday.

The signs are printed in English, Spanish and Chinese with red lettering and a drawing of a destroyed building. They read "Earthquake warning!" in all-caps, followed by, "This building is in violation of the requirements of the San Francisco building code regarding earthquake safety."

The new law requires that wood-frame apartment buildings and hotels be evaluated for seismic safety. About 6,000 building owners had until Monday to fill out retrofit-screening forms to determine whether they'll need further study or possible retrofitting. Nearly 90 percent responded, but some 650 have not. Those owners will be subjected to the fines and the shaming signs.

Patrick Otellini, the city's director of earthquake safety, said other tactics too often proved tepid and ineffective.

"We wanted something that caught people's attention, which I think this very well does," Otellini said. "We saw that other programs had been wildly unsuccessful. We wanted a poster that drives change and lets people know what's going on."

But Huy Le, who owns a salon in the city's Castro District, said the signs would cause unnecessary fear.

"You're putting people in panic mode. That would be a horrible thing to put in a window. All you see is the words 'earthquake warning,' " she said. "It's almost as good as saying, 'Don't come into this building because it's going to collapse.' "

Los Angeles is considering a similar move, with Mayor Eric Garcetti proposing a letter-grading system to alert the public about buildings' seismic safety that would be the nation's first.

The San Francisco ordinance was designed to find wooden apartments with weak first stories, where limited structural supports can mean upper floors caving in on lower ones during a big earthquake.

That happened in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, when a couple and a baby died when an apartment building collapsed in the city's Marina District.

"I want to be safe," said Katie Stephens, who lives in a Marina District apartment. "That's part of the responsibility of being a landlord in San Francisco. It may cost a lot, but what's most important is that his tenants are safe."

Published: Wed, 17 Sep 2014 07:53:15 -0700

Students begin moving into Stanford for fall classes

Tuesday was move-in day for hundreds of new students at Stanford University. It also marked the start of six days of new student orientation.

Stanford says the Class of 2018 had the lowest acceptance rate ever because of an increasing uptick in application numbers.

? "A lot of people from my school applied and it was a lot of people's dream school," said incoming freshman Maria Iglesias. "And just 2 people from my school got in."

The Class of 2018 is made up of more than 1600 Freshmen and 29 transfer students from all 50 states and 57 countries.

And they all have already completed a new lesson about staying safe on campus.

A new pre-orientation online course is required for incoming students to help educate them about sexual assault and alcohol use.

"It was really, really long and thorough and it took me about 2-3 hours to complete," said incoming freshman Austin Seideo.

The change is part of several other additions of such training to the University on the topic after Stanford was criticized for how it handled some sexual assault cases.

The University says it is focused on communicating a specific message to the entire student body.

"What affirmative consent is, what effective bystander intervention looks like and ensuring alcohol doesn't get in the way of making good decisions," said Brad Hayward, a Stanford University spokesman.

Students Tuesday attended a convocation ceremony which featured a speech by the University President, John Hennessy. Several parents afterwards were emotional talking about having to leave their children behind.

"I'm going to get choked up because I want this to be a happy experience but more than likely I'll go back to the hotel and cry because it's still my baby," said LaTisha Jackson.

Another parent told KTVU after the convocation he got emotional while walking with his eldest daughter, who is also incoming freshman.

"I started to tear up a little bit and she thought I was joking around but I wasn't those were real tears," said Ron Seideo.

According to the University, 33% of the Class of 2018 comes from California, 90 percent are U.S. citizens, and the gender breakdown is 51 percent men and 49 percent women.

Expect to see more freshman on campus starting two years from now.

The University says it plans to gradually add about 100 more undergraduate students each year starting in the Fall of 2016 to help balance the student body with the much larger graduate population.

Published: Wed, 17 Sep 2014 07:20:04 -0700

Critics call for state PUC president to resign

Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey is one of the state's most powerful figures, but some charge the state agency's top regulator is too powerful, jeopardizing public safety and affecting Californians' wallets.

"He has complete control and power over every aspect of the commission," said state Senator Jerry Hill. "And that's where the problem is."

Hill, whose district includes San Bruno, scene of the deadly 2010 pipeline explosion and fire, has repeatedly called on Governor Brown to remove Peevey.

"That control is what has created the culture at the PUC. Until he leaves, until he's gone as president, we won't see that change," Hill said.

Newly disclosed emails showing PG&E judge-shopping in a critical rate setting case and state regulators seeming to oblige caused heads to roll Monday.

Three executives at the utility were fired and a top aid to Peevey at the PUC resigned. But Peevey himself, who was included in part of the email exchange, is still in charge.

Also still on the job is PUC Commissioner Michael Florio.

He promised a PG&E exec in one email "ll do what I can on this end" in reference to securing a certain administrative law judge on the utility's rate case.

"It was stupid. I shouldn't have done it," Florio said. "I screwed up."

Hill says this is just another example of the special treatment PG&E receives and the lack of consequences for those pulling the strings.

"I'm hoping that the Governor, at the end of this term for Michael Peevey, will look elsewhere for a new commissioner because the evidence is so clear."

San Bruno city leaders also want Peevey removed.

Many San Bruno residents have also supported an online petition seeking Peevey's ouster.

In the past, Governor Brown has expressed support for Peevey, whose wife Carol Liu, is a Democratic state Senator.

KTVU reached out to the Governor to find out if he plans to reappoint Peevey when his term expires in December.

A spokesman would only say the focus will be on filling the spot with the best possible candidate.

Calls to Peevey for comment were not returned.

Published: Wed, 17 Sep 2014 07:19:56 -0700

Two die in horrific Highway 580 fiery crash

Two people were killed late Tuesday night when their speeding sedan clipped an SUV on Highway 580 in Pleasanton and then careened out of control down a 50-foot embankment before slamming into a tree and bursting into flames, authorities said.

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Joe Azevedo said the sedan was definitely speeding at the time of the collision at around 11 p.m. in the eastbound lanes of Highway 580 near the San Ramon Road off-ramp.

“The vehicle definitely had to have some speed to go all the way off the freeway and to get this far out and impact the tree the way it did,” he said.

Authorities said the passengers in the SUV, including two small children, were uninjured in the crash.

Firefighters arrived on the scene to extinguish the car fire and the small brushfire it started. However, they could not rescue two people in the sedan.

Authorities said it may take the coroner some time to identify the victims whose remains were badly burned in the crash.

Published: Wed, 17 Sep 2014 06:50:08 -0700

Texas gun shop owner defends 'Obama family beheading' sign

A Texas gun shop known for its controversial signs is at it again: this time slamming President Obama for his handling of the Islamic State.

The sign outside of Tactical Firearms in Katy, Texas is asking, “Does one of Obama’s family members have to be beheaded for ‘change’ to happen?” This sign referring to the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker at the hands of Islamic extremists. The message was also posted to the store's Facebook page.

CEO Jeremy Alcede told KHOU-TV he pays attention to the news and determines “what needs to be fixed” and what is “important” before he decides to voice his opinion by posting a message on the marquee.

“We’ve tried to educate people, but they aren’t listening,” he said.

Alcede says parents who believe the sign is offensive should use it as a way to educate their children on what's going on in the world. 

"Beheadings happen...but they shouldn't," said Alcede.

Published: Wed, 17 Sep 2014 06:16:18 -0700

ISIS terrorists release Hollywood-style trailer

Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) terrorists have released a video in response to President Barack Obama's promise to "degrade and destroy" the group. 

The video, which was posted to YouTube but has been removed, is a Hollywood-quality mix of slow-motion explosions, RPG launches and military troops. 

>> Read more trending stories

Obama is also featured in the video during a briefing in which the president says, "Our combat troops will not be returning to Iraq." 

There is no narration, and the video is only 52 seconds long. 

It ends by flashing words on the screen: “Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun” followed by “coming soon.”

Published: Wed, 17 Sep 2014 05:14:58 -0700

Fearless miniature poodle chases bear away from home

Casper the dog may be mini, but he takes his job of patrolling the Riggar family seriously.

The 7-pound, 7-year-old miniature poodle enjoys chasing groundhogs and rabbits, but on Sunday, he ran into something much bigger – a bear.

“It doesn’t surprise me that he was chasing after a bear,” said Casper’s owner, George Riggar.

Riggar said he was cutting the grass when he noticed the side door open.

>> Read more trending stories

“The window was broken out, so the first thing I thought was someone broke into the house,” Riggar said.

But nothing except for Casper was missing.

“I went down two streets, and the neighbor said he saw the dog chasing the bear through the woods,” Riggar said.

Riggar put it all together and realized the intruder was a 100-pound black bear. He believes the cub of the mother-cub duo neighbors have been seeing for weeks pushed his way through the door and then ran into Casper.

Neighbors found Casper and brought him home.

“He has gotten a lot of treats and hugs from everybody,” Riggar said.

Published: Wed, 17 Sep 2014 03:41:31 -0700

Grand jury to weigh case of NASCAR's Tony Stewart

The fate of NASCAR driver Tony Stewart could soon be in the hands of a jury. The jury will decide whether he'll face criminal charges for hitting and killing Kevin Ward during a race in August, despite investigators announcing last month they were not going to charge him with a crime.

Stewart and Ward were participating in a race on a dirt track at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Canandaigua, New York. A video shows when Ward got out of his car and started waving his arms, possibly in pursuit of Stewart, who repeatedly bumped into Ward's car during the race. On another lap around the track, Stewart struck and killed Ward.

Ontario County's district attorney in New York announced Tuesday he was going to be taking evidence from the incident to a grand jury to see if the evidence supports criminal charges against Stewart.

>> Read more trending stories

"I think there is a lot of pressure on people up there in that county to see that the right thing is done," said former Charlotte Motor Speedway General Manager Humpy Wheeler.

Wheeler believes Stewart's celebrity is fueling a second look since the announcement comes more than a month after the incident and after a investigation with the Ontario County Sheriff's Office.

So far, no charges have been filed and that's why Stewart continues to race. He took three weeks off after the crash before returning for the final two races of the Sprint Cup season. He's expected to race this weekend in New Hampshire. His friends believe that's the best thing for him.

"He's going through the dickens since the whole thing happened and now his fate is in the hands of a jury. That's a pretty tough deal," Wheeler said.

Stewart released this statement that reads:

"I respect the time and effort spent by both the Ontario County District Attorney and the Sheriff's Office in investigating this tragic accident. I look forward to this process being completed, and I will continue to provide my full cooperation."

We don't know when the grand jury will meet because it is confidential.

NASCAR said it will monitor what happens through the legal process, but would not comment further on this latest development.

NASCAR released a statement Tuesday afternoon regarding Tantillo's announcement:

"We are aware of the completed investigation and the announced next steps. First, our thoughts continue to be with all who have been impacted by this tragedy. We will monitor this process and stay in close contact with Stewart-Haas Racing. It would be inappropriate for NASCAR to comment on this case so we will continue to respect the process and authorities involved."

Published: Wed, 17 Sep 2014 02:51:19 -0700

Vikings: Peterson must stay away from all team activities

The Minnesota Vikings announced early Wednesday that they have put running back Adrian Peterson on the exempt-commissioner's list, meaning he must stay away from all team activities as he faces child-abuse charges, The Associated Press reports.

The Vikings previously had said Peterson could play.

>> Read more trending stories

Peterson was indicted by a grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child on Friday. Multiple media sources reported that the charges stem from Peterson disciplining his son with a switch.

Additionally, ESPN reported Monday that Peterson was accused in a separate incident involving another son, but no charges were filed. 

Here's how the news played out on social media:

Published: Wed, 17 Sep 2014 00:19:01 -0700

San Francisco woman makes it out of Cabo San Lucas after hurricane

Thousands of tourists, vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, have been scrambling to get out of the area after Hurricane Odile hit.

One of those tourists was Ashley Talbot, 28, of San Francisco.

Her mother Mona Talbot spoke to KTVU Tuesday night. She said she'd had spotty contact with her daughter after the hurricane hit, but had lost all communication on Monday night and had not heard anything for more than 24 hours.

"Oh it's awful. You don't know what to think, you know. You always start thinking the worst," said Talbot. "But I keep remembering they're at the Hilton so they're probably safe."

Ashley was in Cabo for a bachelorette party with 13 friends. Mona said 11 of the women had gotten a flight out to Mazatlán earlier.

At the end of her interview with KTVU, a series of text messages came in from one of her daughter's travel partners. They indicated the three women had gotten to Tijuana by military plane and were headed to San Diego.

Anxiety and frustration turned to relief and joy, and tears of happiness flowed down Mona's face.

"That's wonderful. At least they're out of there -- that's fantastic," said Talbot.

As of late Tuesday night, the group had made it to San Diego.



Published: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 22:52:49 -0700

Burglars target Marin Headland visitors

National Park Service is warning visitors to the Golden Gate Bridge that they are being targeted by burglars.

KTVU was there just minutes after a burglar broke into a rental car at Battery Spencer in the Marin Headlands. The three victims from Austria say they were on the way to the airport, and stopped for just a few minutes to take one last look at the bridge.

They say the burglar made off with "a lot of stuff," but didn't get their passports.

Alexandra Picavet says burglars’ prowl parking areas on the north and south sides of the bridge, looking specifically for rental cars.

"The more likely car to be broken into is a rental car, especially one that has a bar tag or something that advertises that it's a rental car," said Picavet.

She said burglars are looking for luggage or any valuables left in the cabin of the car, and she said it can happen in just seconds.

"You could literally be standing in that woodchip area, just a hundred yards away and they'll break into your car. It's very very fast."

Merton Chinen and his daughter Melinda are visiting the Bay Area from Hawaii, and say they made an error when they parked in the Battery East parking lot, just south of the Golden Gate Bridge.

"Well, we left our backpack in plain view, so anyone could see it looking out from the outside, so that wasn't very smart," said Chinen.

Picavet says at times the burglars can turn violent. In October 2012 a Park Police officer opened fire on a vehicle after the burglars he interrupted tried to run him down.

Picavet says the best option is for people to leave valuables at home or in their hotel, or take them with them every time they leave the rental vehicle.  She also says it's not just tourists who should be on alert. With high profile events like Fleet Week in October drawing visitors from all over the Bay Area, everyone needs to be aware.


Published: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 22:24:56 -0700

Search for missing Belmont man shifts to Shasta County

The search for an elderly Belmont man missing for almost two weeks has shifted from Siskiyou County to Shasta County, Belmont police said Tuesday.

Paul Merrill, 87, disappeared on Sept. 4 after leaving a gas station in McCloud, a city in the Mt. Shasta area of Siskiyou County, prompting the California Highway Patrol to issue a Silver Alert.

A family member told police that Merrill had gone on a trip to the Mt. Shasta area, checked out of a McCloud hotel and hadn't heard from him since, police said.

Siskiyou County Sheriff's deputies on Friday received a tip that Merrill was seen on Sept. 9 with his car in the area of Dana Drive and Churn Creek Road in Redding, a city in Shasta County, according to police.

Last Wednesday, law enforcement agencies deployed crews by air and ground in the McCloud area searching for Merrill based on two reported sightings of him received on Sept. 8, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office.

The first sighting was of Merrill's car spotted on the side of the road on state Highway 89 about 15 miles east of McCloud.

The second sighting was of a man who matched Merrill's description seen walking in the forest near Cattle Camp.

The search in Siskiyou County was suspended on Saturday after search crews did not find the Belmont man or his car.

Merrill is described as a white man standing about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing around 165 pounds. He was last seen wearing a green jacket, a brown plaid shirt, khaki pants, tan boat shoes, and possibly a blue sailor's hat, CHP officials said.

He was driving a silver 1956 Mercedes convertible with California license plate EZX295 that his family said may be parked with a tan or brown cover.

Multiple law enforcement agencies are assisting in the search including Belmont police, Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office, Jackson County Sheriff's Office from Oregon, U.S. Forest Service and CHP.

Merrill's family is offering a $5,000 reward for any information leading to his discovery and set up a Facebook page to assist in the search effort at

Anyone who sees Merrill in Redding or Shasta County area is asked to call the Shasta County Sheriff's Office at (530) 245-6025.

Published: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 21:42:51 -0700

NFL might lose tax exempt status over Redskins name

While many headlines regarding the NFL currently look something like this, criticizing the league and its players over domestic abuse cases, the NFL might soon have a whole new issue on its hands. (Via CNN |Sporting News | NBC Sports

Check out this headline from The Washington Post reading, "Lawmaker to introduce bill to end NFL’s tax-exempt status because of Redskins name"

It's an interesting headline for a lot of reasons. First, it doesn't deal with domestic abuse. Second, why is a corporation that makes an estimated $10 billion annually tax exempt anyway? And lastly, how can a single team affect the tax exempt status of the entire league?

As reported by The Post, Sen. Maria Cantwell, backed by Native American tribal leaders, is pushing the NFL to force Redskins team owner Dan Snyder to change the team's name, calling the franchise "guilty of conduct detrimental" to the sport. 

Critics say "Redskins" is undoubtedly a racial slur against Native Americans. And there's a long-running debate over whether the team's name should be changed. Owner Dan Snyder has stood by it, saying the name's staying put.

The debate has entered the political realm before. In 2013, President Obama mentioned that if he was the was owner of a team and the name offended people, he'd change it. 

Then, in June of this year, the U.S. Patent Office cancelled the Redskins trademark. 

WJLA: "The Patent Office called the Washington Redskins name 'disparaging to Native Americans.'" 

But the federal government also grants the NFL a tax exempt status.

The league's been tax exempt since 1944 and is classified as a 501 (c) 6 designation, also known as a"trade organization." Still, the not-for-profit NFL argues it does pay taxes ... kind of. 

This is from a 2013 USA Today article on the topic: "The NFL ... notes that while its league office is tax-exempt, its 32 franchises are not. The league's most recent tax form said that it distributed $4.3 billion to clubs, where such money is subject to tax."

And, for reference, the NHL and PGA Tour are both tax exempt sports governing bodies as well, althoughboth bring in much, much less revenue than the NFL. 

Last year, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn called for an end to tax exemption for the NFL and other leagues.As reported by Bloomberg, he estimated the NHL and NFL could "generate at least $91 million of federal revenue every year." 

And Greg Easterbrook, author of the book "The King of Sports", told this to NPR last year: "In general the public subsidizes pro football to the tune of around $1 billion a year." 

Which is a sizable amount even on a federal scale. But is revoking tax exempt status the right way to force a name change for Washington? Maybe not. 

Many media outlets are downplaying the chances of the bill actually doing much of anything. The progressive blog ThinkProgress writes, "It seems unlikely that the bill will become law any time soon" mentioning "Coburn's bill has gone nowhere."

Still, maybe there's a better chance the bill will get enough support to get the Redskins' name changed. Here's what Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said back in June. 

C-SPAN: "Daniel Snyder may be the last person in the world to realize this, but it's just a matter of time until he's forced to do the right thing and change the name."

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker also announced a separate bill Tuesday to scrub the tax exempt status from the NFL, but left the Redskins name out of it. He says he wants to fund domestic violence prevention programs with the money raised.

This video includes images from Getty Images.

Published: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:49:11 -0700

Reputed gang leader gets 8 years for conspiracy conviction

One of the reputed leaders of an East Oakland gang was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in state prison for conspiracy to commit a home invasion robbery, prosecutors said.

Frederick Manning, 24, an alleged leader of the Money Team gang, pleaded no contest on Aug. 14 to conspiracy and a gang participation enhancement clause, according to prosecutor Ben Beltramo.

Manning was one of 13 reputed gang members who were arrested in August 2013 in raids led by Oakland police that were carried out in East Oakland, Hayward, Fremont and Antioch.

The arrests stemmed from Operation Ceasefire, an Oakland police crime-fighting strategy in which police tell gang members or their representatives that they will be arrested unless they stop their violent activities and change their lifestyles.

Beltramo said eight reputed gang members, including Manning, have had their cases resolved so far and the cases of the other five reputed members are still pending.

Among those who still faces prosecution is Shawn Hampton, 24, another reputed leader of the Money Team gang.

Among the charges against the alleged gang members are conspiracy to commit a crime, kidnapping to commit another crime, street terrorism, robbery and burglary.

Published: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:37:13 -0700

Mexico begins to airlift thousands of stranded tourists after Hurricane Odile

The Mexican government began airlifting the first of tens of thousands of stranded tourists out of the hurricane-ravaged resort area of Los Cabos on Tuesday, as residents picked up the pieces of shattered, flooded homes.

The Interior Ministry said military and commercial planes were carrying travelers out through the Los Cabos international airport, which remained closed to commercial flights due to damage suffered when Hurricane Odile tore through the area late Sunday and Monday.

Travelers were being flown free of charge to airports in Tijuana, Mazatlan, Guadalajara and Mexico City to catch connecting flights and, in the case of foreigners, receive consular assistance.

Fatai Oshi-Ojuri, a tourist from Oakland, California, was among the first to get out on a Federal Police jet. He said the airport in Los Cabos was a mess: roof panels and electrical wiring down, signs and windows shattered, and the terminal full of water.

"That was like a scene from 'The Walking Dead,'" he said by phone from Mazatlan, where he was waiting for an Alaska Airlines flight to Los Angeles.

Oshi-Ojuri had come to Mexico with his girlfriend for a long weekend to celebrate his 30th birthday when Hurricane Odile roared onshore and cut their vacation short.

"It's been an interesting experience to say the least," he said.

Officials estimated it would take two days to ferry out the 30,000 tourists who were being put up in temporary refuges or hotel areas converted to shelters. Some 26,000 of those were foreigners, primarily from the United States, Canada and Great Britain.

Thousands in the state of Baja California Sur remained without electricity, water or phone service. A boat was on its way with humanitarian aid, and authorities were working to restore utilities.

President Enrique Pena Nieto was scheduled to tour the area later, after presiding over an independence day military parade in the capital.

Downgraded to a tropical storm, Odile began moving into the Gulf of California and was expected to near the U.S. state of Arizona late Wednesday as a tropical depression. Forecasters said it was still capable of unleashing dangerous flash floods and mudslides.

In Los Cabos, Enrique Cota wept as he stood in murky, ankle-deep water and surveyed the destruction at his home. On the kitchen wall, a muddy mark nearly waist-high showed how deep the floodwaters got.

"We'll have to start over, little by little," Cota said, "because the stove, the refrigerator, the television, the kid's computer — it's all ruined."

He rode out Odile's landfall in a shelter with firefighters, and said he hadn't slept for two days.

Homes, stores and resorts along Los Cabos' famed hotel row all suffered severe damage, with room windows shattered, facades crumbled and lobbies full of debris.

Emergency officials in Baja California reported that 135 people were treated for minor injuries from flying glass or falling objects.

But surprisingly for a hurricane of this intensity — it made landfall as a monster Category 3 storm — there were no reports so far of fatalities directly related to Odile.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said that by Tuesday night Tropical Storm Odile had maximum sustained winds near 50 mph (85 kph). It was centered about 110 miles (180 kilometers) south of Puerto Penasco, and was moving to the north near 7 mph (11 kph).

Farther south in the Pacific, Tropical Storm Polo formed off southern Mexico Tuesday evening. It was centered 235 miles (375 kilometers) south-southwest of Acapulco with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph), and was moving northwest parallel to the coast at 12 mph (19 kph). The hurricane center predicted that Polo could become a hurricane by Wednesday night.

Meanwhile in the central Atlantic, Hurricane Edouard was a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds near 90 mph (150 kph). It was forecast to pose no threat to land.

Published: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:08:05 -0700

Woman hit, killed by Amtrak train

A woman was struck and killed by an Amtrak train in Hayward Tuesday evening, police said.

Officers responded to reports of a woman struck by a train on the tracks south of Industrial Parkway West around 5:10 p.m., Hayward police Lt. Jeff Lutzinger said.

The collision happened on the tracks where Amtrak had the right of way, Lutzinger said.

The train stopped and unloaded passengers who were shuttled away from the scene, he said.

There were 126 passengers on the Amtrak 542 train at the time of the collision, Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said.

No injuries were reported to passengers or crew members, she said.

The train was on the Capitol Corridor route heading toward Sacramento, according to Woods.

Amtrak service has been delayed due to the collision, she said.

The train was still at the scene as of 7:15 p.m. this evening and Union Pacific Railroad police are investigating the collision.

Published: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 19:37:10 -0700

UC Berkeley student conducts safety study

At UC Berkeley, when it comes to safety, students say you have to use caution.

"It’s not safe on campus," says one female student.

But UC Berkeley sophomore Sawhil Chinoy has recently come up with a new online tool that just may help keep students safer on campus. He divided the campus into a grid containing 64 blocks.

Bright red squares indicate where the most serious crimes have occurred on and near the campus over the past four years.

He based his research on UC crime reports and did most of the work on his own time last winter; once he was finished he posted his findings on Facebook.

"I was thinking if you could mine this data somehow and draw insights that might actually be relevant to students, and helping students stay safer and avoid certain areas when  there is a lot of crime that would be really cool," said Chinoy.

The UC Berkeley police department saw Chinoy's work, and has provided a link to it from the department's Twitter feed.

"It's a great thing someone took the initiative to show people how to be safer on campus and put the information out," said UC Berkeley Police Lieutenant Eric Tejada.

"I'm really excited. I'm happy they've chosen to publish it on their website and disseminate it to all of Berkeley," said Chinoy.

The study found the most unsafe areas were the Grinnel Path where students often walk from the Berkeley BART Station, sections near Telegraph Avenue and People's Park.

The study also found that most crimes occurred on Thursdays and as for what time of day, they typically occurred from 9 p.m. to midnight.

Students say the research is helpful.

"If it was night, and i was coming from a far place I could see what route to take," said Sarah Runyon.

Chinoy says his next step will be to create an app that can direct users to the safest way to get from point A to point B in real time. He hopes that could be complete within a year.

Published: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 18:56:56 -0700

Mom angry after her special needs son is left behind on senior field trip

An East Bay mother talked about her outrage Tuesday, almost a week after her son with special needs was accidentally left behind on a school field trip to a Concord waterpark.

At College Park High School in Pleasant Hill, student Patrick Kreiser went on a senior trip to Waterworld in Concord, but he didn't make it back to school.

As she does every day, on Tuesday Zuleika Kreiser went to College Park to pick up Patrick.

But last Wednesday, Kreiser was upset when she went to the campus after the field trip and found he wasn't there.

"I wonder if he's on the other bus, because since I saw so many," explained Kreiser. "And before I even think about it, he called me and told me 'Mom, can you pick me up?'"

The school had taken its seniors to Waterworld Senior Kickoff day. But when it was time to return, Patrick missed the buses. Even worse, no one noticed his absence.

"They should have done a body count before leaving," said Patrick.

School Principal Paul Gengler says a count was done, adding that there was confusion because seven buses were used when the students headed to Waterworld, but only five were available on the way back.

Patrick's mother says he's diabetic and possibly has Asperger's Syndrome, which she says can leave him overly focused on things to the point that he misses other things.

"I was lounging around, just to rest for a bit after taking some rides, and then I lost track of the time. I know it was 2:40 and everyone left already," explained Patrick.

Patrick's mother is especially upset because she offered come along to help him, but was denied.

"Why they don't let me go? Why?" she asked.

The school principal said Patrick's mother should have been allowed on the trip. He adds that protocols will be reviewed and changed if necessary.

"How we check kids in and out, how we verify and double and triple check that. So, we prevent things like this happening," said Gengler.

Principal Gengler added this is the only time in his tenure that a student was left behind on any trip. He plans to ensure it never happens again.

Published: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 18:49:33 -0700

Southbound lanes of Hwy 680 reopened following car fire

Two lanes of southbound Interstate Highway 680 in Pleasant Hill have reopened following a car fire Tuesday evening, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Officers responded to the fire on southbound Highway 680 just north of Monument Boulevard around 5:45 p.m., CHP officials said.

A Sig-alert was issued at 5:53 p.m. and the lanes reopened around 6:45 p.m., according to the CHP.

Published: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 18:13:56 -0700