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Mudslides claim more in Southern California

MONTECITO (AP) — More than a dozen people were killed and homes were torn from their foundations Tuesday as downpours sent mud and boulders roaring down hills stripped of vegetation by a gigantic wildfire that raged in Southern California last month.

Rescue crews used helicopters to pluck people from rooftops because debris blocked roads, and firefighters pulled a mud-caked 14-year-old girl from a collapsed Montecito home where she had been trapped for hours.

"I thought I was dead for a minute there," the girl could be heard saying on video posted by KNBC-TV before she was taken away on a stretcher.

All the deaths were believed to have occurred in Montecito, a wealthy enclave of about 9,000 people northwest of Los Angeles that is home to such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres, said Santa Barbara County spokesman David Villalobos. At least 25 people were injured.

The mud was unleashed in the dead of night by flash flooding in the steep, fire-scarred Santa Ynez Mountains. Burned-over zones are especially susceptible to destructive mudslides because scorched earth doesn't absorb water well and the land is easily eroded when there are no shrubs.

The torrent of mud early Tuesday swept away cars and destroyed several homes, reducing them to piles of lumber. Photos posted on social media showed waist-deep mud in living rooms.

Some residents were unaccounted for in neighborhoods hard to reach because of downed trees and power lines, Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Dave Zaniboni said.

"I came around the house and heard a deep rumbling, an ominous sound I knew was ... boulders moving as the mud was rising," said Thomas Tighe, who discovered two of his cars missing from the driveway. "I saw two other vehicles moving slowly sideways down the middle of the street in a river of mud."

Authorities had been bracing for the possibility of catastrophic flooding because of heavy rain in the forecast for the first time in 10 months.

Evacuations were ordered beneath recently burned areas of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. But only an estimated 10 to 15 percent of people in a mandatory evacuation area of Santa Barbara County heeded the warning, authorities said.

Marshall Miller, who evacuated his home in Montecito on Monday with his family, returned to check for damage and found his neighborhood devastated. He never reached his home because two of his neighbors, an elderly woman and her adult daughter, needed a lift to the hospital after being rescued by firefighters.

The pair had left their house before it was inundated with 6 feet  of mud, but they got trapped outside in the deep muck.

"It was sobering," Miller said. "I saw them covered in mud and shaking from the cold."

The path of the deluge was graphically illustrated on the side of a white colonial-style house, where a dark gray stain created a wavy pattern halfway up the front windows.

Cars were washed off roads, and one was deposited upside down in a tangle of tree limbs. In Los Angeles, a police cruiser got swamped in tire-deep mud.

A stretch of U.S. Highway 101 that connects Ventura County to Santa Barbara County looked like a muddy river clogged with trees and other debris. A kayak was marooned in the flotsam, and a Range Rover was buried up to its bumpers.

Some of the worst damage was on Montecito's Hot Springs Road, where the unidentified girl was rescued and residents had been under a voluntary evacuation warning. Large boulders were washed out of a previously dry creek bed and scattered across the road.

A rescuer working with a search dog walked among the ruins of a house as the yellow Labrador wagged its tail and scrambled into a devastated building, looking for anyone trapped inside. Its belly and paws were black from the mud.

The worst of the rainfall occurred in a 15-minute span starting at 3:30 a.m. Montecito got more than a half-inch in five minutes, while Carpinteria received nearly an inch in 15 minutes.

"All hell broke loose," said Peter Hartmann, a dentist who moonlights as a news photographer for the local website Noozhawk.

"There were gas mains that had popped, where you could hear the hissing," he said. "Power lines were down, high-voltage power lines, the large aluminum poles to hold those were snapped in half. Water was flowing out of water mains and sheared-off fire hydrants."

Hartmann watched rescuers revive a toddler pulled unresponsive from the muck.

"It was a freaky moment to see her just covered in mud," he said. "It was scary."

Hartmann said he found a father-son tennis trophy awarded in 1991 to men his wife knows.

"Both of them were caught in the flood. Son's in the hospital, dad hasn't been found yet," he said, declining to name them.

The communities are beneath the scar left by a wildfire that erupted Dec. 4 and became the largest ever recorded in California. It spread over more than 440 square miles (1,140 square kilometers) and destroyed 1,063 homes and other structures. It continues to smolder deep in the wilderness.

The storm walloped much of the state with damaging winds and thunderstorms. Downtown San Francisco got a record 3.15 inches (8 centimeters) of rain on Monday, smashing the old mark of 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) set in 1872.


Washington
AP
Trump suggests 2-phase immigration deal; judge blocks DACA decision

WASHINGTON — Searching for a bipartisan deal to avoid a government shutdown, President Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that an immigration agreement could be reached in two phases — first by addressing young immigrants and border security with what he called a "bill of love," then by making comprehensive changes that have long eluded Congress.

Trump presided over a lengthy meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers seeking a solution for hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the U.S. as children and living here illegally. Trump last year ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which shielded more than 700,000 people from deportation and gave them the right to work legally. He gave Congress until March to find a fix.

Negotiations over the DACA program may be more complicated in light of a federal judge's ruling Tuesday to block temporarily the administration's decision to end the program. In doing so, U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco granted a request by California and other plaintiffs to let lawsuits over the administration's decision play out in court.

Alsup said lawyers in favor of DACA clearly demonstrated that the young immigrants "were likely to suffer serious, irreparable harm" without court action. The judge also said the lawyers have a strong chance of succeeding at trial.

The president, congressional Republicans and Democrats expressed optimism for a deal just 10 days before a government shutdown deadline. Trump said he was willing to be flexible in finding an agreement as Democrats warned that the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrants hung in the balance.

"I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with," Trump said during a Cabinet Room meeting with a bipartisan group of nearly two dozen lawmakers, adding, "I am very much reliant upon the people in this room." A group of journalists observed the meandering meeting for an extraordinary length of time — about 55 minutes — that involved Trump seeking input from Democrats and Republicans alike in a freewheeling exchange on the contentious issue.

"My head is spinning from all the things that were said by the president and others in that room in the course of an hour and a half," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. "But the sense of urgency, the commitment to DACA, the fact that the president said to me privately as well as publicly, 'I want to get this done,' I'm going to take him as his word."

The head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Michelle Grisham Lujan, D-N.M., said late Tuesday she was "encouraged" by Trump's words and would work "in good faith" toward a deal. Some of the group's members have taken a hard line against surrendering too much in a compromise with Trump.

The White House said after the meeting that lawmakers had agreed to narrow the scope of the negotiations to four areas: border security, family-based "chain migration," the visa lottery and the DACA policy. Democrats and Republicans are set to resume negotiations Wednesday.

But the exchange raised questions about how far Trump would push for his high-profile border wall.

In describing the need for a wall, the president said it didn't need to be a "2,000-mile wall. We don't need a wall where you have rivers and mountains and everything else protecting it. But we do need a wall for a fairly good portion."

Trump has long made that case, saying even during his campaign that his border wall didn't need to be continuous, thanks to natural barriers in the landscape. And he has said he would be open to using fencing for some portions as well.

The unusually public meeting laid bare a back-and-forth between the parties more typically confined to closed-door negotiations. At one point, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, asked Trump if he would support a "clean" DACA bill now with a commitment to pursue a comprehensive immigration overhaul later.

Trump responded, "I would like it. ... I think a lot of people would like to see that but I think we have to do DACA first." House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., interjected, saying, "Mr. President, you need to be clear though," that legislation involving the so-called Dreamers would need to include border security.

The president said he would insist on construction of a border security wall as part of an agreement involving young immigrants, but he said Congress could then pursue a comprehensive immigration overhaul in a second phase of talks.

House Republicans said they planned to soon introduce legislation to address border security and the young immigrants. Trump said, "it should be a bill of love."

Trump's embrace of a "bill of love" brought to mind his past criticism of former GOP presidential rival Jeb Bush, who said many people come to the U.S. illegally as an "act of love." Trump's campaign posted a video at the time with a tagline that read, "Forget love, it's time to get tough!"

Conservatives quickly sounded alarms about a process that would lead to a comprehensive agreement on immigration, a path that has long been anathema to many rank-and-file Republicans.

"Nothing Michael Wolff could say about @realDonaldTrump has hurt him as much as the DACA lovefest right now," tweeted conservative commentator Ann Coulter, referencing Trump's recent portrayal in the book, "Fire and Fury."


Local
All smiles at Kings Dental Group after award win

When dentist Dr. Terry O’Hare learned that his practice, Kings Dental Group, would be named 2018 Business of the Year by the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce — well, it put a smile on his face.

O’Hare was informed of the win when Chamber of Commerce CEO Amy Ward made a surprise trip to his offices recently.

“I thought she wanted to come by to discuss the Lemoore Christmas Parade, which I work with them on and help sponsor. It was a little embarrassing,” O’Hare laughs.

Kings Dental Group has been in business in downtown Lemoore for over 20 years.

“We look forward to coming in every day,” says patient coordinator Cindy Soloria, who’s been at the business for four years.

O’Hare is committed to supporting the patients that support his business. He has given hundreds of toothbrushes to military families in need and locals doing missionary work and has sponsored numerous projects, including school yearbooks.

 “I support my community by supporting the people who are in it,” he said.

Along with Dr. Amy Coeler of Oakberry Dental and oral surgeons from Central Valley Implant and Oral Surgery Institute in Hanford, O’Hare donates his time and talent to helping veterans every November.

In 2017, the doctors gave a combined $25,000 in services to helping vets who needed oral care over the course of a day.

O’Hare also gives his time at regional CDA Cares clinics that see more than a thousand patients receive care that they could not normally afford.  Over a million dollars’ worth of dentistry is given out and the semi-annual clinics, the most recent of which was hosted in Bakersfield.

During these clinics O’Hare works with the prosthodontic department, providing dentures and partials to patients and replacing missing teeth.

“Without teeth, it’s hard to smile. You don’t want to go to a job interview if you can’t smile, so just getting a tooth in there is a great impact on people and they’re always very grateful,” O’Hare says.

Becki Oregel, a registered dental assistant who works at Kings Dental Group, assists at the CDA Cares events as well.

“Helping makes his heart grow a lot,” Oregel says. “At the events, it’s usually elderly people and seeing their new smile means a lot to [O’Hare].”

The Lemoore Chamber of Commerce’s annual installation and awards banquet will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19 at the Tachi Palace and Casino Bingo Hall.

For tickets or more information, visit www.lemoorechamberofcommerce.com or call 559-924-6401.

Kings Dental Group is located at 5 West D St. in downtown Lemoore. Call 559-924-2206 for more information.


Local
Brumit promises change in education service

HANFORD — Monday night, a group of around 30 people gathered at a home in Hanford and listened to Lemoore High School Principal Rodney Brumit announce that he is running for Kings County Office of Education superintendent of schools.

“This is a service job. We’re here to serve the community, serve the kids and that’s what we’re going to get back to,” Brumit said. “Four years from now, you’re going to see a huge change.”

Tim Bowers, who was elected as superintendent in 2010 and reelected in 2014, announced Tuesday that he is not running for a third term and is in fact retiring at the end of June.

Brumit said the role of the county office of education is to support all the districts from pre-kindergarten to high school. While the county superintendent is not in charge of the individual school district superintendents, Brumit said the county office is the pipeline to the state.

The biggest reason Brumit said he is running is to change the mindset at the office to be more service-oriented.

“For anybody who wants to get into public office — it’s not about a title, it’s not about a position — it’s about serving your community and serving the kids,” Brumit said.

If he’s elected, Brumit said he will train all county employees on their roles in their departments and make sure they have access to funding and know how to use that funding.

Once the foundation is in place, Brumit said he would like the county office of education to start creating innovative programs. He said once upon a time, Kings County was on the forefront when it came to internet access; since then, however, the county has not been cutting edge.

Brumit said he would also like to create a curriculum that teaches students to be resilient and cope with the complex emotional issues they are experiencing. He said when teen pregnancy was a problem, school districts started teaching more sex education; but that is not the biggest problem anymore with things like teen depression and suicide.

“There’s so many things that happen on the internet, so many things that happen on their phones that we have to create a curriculum that teaches the kids how their mind works and how the physiological part of their brain develops,” Brumit said.

Kings County Sheriff Dave Robinson said he has known Brumit for a long time, ever since Robinson was running the Kings County Gang Task Force unit and he and Brumit worked together on a grant to help students get out of the gang lifestyle.

“That was a very positive environment and a very positive thing that we got to work together on that really helped a lot of kids in Lemoore,”  Robinson said. “Through that relationship and through our friendship we’ve really just bonded over the years and I think he’ll do an amazing job as superintendent of schools.”

Robinson, who has experience with the elections process as sheriff, said he’s willing to help Brumit in any way on this endeavor. Robinson is seeking reelection for a third term and will also be on the same June 5 ballot as Brumit.

Bobby Peters, director of educational services at Hanford Joint Union High School District, said he has known Brumit since they were younger, but supports him for this position because he knows Brumit is the best person for the job.

“He’s been an administrator in the county and he understands our students, he understands our culture and he understands our climate,” Peters said. “I think that it would be really beneficial for our county to have someone like Rodney who understands the complexities of where we are.”

Brumit started his administrative career in 1998 as the dean of students at Coalinga High School, was promoted to assistant principal one year later and was also the Coalinga Huron district school attendance review board director for two years. He was the assistant principal at Lemoore High School for five years before becoming principal in 2008.

Mike Robinson, a member of the Kings County board of education, was another Brumit supporter at the meeting. He said he has served on several local boards, including hospital and elementary school boards, and said education and healthcare are critical issues in Kings County.

With Bowers exit, Mike Robinson said he believes Brumit is the “right guy at the right time” and can tell that he’s motivated to make a change at the office of education.

“It’s encouraging to see an enthusiastic person that wants this job,” Mike Robinson said. “He wants this job to make a change and he wants to improve education. He has committed to me that he’s going to do that and he has convinced me that he’s going to do that.”

Brumit said his decision to run for superintendent was not made on a whim, and wanted people to know that he is very serious, committed and ready to work.

“This is going be what you can expect from me as the next superintendent of schools from Kings County: Somebody who is willing to put in the effort to make the phone call and to meet with all of the different constituents to do a good job,” Brumit told the room of about 30 people.

Brumit said he loves his job as a principal because of the students and the people he works with, but thinks it’s time for him to step up and support all the students in the county.

“I really feel I’m the person that can make a difference,” Brumit said. “They need somebody there that builds morale, that builds a sense of purpose and that builds a sense of community.”

Next for Brumit is collecting the requisite 3,000 signatures and fundraising before the election.