Lewis Griswold

Rangers in land of the big trees get cozy with weather folks

Christine Riley, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service in Hanford, demonstrates how weather warnings will be displayed at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.
Christine Riley, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service in Hanford, demonstrates how weather warnings will be displayed at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. National Weather Service

To improve public safety when bad weather slams Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, forecasters at the National Weather Service in Hanford will be monitoring more areas where people visit and sending weather warnings to rangers.

The weather service will send the warnings to park dispatchers, who will radio rangers so they can tell people inside the park, including the back country, out of range of cell phone service when something dire is on the radar.

The partnership between the two governmental agencies was announced Thursday at Grant Grove.

Because of the growing partnership between the two entities, Sequoia-Kings has been named an ambassador in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors program.

The program works with emergency management officials, businesses and the media – especially TV stations – to prepare people and communities for potential weather disasters in an era of more extreme weather.

There are 5,000 Weather-Ready Nation ambassadors nationwide, so it’s a big club. But only 14 national parks are ambassadors, including Yosemite National Park.

The Hanford National Weather Service coverage area is from Merced to Kern County and west of the Sierra crest. It has about 25 ambassadors, including the only three national parks in the state that are in so far.

Lead forecaster Christine Riley at the Hanford office has been working with Sequoia-Kings park rangers on several projects.

“We’ve been working with them for decades on fire weather, but in 2014 we started search and rescue forecasts,” Riley said. “When the park service asks for a forecast, we send it back within 30 minutes. That just snowballed into a bunch of different projects. … It’s a really, really great partnership.”

Riley is the perfect person to bring together meteorologists and Sequoia-Kings rangers.

“I grew up in Three Rivers,” she said. “They embraced me right away.”

Her family moved to Visalia during her swim competition years and she graduated from Redwood High in 2002. She has her bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science from UC Davis, volunteered at the Sacramento weather office and has been employed by the weather service for eight years, in Oklahoma, Monterey and Hanford.

Weather forecasts from the Hanford office for Sequoia-Kings were already specific for Ash Mountain and Lodgepole, but now it’s adding Mineral King, Pear Lake, Buckeye Flat, Dorst Creek, Potwisha, Hockett Meadow and Redwood Meadow.

Meanwhile, the park service is putting electronic weather displays at the entrances of its visitor centers in Ash Mountain, Grant Grove and Lodgepole.

Among other things, the displays show temperatures at several elevations, both in Celsius (for international visitors) and Fahrenheit.

Connie Conway makes next move

It was never a secret that Connie Conway of Tulare would run for election to the state Senate District 16 seat held by Sen. Jean Fuller of Bakersfield when she terms out next year, but now it’s fully out there.

Conway will hold a campaign kick-off fundraiser May 1 at the Chinese Cultural Center in Visalia.

The primary election is in June 2018.

Conway served in the Assembly for six years and held the high-profile position of leader of the Assembly Republicans. She termed out in 2014. Fuller is also a Republican.

District 16 is a large district that includes Visalia, Tulare, Exeter, Bakersfield, Barstow, Twentynine Palms and Needles.

Former Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, is also seeking the seat. So far, no Democrat has announced. Party registration is 45 percent Republican and 29 percent Democratic.

Lewis Griswold covers news of the South Valley for The Bee: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold