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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King County Sheriff’s Office ends burglar’s chase near Issaquah

April 27, 2011

NEW — 1:45 p.m. April 27, 2011

King County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a suspected burglar late Wednesday morning after a pursuit near Issaquah.

Police arrested the suspect in the 15600 block of Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast near the Mirrormont neighborhood, about five miles south of downtown Issaquah. The suspect’s vehicle exceeded posted speed limits during the chase.

Sgt. John Urquhart said the pursuit originated in the 19700 block of 244th Avenue Southeast in rural Maple Valley, about four miles from the 15600 block of Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast.

Urquhart said the investigation is ongoing.

Covington man dies in crash near Issaquah

April 26, 2011

Police blamed reckless driving for a fatal crash near Issaquah late last week.

The three-vehicle accident on state Route 18 near Issaquah left a 36-year-old Covington man dead April 23 and prompted detectives to launch investigations into possible vehicular assault and vehicular homicide.

Troopers blocked traffic near the mangled vehicles along state Route 18 after a deadly crash April 23. By Washington State Patrol

Washington State Patrol investigators said the incident started as motorists in a red Ford Probe and a green Toyota Celica drove in a reckless manner in the westbound lanes at about 5 p.m. Then, just east of the Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast exit, police said the driver of the Celica, a 26-year-old Pullman man, attempted to pass traffic on the right road shoulder.

The driver lost control of the Celica, traveled across all highway lanes and struck a maroon Honda Pilot heading east.

The driver of the Probe, a 39-year-old Tacoma man, lost control. The vehicle rolled onto the shoulder and came to rest upside down.

Eastside Fire & Rescue medics transported the driver of the Pilot, Trung Ngo, and his passenger, wife Cheuk Chann, 37, to Harborview Medical Center with serious injuries. Ngo died at the hospital after 9 p.m. Chann has been released from Harborview and is expected to survive.

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Surprising spring snow dusts city in white

April 12, 2011

Snowfall blanketed the Overdale Park neighborhood in Issaquah late April 7. By Larry Lohrman

Sure, spring started last month, but Old Man Winter returned last week.

Snowfall blanketed Issaquah and surrounding areas — especially neighborhoods in the Issaquah Highlands and on Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains — late April 6 and early April 7. Surprised residents reported about 1 inch of snow accumulation in some places.

“We’re disappointed by the weather every April — and that can actually last into June, our disappointment with the weather,” said Chris Burke, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Seattle.

Roads remained clear for the April 7 morning commute, although the rain-soaked ground resulting from the increased precipitation snarled Issaquah-area traffic.

Crews cleared a fallen tree from Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast near Issaquah at about 8 a.m., after the large maple clogged traffic and forced motorists to detour.

King County Sheriff’s Office deputies directed traffic. Crews cleared enough of the tree to reopen the road just after 9 a.m. and then remained on the scene to continue the cleanup Read more

Interactive map tracks junked cars, trash dumped on state forestland

April 5, 2011

State asks residents to help crack down on illegal dumping

The abandoned vehicle on state land near Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast and the dumped household garbage on eastern Tiger Mountain represent — as the Department of Natural Resource’s law enforcement chief describes the illegal dumping problem — “the tip of the iceberg.”

The agency has unveiled a Web-based map to show locations of more than 200 illegal dumping sites on state trust lands.

The state — through the departments of natural resources and ecology, plus other agencies — spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to clean up household trash, junked vehicles, and commercial and hazardous waste dumped on state trust lands.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” Larry Raedel, chief of law enforcement services for the Department of Natural Resources, said in a statement. “For every one of the sites we investigated, mapped and cleaned up last year, there are two or three more out there that we haven’t found yet.”

Illegal dumping often occurs near forest roads on the 2.1 million acres of forestland managed by the Department of Natural Resources. Hazardous sites, such as discarded industrial solvents or meth labs, can cost thousands of dollars each to clean up. Sending trucks to remote locations to remove abandoned vehicles is also expensive.

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Executive offers bold plan in State of the County address

March 1, 2011

King County Executive Dow Constantine reflected on milestones from 15 months in office and outlined a bold agenda for the months ahead in the State of County address Feb. 28.

The top elected official in the county offered a plan to shore up aging infrastructure and the social safety net amid drastic budget cuts. The address to County Council representatives and community members also emphasized regional partnerships.

Dow Constantine

“The choices we make will have a lasting and profound impact. As our parents and grandparents did, we too owe it to those who come after us to be responsible, thoughtful and smart,” Constantine said. “If we do our jobs right — building on the commitment to partnership and collaboration that have created the many successes of the past year — we can translate our internal reforms to external results.”

The executive delivered the speech at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, in part to highlight efforts to shore up the aging Howard Hanson Dam. The dam, upstream from Kent along the Green River, required local, county and federal agencies to join together to secure funds for long-term repairs.

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