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Meghan Verheul named Miss Kings County 2019

HANFORD — A new Miss Kings County was crowned this weekend.

Sierra Pacific graduate Meghan Verheul, 18, is the newest young woman to wear the Miss Kings County sash and tiara.

“I was kind of in shock,” Verheul said about the moment her name was announced as the winner of the 2019 event.

The pageant was Verheul’s first and she admitted that she didn’t expect to win, but looking back, she feels that the judges took notice of her confidence and passion for dance, which resulted in her coronation.

The Fresno State student performed a pointe ballet dance number called “Cupid” during the talent portion of the competition.

The newly-crowned local royalty also said that she thinks the judges responded to her platform of leadership in youth and said she’s excited to get out into the community and spread her message. The young woman will use her platform as Miss Kings County to spread her own platform of empowering young elementary- and middle school-aged students to get more involved in leadership roles at their schools and in their communities.

The former Sierra Pacific student said that she practiced most for the interview portion of the show, during which she was questions by the judges about her platform and other topics. To prepare, her friends and family would give her random pop quiz questions throughout the day to test her on her poise and ability to speak in public.

Verheul said that the most fun aspect of the competition, held Saturday in Hanford, were the moments behind-the-scenes which offered the contestants a breather and a chance to make close friendships.

That breather won’t last too long, though, as Verheul now has her eyes set on the Miss California crown, which she’ll compete for in June. She’ll also be making public appearances at local functions throughout the year.

Darian Cunha was named Miss Kings County's Outstanding Teen. 

Miss Kings County is a preliminary to the Miss America Pageant.

More than $10,000 in cash and scholarships was awarded to Verheul and the four other Miss Kings County contestants, as well as the five Miss Kings County Outstanding Teen contestants.

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Assemblymember Salas Honors Pat Nolen as Woman of the Year

SACRAMENTO – Today, Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) and the California State Assembly honor Pat Nolen, Vice Mayor of Corcoran, as the 2019 Woman of the Year for the 32nd Assembly District. The annual Woman of the Year event started in 1987 to highlight the outstanding women throughout the State during Women’s History Month. The Assembly will recognize Nolen during the annual Capitol ceremony for her civic and philanthropic contributions to the community.

Nolen is the first African American woman to serve as Vice Mayor of Corcoran. She is chairperson of the Kings Community Action board and manages the First United Methodist Church’s food bank. She was previously named Corcoran’s Woman of the Year and Hands Across the Valley’s Volunteer of the Year.

“Pat is a woman of action. She has dedicated her life to her community. Her light shines through her thoughtful actions and community involvement. In her 18 years living in Corcoran she has become an intricate and important part of our community,” said Assemblymember Salas. “She is a role model and pioneer. By becoming the first African-American city councilmember and the first African-American Vice Mayor of Corcoran, she has paved the way for future leaders. I am proud to recognize her as Woman of the Year.

“Rudy has been so good to Kings County. He is a man that works from his heart and I admire him so much” said Pat Nolen. “I am honored and blessed to be chosen as Woman of the Year.”

Nolen is well-known for serving her community. She has volunteered for senior events, Veterans programs, and is an active member of the Thursday Club, the NAACP, the Corcoran Museum Committee, and the Corcoran 50/50 club. Her love to serve the Corcoran community stems from her family’s history of service. Nolen grew up watching her mother cook for their church and for their community in Fresno.

The Corcoran community reminds Nolen of the same kindness and friendliness she experiences when she visits her family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In her spare time Nolen enjoys cooking and baking with her children and grandchildren, which have led her to win culinary awards from the Corcoran Journal.

Sierra snowpack doubles in a month

The Department of Water Resources conducted the third snow survey of 2019 on Thursday, with results boasting an excellent snowpack.

The manual survey, taken at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada near Sierra-at-Tahoe, recorded 113 inches of snow depth and a snow water equivalent of 43.5 inches — which is more than double what was recorded last month at this location.

Statewide, the snowpack is 153 percent of average for this date, thanks to several atmospheric rivers that blanketed the Sierra Nevada with snow during the month of February.

According to DWR data, 150 percent of average or higher snowpack has been recorded only a handful of times since 1980.

The results show a notable improvement since the last Phillips Station survey on Jan. 31, when measurements revealed a snow water equivalent of 18 inches.

Snow water equivalent is the depth of water that theoretically would result if the entire snowpack melted instantaneously. It's a tool used by water managers across the state to estimate anticipated spring runoff.

Current conditions stand in stark contrast to this time last year when the snow depth was only 13.5 inches and the snow water equivalent was just 1.5 inches.

DWR conducts up to five snow surveys each winter at Phillips Station – near the first of January, February, March, April and, if necessary, May.

Snowpack is an important factor in determining how DWR manages California’s water resources. On average, the Sierra snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer to meet water demands in the summer and fall — including here in Kings County.

The state’s six largest reservoirs currently hold between 84 percent (Oroville) and 137 percent (Melones) of their historical averages for this date. Lake Shasta, California’s largest surface reservoir, is holding 112 percent of its historical average.

“This winter’s snowpack gets better each month and it looks like California storms aren’t done giving yet,” said Karla Nemeth, DWR director. “This is shaping up to be an excellent water year.”

On Feb. 14, the National Weather Service officially confirmed that the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing weak El Niño conditions. As a result of these above-average sea surface temperatures, we are likely to experience more precipitation in the next couple months.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning and is forecasting significant rainfall/mountain snow for today through Thursday. The Valley may get up to two inches of rain, while the Sierra Nevada may get between one to two feet of snow above 7,000 feet, officials said.

According to Scott Borgioli, chief meteorologist for WeatherAg, Hanford has received 6.32 inches of rainfall this year, which is 71 percent of the annual average of 8.94 inches. Currently, only 2 percent of the state is still in an official drought with a “moderate” designation.

Arrest made in sexual assault

On March 2, Kings County Sheriff's deputies were dispatched to a residence in the city of Hanford to speak with a juvenile victim regarding a sexual assault. After speaking with the juvenile and her family, it was discovered that the assault had taken place at the Stardust Motel.

Through the investigation Deputies learned that the victim's step-mother, Laurie Lutz, had picked up the child from family members under false pretenses and taken her to the motel. Once at the motel the juvenile was beaten with a belt by Laurie's boyfriend, Gregory Cantu, which caused several minor injuries. Laurie had eventually left the hotel room and left the child alone with Gregory. Gregory began making several sexual advances towards the young girl by touching her inappropriately and kissing her against her will. Gregory then threatened the girl and told her not to tell anyone.

The girl was able to convince Gregory to walk with her to a nearby store. As they were walking the juvenile was able to run away.

Deputies knew Gregory to be a registered sex offender and on Parole for a prior sex offense. When Deputies attempted to contact Gregory at the motel he tried to flee out one of the room's back windows. Gregory was ultimately taken into custody and booked into the Kings County Jail for the charges of Child Endangerment, Lewd and Lascivious Act with a child under 14 and Victim intimidation. Laurie Lutz was also arrested and booked into the jail for the charge of Child Endangerment.