Downed trees snarl morning commutes in Issaquah area

January 19, 2012

NEW — 7:25 a.m. Jan. 19, 2012

Fallen trees caused road closures and traffic headaches early Thursday, as icy conditions caused fresh problems a day after a major snowstorm.

Newport Way Northwest from Northwest Oakcrest Drive to state Route 900 is closed due to a downed tree. State Route 900 from Northwest Talus Drive to the southern city limits is closed due to a downed tree.

Meanwhile, outside Issaquah city limits, state Route 18 is closed in both directions from Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast to Interstate 90 due to multiple fallen trees blocking the lanes.

Puget Sound Energy reported more than 1,200 without power at 7:45 a.m.

Early Thursday, National Weather Service meteorologists issued a regional ice storm warning through noon. Forecasters said to expect travel impacts related to icy conditions, although temperatures should start to rise by midday.

City road crews continue to focus on high-priority routes, as ice poses a different challenge than the snow from previous days.

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King County crews encounter headaches as snowstorm barrels across region

January 18, 2012

NEW — 2:45 p.m. Jan. 18, 2012

The snowstorm pummeling the Puget Sound region is causing transportation headaches across King County, officials said Wednesday afternoon as road crews attempted to keep major arteries open to traffic.

Officials said no county road is escaping the impact of the latest winter storm.

County Road Services Division crews reported hazardous driving conditions along and several road closures across the region. The county focused mostly on plowing and sanding along the major roadways throughout the county, such as Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast.

Countywide, about 150 field staffers continue to work 12-hour shifts to support 24-hour operations. That around-the-clock schedule is due to continue until conditions improve.

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Veterinarian fulfills a lifelong wish list

January 17, 2012

Sarah Owens (center) becomes friends with two women during a luncheon at one of the first gatherings of Tanzanian and Kenyan Maa-speaking peoples (Maasai nomadic tribes) at a sharing of the commonalities and differences in traditions. Contributed

As a young person, veterinarian Dr. Sarah Owens made a point of asking her elders what it was they wished they had done with their lives. As she listened to their regrets, Owens made a promise to herself to “make sure I didn’t miss out on anything.”

Owens kept that promise. She graduated from Brown and Harvard, traveled to the mountains of Nepal to care for animals on film shoots and spent many hours in the castles around Europe performing delicate surgeries on animals. In between stints at college, Owens was an active leader in several of nongovernmental organizations in South Africa. Eventually, the pull of her native Northwest roots drew her home to Issaquah.

“Aside from the Arctic and Antarctic, I’ve lived most my life on the continents and am completely happy to be back here in the Northwest,” she said, adding that she feels a symbiotic relationship to people in the Northwest.

“No matter where I was, every time I met someone in a remote and exotic locale who was from the Pacific Northwest, I felt we shared a certain way of connecting to the natural and social environment,” she said. “I am sure it stems from coming from a landscape of such great soul.”

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Hayes Nursery, longtime local business, to close

November 29, 2011

The entrance to Hayes Nursery below Tiger Mountain was recently renovated. By Greg Farrar

Hayes Nursery, a destination for springtime shrubs and sage gardening advice, plans to close by late December, after rain-sodden summers and a feeble economy hurt the longtime local business.

Clare and Larry Hayes opened the nursery along Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast in time for Mother’s Day 1987 and expanded the business throughout the decades.

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King County Council adopts ‘stable and balanced’ 2012 budget

November 15, 2011

In a unanimous decision Nov. 9, King County Council members adopted a $5.2 billion budget for 2012 focused on basic human needs, such as food and shelter, and maintenance for aging roads in rural and unincorporated areas.

The total includes a $650 million general fund budget — dollars for elections, law enforcement and other basic government functions. Leaders did not tap reserves for the 2012 spending plan.

“This stable and balanced budget is a product of a decadelong effort to respond to shrinking revenues by cutting costs while maintaining our high bond ratings through sound fiscal management,” Councilman Larry Phillips said.

The budget outlines a plan for some streets in rural and unincorporated areas near Issaquah to receive reduced maintenance and a lower priority for snow removal.

In turn, King County plans to shift attention to heavily traveled roads, such as Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast.

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King County road crews prepare for wintry conditions

November 15, 2011

NEW — 10:40 a.m. Nov. 15, 2011

La Niña is in the long-term forecast, temperatures continue to fall and the King County Road Services Division is urging motorists to prepare for driving in wintry conditions.

The agency faces a challenge in the months ahead due to budget cuts.

Because wintry conditions can start earlier at higher elevations, county road crews topped off salt and sand stockpiles of salt and sand to be ready. The latest forecast indicates ice and snow could start any day now.

The county roads division has 17,700 cubic yards of sand, 270 cubic yards of salt and 21,000 gallons of anti-icing material stockpiled at 10 field offices throughout the county. The agency also has equipment ready to combat snow and ice.

If a significant snowstorm blasts the region, officials place crews on 12-hour shifts to provide around-the-clock response on roads in unincorporated areas.

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Off the Press

September 27, 2011

It can’t happen here; yes, it can

Kathleen R. Merrill Press managing editor

“This kind of thing doesn’t happen here,” people always say when some tragedy, especially one involving violence, occurs in a community.

I heard the phrase again and again Sept. 24, because that kind of thing doesn’t happen in Issaquah either. Until it did.

I was shopping in Maple Valley when a friend called to tell me there was a gunman on the loose in Issaquah and she couldn’t get into town because of all of the police officers blocking the streets.

Despite the fact that her voice was crystal clear, I immediately said, “What? Can you say that again?”

Same thing — gunman, downtown Issaquah, cops everywhere with guns drawn, helicopter flying overhead. She then asked if I was OK. (I live downtown.) I felt stunned for a moment. Were my pets OK at home? Could I even get there? Did I want to go there? How would I know if the gunman was inside the house or hiding on the property?

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County’s proposed road plan calls for limited service on local streets

September 13, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. Sept. 13, 2011

Some streets in rural and unincorporated areas near Issaquah could receive reduced maintenance and a lower priority for snow removal under a proposal King County leaders unveiled Monday — a plan County Executive Dow Constantine called “triage” for a cash-strapped and deteriorating roads system.

Dow Constantine

Constantine proposed a plan to prioritize road maintenance, snow removal and storm response on a tiered system.

Important arteries — such as Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast, Preston-Fall City Road Southeast, Southeast Issaquah-Fall City Road and sections of Southeast May Valley Road east of state Route 900 — remain top priorities for maintenance, snow removal and storm cleanup under the proposal.

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Paraglider pilot plummets to death near Squak Mountain

August 9, 2011

A paraglider pilot plunged to his death Aug. 7 as he attempted to land in a pasture near Issaquah.

Renton resident Kenneth Blanchard, 53, completed hundreds of paraglider flights before the deadly accident.

Seattle Paragliding owner Marc Chirico said Blanchard launched from Poo Poo Point on Tiger Mountain a couple of hours earlier and planned to land near his home on a “postage stamp of a landing field” in a pasture.

Chirico said Blanchard completed about 300 flights before the accident.

The accident occurred at about 7 p.m. in the 12300 block of 202nd Place Southeast, near the intended landing site. Blanchard plummeted to the ground in the High Valley area southwest of Squak Mountain State Park, about three miles from the usual paraglider landing site along Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast.

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King County Council protects Issaquah Creek salmon habitat

May 31, 2011

Critical salmon habitat in the Issaquah Creek Basin is protected for the next half-century — and possibly longer — due to a King County Council decision.

The council members approved a 50-year lease agreement May 16 for 30 acres along Holder Creek and near Carey Creek — tributaries of Issaquah Creek. The wedge-shaped property is along Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast, about a mile north of the state Route 18 interchange.

The legislation authorized County Executive Dow Constantine to lease the land from the state Department of Natural Resources at no cost.

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