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Updated: 2 hours 44 min ago

Santa helps puppy wish come true for Venturan, 6

December 20, 2014 - 6:50pm

Santa came early on Saturday to the home of Paige Salazar, a kindergartner with a life-threatening illness whose wish for a puppy was granted by Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties.

“I got your letter and you said you wanted a pug puppy, so look what I found: Cooper, a little puppy for you,” said Santa, who hand-delivered a purebred pug to Paige at her home in Ventura.

“I don’t always deliver puppies to little children,” Santa said. “But this was a special wish, and I was very happy to bring this puppy this to you.”

For the past year and a half, Paige has kept a small, tattered stuffed animal pug named Puggy at her side through all her treatments, which have included chemotherapy, shots and medications, said her father, Richard Salazar.

“He goes everywhere. ... Even Grandma had to sew his tail when it fell off,” Salazar said. “This dog’s been with her since the first day we were at the hospital. It’s her little soul.”

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wished for children diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition. Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties has granted the wishes of more than 1,200 children in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties since 1985.

Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties made Paige’s wish come true with the help of volunteers Jeff and Laura Corsello, of Ventura, who interviewed the girl and her family to ensure all the details were put in place.

The Corsellos and Make-A-Wish officials joined Paige’s grandparents, cousins, teacher and brother to witness the surprise Saturday. Dan Long also played a pivotal role in delivering the dog.

Before Santa’s arrival, Paige, 6, remained in her bedroom surrounded by pug stuffed animals and pictures of pugs on the walls.

When Santa entered her room with Cooper on a red leash, the girl’s eyes lit up with a beaming smile.

“We hope to make her forget about everything that she’s going through,” said Jeff Corsello, whose eyes filled with tears as he watched Paige receive her gift.

Jeanie Salazar, the girl’s cousin, said the puppy will add to Paige’s positive attitude.

“When you see someone so little go through that and they want something so bad and they get it, I think it will make her happy inside,” Jeanie Salazar said. “I don’t know if she’s covering her pain and everything she’s going through, but this is going to be like a therapy dog for her.”

Elizabeth Arellano, development coordinator for Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties, hoped the wish gave Paige something to look forward to, “turning those bad memories into hope and strength and giving her that joy.”

Cooper, a purebred worth $2,500, came from breeder, Karen Rivera.

Before Cooper came into Paige’s life, Puggy helped the girl through monthly treatments in Los Angeles, said the girl’s mom, Brenda Salazar.

“Puggy was her motivation to continue because it was hard when she would go in for infusions; that’s what motivated her for tons of meds,” she said.

Ever since Paige became ill, she has asked for a dog to be part of the family.

“She’s very positive; she’s been such a trooper through all this,” her mom said. “Cooper is just the cherry on top.”

Crews respond to massive Santa Paula crash

December 20, 2014 - 6:24pm

Crews have responded to massive multicar crash that injured at least six people and affected both directions of Highway 126 in Santa Paula, officials said.

The crash was reported at 5:27 p.m. Saturday on eastbound Highway 126 half a mile east of Orcutt Road.

The California Highway Patrol said a vehicle came from the eastbound lanes into the westbound lanes and hit two vehicles before rolling onto its side.

Crews on the scene said at 5:36 p.m. that two vehicles were off the side of the freeway.

According to crews at the scene, at least six people were being transported to area hospitals — two to Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura, two to Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks and two to Santa Paula Hospital. Crews said one person refused transport to a hospital.

Crews from the Ventura County Fire Department, the Santa Paula Fire Department, the Fillmore Fire Department and possibly Los Angeles County were called to the crash, with a triage area, command post and repeated calls for additional ambulances. Extrication equipment was requested, and crews appeared to be having a hard time getting to the site due to traffic that was backed up on the highway as a result of the wreck.

The patrol said at 5:45 p.m. that only one lane on each side of the freeway was open.

The patrol reported a second wreck in the area. At 5:40 p.m., a vehicle was reported to have hit and killed a horse in the Piru area in the area of Telegraph and Torrey roads. It was unclear whether that was the second crash to which the patrol was referring.

This story will be updated.

Bill Nash:Rubber bands not the same when you pay

December 20, 2014 - 6:03pm

A rubber band. A simple elastic loop. I think it’s one of the greatest inventions of all time and I confess to a slight obsession with it.

Before my wife and I downsized about two years ago, we had a drawer in the kitchen we called the junk drawer. For the most part, it was aptly named but, in reality, we could have just as easily called it the rubber band drawer. At least a third of the drawer was filled with rubber bands.

Although there were a variety of sizes and colors, most of the rubber bands in the drawer came to us wrapped around my morning newspapers. We used them for hundreds of things around the house and never thought twice about it because we had a seemingly never-ending supply. And then we moved. At our new house, my morning papers come in plastic bags.

Slowly our supply of rubber bands has dwindled to the point that, now, I’ve begun to hoard them. We have so few that I’ve gotten to know them and have actually quizzed my wife on what she did with the red one because I couldn’t find it.

Rubber bands have an interesting history. The properties of the rubber plant have been known and used for thousands of years, but the rubber band as we know it wasn’t invented until 1845. Two men, Stephen Perry and Jaroslav Kurash, both invented and patented the rubber band on the same day in 1845.

In 1923, William Spencer began mass-producing rubber bands at his house in Ohio using discarded rubber products. Now, companies like Arrow Rubber Products in Connecticut manufacture rubber bands conforming to 10 pages of specifications issued by the United States government, including one requiring the breaking strength be a minimum of 1,200 pounds per square inch.

Apparently, I’m stronger than I thought because I seem to break them with great regularity. And rubber bands are used for a lot more than keeping your newspaper folded. They are used in orthodontic work, toys, holding lobster claws closed and as many other uses as can be imagined.

Out of necessity, we started buying small bags of rubber bands from Staples and other retailers. That gave us an adequate supply, but it felt like a hollow victory. Buying them wasn’t like having them delivered to your driveway and saving them. Even so, our current junk drawer contains only junk. Our rubber band supply now resides in a small bowl on the kitchen counter. But recently, it received a significant infusion.

I was visiting my in-laws’ home in Northern California when I made a wonderful discovery; two, actually. First, my father-in-law’s newspapers still come wrapped in rubber bands and, second, he saves them.

In fact, he has a junk drawer that made me nostalgic, because it is full of rubber bands. Well, not quite as full as it was prior to my discovery. I don’t think my father-in-law will miss the rubber bands that headed south with me — at least not until he reads this — but he should feel better knowing they’ve gone to a good home where they will be appreciated.

Sometimes the simplest things — mousetraps, shoehorns, rubber bands — are simply the best they can be. They can’t be improved upon, so they remain pretty much as they were first imagined. In today’s technological and digital world we’ve seen many once everyday items made obsolete, or nearly so. I’m just glad rubber bands aren’t one of them.

Bill Nash is a Star columnist. Contact him at bnash805@aol.com.

Comic store opens in Camarillo

December 20, 2014 - 6:00pm

Sterling Silver Comics

Name of owner: Mike Sterling

Product or service: Sells comic books — both new releases and back issues, as well as graphic novels, toys and other related merchandise.

Address: 2210 Pickwick Drive, Camarillo

Date established: November 2014

Hours open: Noon to 6 p.m. Sundays through Tuesdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays

Telephone: 484-4708

Email: mike@sterlingsilvercomics.com

Website: http://www.sterlingsilvercomics.com

Number of employees: One

What prompted you to start your own business?: I’d been in the comics retail business for quite some time, managing stores for other people, and finally decided I wanted my own shop to run my way.

What is your educational and career background?: While I have a mostly-unrelated-to-this-career college degree, I do have literally decades of experience in this field, so my schooling in this business mostly comes from learning on the go.

How much research did you do before starting your business?: My research was primarily focused on the actual setup of the store — learning what business and tax forms I needed, where the best location would be and so on. What I needed to know about the actual running of the shop, such as which vendors to use, I already knew from my previous experience.

What were the most helpful sources, including websites?: That would have to be my previous employers, Ralph Holt of Ralph’s Comic Corner and Seth Bradley of Seth’s Games and Anime, who were very generous with their time and support with helping me get my own shop off the ground.

When were you the most discouraged?: There were never really too many discouraging moments, mostly just minor frustrations in getting the store’s interior prepared for business, filing paperwork, obtaining a credit card processor ... Just the usual growing pains!

What company or individual do you admire?: My former employer, Ralph Holt, started Ralph’s Comic Corner in Ventura 35 years ago, and kept that shop running through thick and thin. His hard work has been an inspiration to me and I hope the lessons I’ve learned from him will lead to my own store’s success.

What will make your business stand out from competitors?: As stated before, I have many years of experience in the comics retail business. That, combined with my extensive knowledge and deep appreciation of the medium, along with my customer service skills and my cleanly-organized and, if I may say so, visually-appealing store, should provide customers with a pleasant and informative shopping experience.

Who is your target client base?: Anyone who loves comic books because I love comics, too, and want to get them into the hands of as many people as possible.

Businesses less than one year old can be profiled in Who’s New in Business. Businesses older than one year can be profiled in Company Spotlight. Those owning franchises in the region can be profiled in Franchise Focus. Only businesses that have never been profiled in The Star may participate. For more details or the questionnaire, email freelancer Maria Saint at mcsaint73@yahoo.com. Please put the word “Questionnaire” in the subject header.

Brownley and family OK after Fillmore crash

December 20, 2014 - 5:49pm

U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley and her family are OK after being involved in a car crash Saturday in Fillmore, her chief of staff said.

Brownley’s daughter and son-in-law were in the area over the weekend and the Westlake Village Democrat was driving them around Ventura County when a car rear-ended her black Prius, said Lenny Young, Brownley’s chief of staff.

The crash, which occurred just after 2:05 p.m., pushed the Prius into the truck in front of her car, causing major damage to her vehicle, Young said.

The family members suffered some bruises from the seat belts but were not seriously injured, Young said.

Fillmore Fire Department gives away 1,500 toys

December 20, 2014 - 5:34pm

In an annual event, the Fillmore Fire Department handed out about 1,500 toys Saturday to children in the community.

The toy drive and giveaway started 15 years ago, Fire Chief Rigo Landeros said.

The giveaway was held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the department headquarters and benefited more than 300 families.

“Every kid in line received a toy,” Landeros said.

Most of the toys were donated through the department’s annual chicken dinner toy drive a week ago. At the event, fire personnel cook a chicken dinner and side dishes that members of the community can enjoy if they donate a toy worth $10 or more, Landeros said.

During the giveaway, Santa was brought in on one of the department’s ladder trucks and the children were able to sit in his lap for a photo to be taken. Bags of food also were given to the families, Landeros said.

The Sespe 4-H Club made cotton candy and Fillmore FFA members made popcorn for the children to snack on while waiting in line. The Rotary Club of Fillmore, officers from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office’s Fillmore station and members of the Fillmore search-and-rescue team also showed their support.

The fire chief said the event was “well-attended.”

“It was heartwarming for the city of Fillmore Dire Department to accommodate that need that often goes unnoticed in the holiday season,” Landeros said.

Holiday train tradition chugs along in Fillmore

December 20, 2014 - 5:18pm

For the past several years, Natalee Morgantini and her children have had a tradition of driving from their home in Bakersfield to Fillmore to ride the North Pole Express train.

This year was no exception for Morgantini and her kids Chancee Lucio, 12, and Cade Lucio, 11, who came Friday to take the holiday-themed train ride, one of several offered each year by the Fillmore & Western Railway.

“We watch the movie ‘The Polar Express,’ bake cookies, and then we drive out here to take the train,” Morgantini said. “It’s fun to get to experience what the movie is all about, and it gets you into the holiday spirit.”

Several themed train rides were offered this year, including the Christmas Tree Train, which takes visitors to a tree farm to get a fresh tree, and a Dinner With Santa Train. Also offered is the Santa Shopper Train, which stops at the Loose Caboose Garden Center & Gift Emporium, where visitors can shop for antiques, gifts and Christmas decorations.

While many of the rides were sold out in advance, there were still tickets as of Saturday for the Santa Shopper at noon Sunday and the North Pole Express at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday. A New Year’s Eve Dinner Train is also available.

“It’s magical around here,” volunteer Radene Wilkinson said. “It’s joyful.”

Wilkinson said the North Pole Express is one of the most popular train rides, with many people coming from across the state.

“Many are repeat customers who’ve been here multiple times,” Wilkinson said.

Simi Valley resident Brandi McCaskill was there for her first ride on the train with husband Kurtis and son Jacob, 6.

“I’ve been talking about doing this for years, so we finally came out,” she said. “We’re excited.”

On the North Pole Express, the McCaskills and other visitors sang Christmas carols, had cookies and chocolate milk, listened to holiday stories, and visited with Santa and his elves before returning him to the “North Pole.”

Visitors on the North Pole Express are encouraged to wear pajamas on the train. Wearing their pajamas were Shaina Sadler, of Camarillo, her husband, Richie, and their children, Ryan, 6, and River, 3.

The family has come out to ride the train every Christmas for the past six years.

“It’s a family tradition with our best friends,” Sadler said.

A legal dispute between the railroad and the Ventura County Transportation Commission is on hold until at least February, allowing the railroad to continue the holiday train rides this year.

“We would be very devastated,” Shaina Sadler said, if her family couldn’t ride the trains for the holidays.

On the Net: http://www.fwry.com

Connect at chamber breakfast

December 20, 2014 - 5:00pm

VENTURA

Breakfast event set for Jan. 2

The Ventura Chamber of Commerce will have the Connection Breakfast from 7:15 to 9 a.m. Jan. 2 at The Pierpont Inn — Pavilion Ballroom, 550 Sanjon Road.

The monthly networking event draws an average of 150 attendees. All attendees receive 20 seconds to stand and introduce their business.

Cost in advance is $25 members, $35 nonmembers. Pay at the door is $5 extra.

For more information, email Charleen Morla at charleen@ventura-chamber.org.

To share news about your company or business-related organization, email dajustesen@VCStar.com. If there is an event involved, please email the information at least three weeks in advance of the event.

Conejo Elks bear gift baskets to those in need

December 20, 2014 - 4:42pm

Christmas will be a little brighter for some low-income Conejo Valley folks, thanks to the efforts of the Thousand Oaks Elks Lodge.

Elks members delivered boxes of food and gifts to 41 seniors and 34 families Saturday as part of their annual Christmas basket program.

“It’s a blessing,” said Noemi Gongora, who lives in a small apartment with her husband and four children ages 10, 5, 3 and 2.

She’s expecting her fifth child, due at the end of December.

“We’re grateful, you know,” she said. “These are hard times.”

As Lynn and Leo Rodriguez and Nicolette Shankel brought in boxes including wrapped and unwrapped presents for the children, groceries and a fresh turkey, Gongora’s youngest kids danced around with excitement.

“They’re happy, and that’s the most important thing for us as parents,” she said.

At the next stop, Francisco Garcia, 18, welcomed the volunteers to the one-bedroom apartment he shares with mother, 15-year-old sister and 10-year-old brother.

“We didn’t have almost anything last Christmas,” said Garcia, who left high school to get a job and help provide for the family.

“It means a lot, mostly for my little brother,” he said. “He’s going to be very excited.”

The Elks also donated a Christmas tree to the family from the lot they set up each year at Carlson’s Building Materials on Thousand Oaks Boulevard, selling trees to raise money for their charitable programs.

Members of Lodge 2477 brought donated toys to the annual Elks Christmas party, and the Elks Ladies wrapped the toys and boxed up the nonperishable food items at their building at 158 N. Conejo School Road.

All the boxes were delivered Saturday throughout the Thousand Oaks area.

“We got so much this year, like puzzles and books as well as toys,” said Lynn Rodriguez, who serves as president of the Elks Ladies. “Each recipient gets a week’s worth of food and a holiday dinner and age-appropriate gifts for the children.”

Leo Rodriguez, a past exalted ruler, said the Elks are committed to giving back to the community and especially to helping seniors, veterans and those in need.

That ranking might not mean anything

December 20, 2014 - 4:31pm

Q: You have been recommending Carbonite or Moxy for online backups. I've seen, on the Web, a service that's called Just Cloud and is ranked No. 1 for online backup and it's free. Any comment?

Frank DeCarlo

A: I suspect you know this but I'll start by mentioning that it is easy to find websites recommending as No. 1 almost any service you can name. If you use Google you'll find sites that claim service A is best, other sites that scream that service B is best and so on. Declaring any product No. 1 is subjective and everyone has different opinions. Add to that the fact that some websites are created for the sole purpose of promoting a product. These sites present themselves as independent rating services but are really just advertisements created by the makers of the product.

It's also true that — unlike with a newspaper story — some blogs accept money from manufacturers to endorse a product. I know it's true because offers like that have been made to me. Please keep in mind that I don't know if any of this is true for Just Cloud.

The real problem with Just Cloud when it comes to the "free" part is that it isn't really free if you intend to use it to make a full backup of the information on your hard disk. The free space you get isn't enough to do a backup of a hard disk. It's only enough for a few files. When I write about online backups, I mean using a service that can backup your hard disk. You can't do that with the free version.

I could go on by pasting in websites that think Just Cloud is horrible and some that think it's wonderful. But you can search and do that for yourself. That's the trouble with paying too much attention when some sites say something is No. 1. Is Just Cloud a good choice? I don't know enough about that service to say. But would I recommend it over Carbonite? No.

Bill Husted writes about technology. Contact him at tecbud@bellsouth.net.

Colleen Cason: Friends reunite 25 years

December 20, 2014 - 4:00pm

Pat Patterson had every reason to feel triumph as he departed Shanghai 25 years ago. The then-50-year-old Ventura businessman achieved his goal of bicycling across China at a time when few Westerners would consider travel to the communist nation.

Instead, he felt uncertainty. Ravaged by diarrhea, he had dropped 40 pounds and worried whether he would regain his health. His marriage was on the rocks.

In that dark moment of the soul, he had no way of imagining what his journey of 1,000 miles set in motion. Or that his odyssey would inspire a little girl growing up in a strange new country.

The adventurous, Idaho-born Patterson had biked 10,000 miles through Europe and Asia before embarking on the trans-China ride. Through a Beijing travel agency, he hired Xunchang Wang, a 26-year-old graduate student who grew up in Inner Mongolia.

Wang secured a primitive bicycle, a shiny, powder-blue sweatsuit and a red-title document declaring the travel government-sanctioned.

From the outset, Patterson called him Mr. Wang. He dubbed Patterson Mr. Pat.

Patterson, although weakened by dehydration, was by then road-hardened. The younger, less experienced Wang struggled mightily to stay up with him.

The first day, Wang recalled, gave him a taste of how hard it would be. A cold rain fell, and the terrain was rugged.

On the second, the weather was worse and the time on the road longer. Wang wanted to give up.

At the end of that long day’s ride, after a little rest, he somehow found the strength to keep going.

Patterson began to call Wang “my father, my brother, my son.”

He was the father because he handled all the money and negotiated everything. They were brothers as they traveled the open road, singing “side by side, so fast we ride, all the way across China.” And Wang was young enough to be Patterson’s son.

In every village they visited, the townsfolk gathered around the tall Western man. During one stop, the crowd parted as the village elder arrived to examine the visitors and then made a pronouncement.

Patterson asked for a translation; Wang refused at first. With some coaxing, he relented.

“He said, ‘All your people are ugly. But you are the ugliest of them all.’ ”

They laughed about the ugly American as they went on their way.

The day they arrived in Shanghai, the TV screens in Patterson’s hotel showed the Berlin Wall coming down.

“Socialism is having a bad day,” Wang observed. He added that he hoped someday he could own a home so Patterson could come and stay in it.

“In the beginning, I am Chinese and he’s an American. In the end, he and I, we, are brothers,” Wang said.

But these brothers lost touch over the years. Patterson went through a divorce and led a busy business and civic life. He married Cat, who shares his love of cycling in exotic lands.

A couple of years ago, Patterson remounted the search for his cycling companion. This time, he looked in the United States. His friend’s name came up in suburban Chicago.

Patterson learned Wang and his wife, Huiling Tian, and their daughter, Julia, had come to the United States. Wang earned a master’s degree in information technology and was hired by Motorola.

Julia was 9 when the family arrived in America. When she struggled with English or fell ill, her father sat at her bedside. He shared the story of the American tourist who wanted to bike across China.

“He told me how absolutely exhausted he was every day and how close he was to giving up but he didn’t, and the experience transformed his life,” she said.

The lesson she remembered, as she drifted off to sleep, is “never give up, and perseverance will change everything for the better.”

That little girl who once spoke no English graduated from Harvard and has done postgraduate work at the University of Cambridge in England.

On Friday morning, Julia was at Pat and Cat Pattersons’ Pierpont bungalow with her parents, watching the video “Mr. Pat” shot of the trip and laughing at how much hair her father had in those days.

It was good timing for a reunion 25 years in the making. In the past year, Patterson has been beset by health problems.

It was good timing for Julia, who is waiting to hear where she will be accepted to law school.

And there is never a bad time to be reminded of how in the great circle of life, we can change the lives of others in ways we could never imagine.

Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dg0SC-GsA8s to view the video Pat Patterson shot of his bike ride across China with Xunchang Wang in 1989.

Email Colleen Cason at casonpoint101@gmail.com.

Area business report latest news

December 20, 2014 - 4:00pm

CONEJO VALLEY

Conejo clubs add new board member

Tim English has joined the board of governors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley.

Retired in 2013, English was the former owner of CEO Alpha Property Management and Realty Partners Development, a company committed to improving the living conditions for its residents.

English started his career as a CPA working in public accounting for 10 years before transitioning to Alpha, where he spent 25 years developing over 3,000 units. During his tenure, the company earned several industry awards for development and social services.

A graduate of CSU Los Angeles, English served as a member and assumed leadership positions with a number of organizations affiliated with his work including the Affordable Housing Management Association, National Leased Housing and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

English lives in Agoura Hills with his wife, Joni.

VENTURA

Consulting firm will add new partner

John Meyers of Meyers Vocational Consulting Services in Ventura has announced that Christopher Meyers has completed his master's degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Kentucky and passed the national rehabilitation counseling certification examination.

Over the last two years, Meyers has been working as a research associate/graduate assistant with Meyers Vocational Consulting. He will begin a role as a consultant and partner in January.

The firm has been providing vocational consulting services since 1997, including career counseling, earning capacity evaluations and labor market analytics.

To contact the company, email john@meyersvcs.com or chris@meyersvcs.com.

VENTURA COUNTY

Jensen design firm celebrates 25 years

Jensen Design & Survey, a full-service civil engineering firm in Ventura County, is celebrating 25 years of providing project development on many of Ventura County's key projects.

The company has a staff of 40 employees with expertise in various disciplines including civil engineering, surveying, land planning and construction management.

The actual Jensen family has been in the civil engineering business in Ventura County for much longer than 25 years, beginning with William L. Jensen who started Jensen Associates Engineers in 1961. In 1989, Don Jensen — William's son — founded Jensen Design & Survey Inc. The company's projects have included services for municipalities, schools, recreational facilities, agricultural lands, and various development projects ranging from commercial projects to residential.

Among those are the Ventura County Public Works Agency's Service Yard, California Lutheran University's North Athletic Field Expansion, Houweling's Nursery, Community Memorial Hospital, Ventura County Medical Center, Olivas Park Golf Course, Thacher School, Sterling Hills, Mission Produce and Ventura Auto Center/Crown Dodge.

For more information about the company, visit http://www.jdscivil.com.

State farm bureau names graduates

Having completed more than 250 hours of training and instruction, 11 Farm Bureau members from around California have graduated from the Leadership Farm Bureau program.

The 2014 class celebrated its graduation during the California Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in Garden Grove.

During 2014, members of the Leadership Farm Bureau class participated in training focused on political advocacy, public speaking, media relations, personal development and the Farm Bureau organization. The group traveled to Washington, D.C., to advocate on behalf of Farm Bureau policies, and to Arkansas to compare their experiences with those of farmers and ranchers in that part of the nation.

Among the members of the 2014 Leadership Farm Bureau class from Ventura County were: Tod Bartholomay, Southern California Edison agricultural representative, and Aimee Meidinger-Smith, operations manager at Brokaw Nursery LLC and secretary of Ventura County Young Farmers and Ranchers.

The Class of 2014 represented the 15th group of leaders to complete the Leadership Farm Bureau program since it began in 2000. For more information, visit http://www.cfbf.com/lfb.

Big T's changes business name

Big T's Freightliner of Ventura County has officially changed its name to Velocity Truck Center Ventura County.

The name change reflects the additional services it provides to the trucking community.

As part of Velocity Vehicle Group, the company also announced the addition of the Autocar Truck brand to its location, providing dealer support for parts and service to Autocar vehicles.

Velocity Vehicle Group operates commercial vehicle dealerships across California, Nevada and Hawaii. It purchased the Big T's dealership in September to provide greater support for customers across California and Nevada.

VCEDA elects new board chairman

Sandy Smith has been sworn in as the Ventura County Economic Development Association's chairman for 2015-16.

Smith, a land use consultant for Sespe Consulting Inc., was sworn in during the group's annual meeting held at Limoneira Ranch earlier this month.

VCEDA is one of the Ventura County's leading economic development organizations.

Smith, who has been involved with VCEDA for years, most recently served as the chairman of the VCEDA's Policy Committee.

Ellen Brown, regional manager of Volt Workforce Solutions, is outgoing chairwoman.

Brown; Nan Drake, E.J. Harrison & Sons; Henry Dubroff, Pacific Coast Business Times; Rudy Gonzales, Southern California Edison; Melissa Sayer, A to Z Law; Vlad Vaiman, California Lutheran University; and Rob Westberg, Amgen have will serve additional three-year terms on the board.

VCEDA holds an annual Business Outlook Conference each October. For more information about VCEDA, visit http://www.VCEDA.org.

WESTLAKE VILLAGE

Resident is named to 40 Under 40 list

Arpit Malaviya, of Westlake Village, has been recognized by the Airport Business magazine as among the top 40 young and innovative leaders in the aviation industry of 2014.

Malaviya, the 39-year-old CEO and co-founder of ProDIGIQ Inc., has been in the aviation industry for the past eight years. Airport Business magazine aims to recognize the younger talents in the industry.

Malaviya is a board member of both Airports Council International and the Southwest Chapter of the American Associates of Airport Executives and is actively involved and serving on a number of other aviation committees.

ProDIGIQ is a technology company focused on creating innovative software for aviation industry across the United States.

To share news about your company or business-related organization, email dajustesen@VCStar.com. If there is an event involved, please email the information at least three weeks in advance of the event.

DUI checkpoint nets 2 arrests in Oxnard

December 20, 2014 - 3:56pm

Two people were arrested on suspicion of DUI during a checkpoint overnight in Oxnard, police said.

Authorities conducted two checkpoints from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. in the westbound lanes of Gonzales Road west of Snow Avenue and in the southbound lanes of Victoria Avenue south of Gonzales Road, officials said.

There were five DUI investigations conducted. Four of those were done at the Victoria Avenue checkpoint. Two people were also arrested on suspicion of DUI at that checkpoint. One of the drivers arrested in connection with DUI was also arrested in connection with possession of narcotics, police said.

Fifteen were cited for driving without a license, two citations were issued for driving with a suspended or revoked license and five vehicles were towed, authorities said.

Two criminal arrests were made including one driver who was arrested in connection with an outstanding misdemeanor warrant, police said.

Farmers market:Frittata not just a spring dish

December 20, 2014 - 3:51pm

Frittatas make great Christmastime dish

In the rest of the world mid-December is the beginning of a long, cold winter. But here in Ventura County it’s almost spring.

And at the Channel Islands Farmers market, where fresh eggs are on sale at the booth of Rodriguez Farms from Fresno, fresh baby spinach from Tamai Family Farms in Oxnard is being sold and green onions are available from Yao Chang Farms in the Santa Rosa Valley, it’s time for frittatas — those springtime wonders that would make a great Christmas morning breakfast or easy, breezy dinner to balance the rich foods of the season.

Frittatas are a wonderfully versatile dish tailor-made for farmers market bounty. Add whatever vegetables seem particularly enticing. This frittata makes a delightful light meal served with a salad.

Spinach-green onion frittata

Ingredients

12 ounces of fresh baby spinach

8-10 fresh green onions trimmed of tops and roots

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

8 fresh eggs

¼ cup whole milk (or 2 percent milk with a spritz of heavy cream, which is what I had on hand)

— Salt and pepper to taste

5 ounces Colby jack cheese

Directions

1 Heat oven to 450 degrees.

2 Chop fresh spinach and green onions into small pieces.

3 In a regular stainless steel skillet heat olive oil over high heat. Sauté veggies until wilted and liquid is starting to cook off — about 3 minutes.

4 Drain on paper towels (you don’t want your frittata to be too runny).

5 In the iron skillet, heat butter. Add drained spinach and onions and spread evenly along the bottom of the skillet.

6 Top with cheese.

7 Add eggs that have been beaten with milk, salt and pepper.

8 Cook on medium heat on the stovetop, loosening the edges and poking in the middle to make sure the eggs are being cooked evenly.

9 When the eggs are starting to set, but still loose, put skillet in hot oven.

10 Cook about 12 minutes or until the frittata top is brown and set.

11 Slice and serve warm.

Find the markets

Sundays: 8:30 a.m. to noon, College of the Canyons (parking lot 5 via Rockwell Canyon Road off Valencia Boulevard), Santa Clarita (529-6266). 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 300 E. Matilija St., Ojai (698-5555). 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Agoura Hills City Mall, Kanan Road (818-591-8286). 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Harbor and Channel Islands boulevards (includes a fish market), Oxnard (818-591-8286). 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Village Glen Plaza, between Agoura and Townsgate roads, Westlake Village (818-591-8286).

Wednesdays: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Pacific View mall parking lot facing Main Street, Ventura (529-6266). 3-7 p.m. Community Center Park, 1605 E. Burnley St., Camarillo (529-6266 or 482-1996).

Thursdays: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Plaza Park at Fifth and C streets, Oxnard (385-2705). (CLOSED until January) 1:30-6 p.m., The Oaks shopping center, Thousand Oaks (529-6266). 3-7 p.m., Ventura Community Park, Kimball and Telephone roads, Ventura (263-2907).

Fridays: 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Regal Cinemas/Civic Center Plaza, 2750 Tapo Canyon Road, Simi Valley, (643-6458). 3-7 p.m., The Village at Moorpark Shopping Center, southwest corner of East Los Angeles Avenue and Miller Parkway, Moorpark (479-9699).

Saturdays: 8 a.m. to noon, 2220 Ventura Blvd., Camarillo (987-3347). 8-11 a.m., fish market behind Andria’s Seafood Restaurant, 1449 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura (644-0169). 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thousand Oaks Library Newbury Park branch, 2331 Borchard Road, Newbury Park (323-272-9171). 8:30 a.m. to noon, Palm and Santa Clara streets, Ventura (529-6266).

2 toddlers, 1 woman injured in Ventura crash

December 20, 2014 - 3:31pm

Two toddlers and one woman suffered minor injuries in a car crash Saturday near Ventura College, officials said.

The crash was reported at 1:48 p.m. at the intersection of Loma Vista Road and Ashwood Street near the college campus.

Two cars, one of which was on its side, was found in the intersection. Two small children and a woman were in the car that rolled over but were able to exit the vehicle on their own, authorities said.

The woman and the children suffered minor injuries. The woman was taken to a local hospital but the care of children was given to a family member on scene, officials said.

The Ventura College Police Department, Ventura Police Department and the Ventura City Fire Department responded to the crash. The collision remains under investigation, authorities said.

Sony saga blends foreign intrigue, stars

December 20, 2014 - 3:27pm


LOS ANGELES (AP) — The hackers who hit Sony Pictures Entertainment days before Thanksgiving crippled the network, stole gigabytes of data and spilled into public view unreleased films and reams of private and sometimes embarrassing executive emails.

One month later, the Obama administration confirmed what many had suspected: The North Korean government was behind the punishing breach. U.S. officials are promising a response, unspecified so far.

It was an extraordinarily public reaction from the highest levels of American government, considering that far more vital domestic interests have taken hits from foreign hackers in recent years — including the military, major banks and makers of nuclear and solar power whose trade secrets were siphoned off in a matter of mouse clicks.

Yet even in a digital era with an endless cycle of cyberattacks, none has drawn the public's attention like the Sony breach and its convergence of sensational plotlines:

—an isolated dictator half a world away.

—damaging Hollywood gossip from the executive suite.

—threats of terrorism against Christmas Day moviegoers.

—the American president chastising a corporate decision to shelve a satirical film.

—normally reticent law enforcement agencies laying bare their case against the suspected culprits.

"I can't remember the U.S. talking about a proportional response to Chinese espionage or infiltration of critical infrastructure for that matter, as a policy issue in the same way that we're talking about this today," said Jacob Olcott, a cyberpolicy and legal issues expert at Good Harbor Security Risk Management and a former adviser to Congress.

President Barack Obama said Friday the U.S. would respond to the cyberattack, though he did not say how, after the FBI publicly blamed North Korea. He also criticized Sony's decision to cancel the release of "The Interview," a comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader.

"This is uncharted territory," said Chris Finan, a former White House cybersecurity adviser. "The things we do in response to this event will indelibly serve to influence future nation state behavior."

North Korea has denied hacking the studio, and on Saturday proposed a joint investigation with the U.S., warning of "serious" consequences if Washington said no. The White House sidestepped the idea, said it was confident that North Korea was responsible and urged North Korean government officials to "admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages this attack caused."

At the same time, the U.S. was reaching out to China, North Korea's key ally, to ask for its cooperation as the U.S. weighs its response, said a senior Obama administration official, who wasn't authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity. Although China holds considerable leverage over the North and its technological infrastructure, involving Beijing could pose complications because Obama has pointedly accused China of engaging in its own acts of cybertheft.

Friday's announcement was a critical moment in an investigation that united the government and cybersecurity professionals who conducted painstaking technical analysis.

The breach was discovered days before Thanksgiving when Sony employees logged onto their computers to find a screen message saying they had been hacked by a group calling itself Guardians of Peace. Experts scoured months of system logs, determining through spikes in network traffic and other anomalies that the attackers had conducted surveillance on the network since spring.

The first goal was to determine the extent of the damage to the network, so crippled that investigators or any other visitors needed handwritten credentials to gain entry.

As they examined the malware, they detected that it was similar to DarkSeoul, used in attacks on South Korea banking and media institutions and connected to North Koreans.

Investigators determined the Internet protocol addresses used, and found that one in Bolivia was the same as one in the DarkSeoul hack. They also found time zone and language settings in Korean, and that the malware itself had source code believed to be held by North Korea.

The FBI statement said clues included similarities to other tools developed by North Korea in specific lines of computer code, encryption algorithms and data deletion methods. More significantly, the FBI discovered that computer Internet addresses known to be operated by North Korea were communicating directly with other computers used to deploy and control the hacking tools and collect the stolen Sony files.

That analysis, along with a North Korean official's declaration that "The Interview" was an "act of war," served to bolster the case for a North Korean motive.

In general, it's exceedingly difficult to pin down responsibility for a cyberattack because hackers typically try to throw investigators off their trail. North Korea's Internet infrastructure is air-gapped, or not directly connected to the outside world, except by proxies through other countries, so it's even more difficult to attribute the hack.

Even when investigators do zero in on suspected culprits, there's often a political calculation about when and whether to publicly name them. The Justice Department took the unusual step in May of announcing indictments against five Chinese military officials accused of cyberespionage, but in many other instances, the public never learns the nationalities of the hackers, much less their identities.

In Sony's case, the FBI had been cautious about assigning blame to North Korea despite the evidence. Just a week before the public announcement, FBI Director James Comey had told reporters, "Before we attribute a particular action to a particular actor, we like to sort the evidence in a very careful way to arrive at a level of confidence that we think justifies saying 'Joe did it' or 'Sally did it,' and we're not at that point yet."

Beyond the FBI's announcement Friday, there were no details on remedies for Sony, no statement holding North Korea responsible for the already-known criminal acts of leaking copyright material, and no demand that North Korea return the stolen data.

"It seems highly unusual for the U.S. government to make an announcement like the FBI made today without a corresponding plan of action, which is exactly what was missing from the statements," Olcott said. "It was a press release to encourage more companies to work with the FBI in the future, but we actually don't really know why."

_____

Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Josh Lederman in Hawaii contributed to this report.

Camarillo takes steps toward eminent domain

December 20, 2014 - 3:26pm

A project expected to start next year to widen a portion of Santa Rosa Road in Camarillo could be headed to court first if city officials can't reach an agreement with one property owner.

The Camarillo City Council last week unanimously agreed to authorize the beginning of eminent domain proceedings to acquire construction easements at 6529 Santa Rosa Road to move the project forward after talks with the property owner failed.

"We've been in design for a couple of years. We're at the point where we can't go any further. The project is literally at a standstill right now," said Tom Fox, the city's public work director.

The project would widen the road between Via Latina Drive and Santa Rafael Way.

It is the only portion of Santa Rosa Road in the Camarillo city limits where the roadway narrows from two lanes to one in each direction.

The $2.9 million project would widen the road to four lanes with the addition of bike lanes, sidewalks, right-turn pockets and a landscaped retaining wall.

Funding would come from city traffic mitigation fees and federal transportation grants, and the city must demonstrate that all needed property rights were obtained to receive federal funding.

About 4,000 square feet of land was needed to be purchased, and access allowed on two other properties for the project to proceed.

Temporary and permanent easements are needed at the property at 6529 Santa Rosa Road in part so subsurface rods can be built beneath the hillside to support the wall.

The city has offered to pay the property owner $39,000 for the easements.

Clare Bronowski, an attorney from Los Angeles-based Glaser Weil law firm, represents the owner of the property, which has a direct driveway onto Santa Rosa Road.

Bronowski said the family has concerns about access to the property because a medium being constructed would only allow the family living there to make a right turn in and out of their property and make it difficult traveling from the freeway or to Moorpark when left turns are needed. She said legal U-turns are about a half-mile away.

The attorney said she wanted the city to consider extending a left-turn pocket being constructed for a neighboring property, or move their driveway to the other side of the property.

Camarillo City Attorney Brian Pierik said the city will have further discussions with the property owner regarding issues being raised.

Fox said once the city can demonstrate it has necessary access to perform the project, it will be three months working with Caltrans to prepare the project for construction bidding.

Then planners expect to take another two months to accept bids and approve a contractor.

Construction would take a year to complete.

Fox said the city could have opted to have the slope cut back and the project extended on the residential property, but chose the more expensive retaining wall project.

"So we've done everything we can to minimize the impact to the property. We really have no more options at this point. Unfortunately, we have to go to court to have them decide the outcome," Fox said.

Mayor Bill Little said the widening, when completed, will be beneficial.

"Almost any day you are out there, you can see accidents just waiting to occur," he said. "It's a major arterial that goes from two lanes down to one around a curve right now."

Bellringer donor recalls joy of Christmas

December 20, 2014 - 3:26pm

Christmases were not about material things at Ventura resident Dorothy Best's childhood home.

"We all got one present," she said.

She recalls no decorations on the outside of her family's house, not because the family lacked Yuletide cheer, but because they simply didn't have money for it. But her mother decorated the inside for Christmas, and she baked cookies in the weeks leading up to the holiday.

"It was just the joy of it" that Best said she remembers today.

She lost her mother, Ethel Rasmussen, last year. Her father, George Rasmussen, had passed away a few years earlier. They had lived in California but retired to Missouri. Still, they were there for Best.

"Anytime you needed anything, they were a phone call away," she said.

Dorothy's husband, David, contributed to the Bellringer drive in the name of George and Ethel Rasmussen; and his parents, Russell and Katharine Best.

The Star's annual Julius Gius Bellringer drive will run through Christmas, with a list of new contributions published daily, except Mondays.

Although The Star acknowledges all contributions, donors can remain anonymous if requested. The Salvation Army will receive all the money raised, to serve local people in need.

Checks should include the donor's name, phone number and, if desired, the name of the person, organization, pet or other cause in whose memory the donation is given.

New donations:

In loving memory of our precious son, Christopher, and Grampa Trevor. We miss you so. Also for all our dear friends and family who have gone home before us (too many to name). Thank you to the Salvation Army for all you do. The Morgan family: $250.

Merry Christmas. George and Al Collister: $50.

In loving memory of family and friends who are waiting for me in Heaven. Anonymous: $50.

In memory of Jan and Mo. Anonymous: $20.

In loving memory of my mom, Lois; dad, Hershel; grandmother, Pearl; sister, Glenda; Dan and all my aunts and uncles. Jeanne Hunt: $50.

In memory of my husband, Dick Miller. Love, Judy: $50.

In loving memory of my special angel, Wayne Pulley. Always missing you, forever in my heart. Judy: $100.

In memory of my grandmother, Mamie Conley. John Marshall: $50.

In memory of my uncle, Ed Samples. John Marshall: $50.

In memory of my uncle, Bill Law. John Marshall: $50.

In memory of my mother, Dicie Marshall. John Marshall: $50.

In memory of Dennis Franklin and Allen Sullivan. Richard and Joy Adams: $30.

In memory of our parents, Russell and Katharine Best, and George and Ethel Rasmussen. David and Dorothy Best: $25.

In memory of Marion Stanley. Maurice O. Elm: $200.

God bless. W.D. and Jackie Wortman: $100.

Merry Christmas! James R. Parsons II: $50.

Merry Christmas. James and Lori Parsons: $50.

Today's total: $1,225.

Previous total: $34,688.33.

Total to date: $35,913.33.

Please make checks out to Bellringer and send them to:

Bellringer

Ventura County Star

P.O. Box 6006

Camarillo, CA 93011

Simi Valley considers school closures again

December 20, 2014 - 3:23pm

Simi Valley school officials are again considering closing schools, but this time three board members — a majority — have vocally supported the move.

That's a change from a year ago, when the district board voted to shut down one campus and keep three open, against administrators' recommendations.

"The composition of the board has changed; the mentality has changed," said Jason Peplinski, superintendent of the Simi Valley Unified School District.

"It's almost like we went through the grieving process last year. The need for it is more apparent."

The simple reason closures are back is that the district still has too many elementary schools and is still losing students, said Peplinski, who was named superintendent this month after a decade with the district.

"When we had lots of reserves, we could support small schools," he said. "We don't have that luxury anymore."

The district is considering closing Justin and Lincoln elementary schools, two campuses that were on the initial proposed closure list.

Trustee Dan White voted to close schools last year and now has the support of newly elected board members Scott Blough and Bill Daniels.

While the board voted to keep open Justin and Lincoln last year, it did close Simi Elementary School, which needed extensive repairs. Students from that school went at midyear to Mountain View School, the fourth campus on the proposed closure list.

Parents filled district board meetings protesting the proposed closures last time. This time, though, they seem resigned, said Richard Bradbury, the father of a Lincoln student.

"I haven't heard a thing about parents rallying," he said. "Everybody's kind of given up."

School closures aren't new for Ventura County.

And when school districts close schools, they don't always get the results or savings they anticipated.

After shuttering campuses, the Pleasant Valley School District in Camarillo and the Conejo Valley Unified School District in Thousand Oaks both ended up with charter schools created by upset parents and teachers.

"It's been a phenomenon in the county for the last decade," said Robert Fraisse, interim dean of California Lutheran University's Graduate School of Education. "It's never easy."

Boards typically close schools as a last resort, but it's something school officials must consider when demographics change, enrollment drops or budgets sink, Fraisse said.

"At the end of the day, (district leaders) have to balance the books," he said.

Too little, too late

Simi Valley district officials say their reasons for proposing school closures are manyfold.

At its height in 2003-04, the Simi Valley district's enrollment was 21,727. This year, it's 17,801, a 3,926-student decline.

Some students have moved out of the area. Others have transferred to neighboring districts, such as Oak Park Unified.

The result: Simi Valley Unified is left with too many schools for its current enrollment, district officials say. The district could close seven schools and still have enough space for every student, Assistant Superintendent Ron Todo said.

Critics of the district believe Simi Valley district officials made things worse when they did not impose as many staff furlough days as other districts did during the state budget crisis a few years ago.

The district instead spent down its reserves, at one point prompting a warning from the county.

That was before Todo became the district's chief financial officer, but he noted that spending reserves can work if it's a short-term funding issue. In California, though, the funding crisis did not turn around quickly.

The district has taken several steps to address shortfalls, and its finances are more balanced now. Without enrollment declines, Simi Valley Unified would not be involved in deficit spending, Todo said.

Closing schools alone won't make a big dent in the district's finances, officials said. But keeping both open costs $500,000 yearly.

Closing the two schools is expected to save about $225,000 to $250,000 each — savings that mostly come from cutting administrative costs, including salaries of office staff, principals and custodians.

There was some overlap of staffing after Simi Elementary closed in February, but the district expects to save about $150,000 to $200,000 this year, Todo said.

While some favor smaller campuses, schools as small as Justin and Lincoln can face more than financial challenges. They may have fewer options for children, from electives to clubs, Todo said.

They also have fewer teachers and other staff members on campus, which means less collaboration and not as many parents and employees for the curriculum council, PTA and other necessary committees.

"You start spreading your teachers pretty thin," Todo said.

Turning the corner

Blough, elected to the board in November, said he thinks the district didn't respond quickly enough to growing competition among schools.

"There was some complacency," Blough said. "I don't think the district understood, as soon as I would have liked, that it was a much more competitive world for students."

Along the same lines, the district did not adequately respond to parents who expressed their frustration by sending their kids to schools in the Oak Park, Conejo Valley and Moorpark districts, said Daniels, who also was elected to the board in November.

"That was the perfect opportunity to have a discussion, almost like an exit interview," Daniels said. "I bet those parents would have bent your ear with information. We could have taken that information and made adjustments."

Peplinski believes the district is turning things around.

"If we haven't rounded the corner, we're standing at the corner," he said.

That will involve getting staffing to the right levels, improving communication and being more transparent, Peplinski said.

But if the district is going to attract students to its schools, it also needs to be more innovative, said Arleigh Kidd, who left the district board this year. That could mean offering dual-immersion programs in which students learn equally in two languages. Or creating more magnet schools, focusing on science and technology, for example, or environmental studies, like some nearby districts have.

Ultimately, the district and city will have to work together, Kidd said.

"It's a community problem," he said. "It's not just the school district's issue. The whole community is going to have to come together on this and say, ‘What do we want for our schools?' "

WHAT'S AHEAD

The Simi Valley Unified School District proposed closing several elementary schools last year, but closed only one. Now, the issue has come up again. Here's how the process has worked and what to expect.

WHAT'S HAPPENED

August to September 2013: Usually, it takes about a year to close a school. The first step Simi Valley school officials took was forming a committee to oversee the closure process, recommend which schools to close and suggest other uses for those campuses. The committee included administrators, parents, teachers and community members.

November to December 2013: Over four meetings, the committee studied enrollment, demographics, location, the age and condition of campuses, and maintenance costs. They also estimated how much they would save by closing each school and suggested other uses for the campuses.

November to December 2013: Based on that data, the committee recommended closing Justin, Lincoln and Mountain View schools. Members considered Simi Elementary School but held off recommending closure until they knew more about needed repairs.

December 2013 to January 2014: The final decision to close schools lies with the district board. Over several public hearings and meetings, and after hearing from hundreds of upset parents, the board decided not to close Mountain View, Lincoln and Justin. Later, trustees voted to close Simi Elementary because of safety issues, moving students in February to Mountain View.

WHAT TO EXPECT

January 2015: The district will hold public hearings on closing Justin and Lincoln schools. Justin's hearing will begin at 6 p.m. Jan. 7 on campus, 2245 N. Justin Ave., Simi Valley. Lincoln's will begin at 6 p.m. Jan. 8 on campus, 1220 Fourth St., Simi Valley.

January 2015: The board will vote on closing Justin and Lincoln on Jan. 13. The meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m., will be at City Council Chambers, 2929 Tapo Canyon Road, Simi Valley. If the board chooses to close the schools, they will remain open through the end of this school year. Next year, most Justin students would go to Parkview. Most Lincoln students would go to Arroyo. Visit http://www.simivalleyusd.org for more information.

February 2015: If Justin and Lincoln parents want to send their child to another Simi Valley school, they can apply for school choice in February. Applications will be available on the school's website, http://www.simivalleyusd.org; at the district office, 875 E. Cochran St., Simi Valley; and at schools.

Extreme rainfall triggered mud, rock flows

December 20, 2014 - 3:22pm

A squiggly line of dark red moved into Camarillo Springs at 1:58 a.m. on the radar images.

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service's Oxnard office had tracked the Dec. 11-12 storm as it swept down the coast, dumping unusually heavy rain as the cold front moved through the Central Coast region and Santa Barbara County.

"The question was, ‘Were those rain rates going to hold together and make it all the way down?' " said meteorologist-in-charge Mark Jackson.

Such intense rainfall, even just minutes long, could bring flash floods to areas in Ventura County burned by the Springs Fire in May 2013. Those flash floods could trigger rock and mud flows down the bare, hardened hillsides.

"A very short duration — one of these 10 minutes, 15 minutes — if it's intense enough, can bring it down. It doesn't have to be a lot of rain," said John Dumas, science and operations officer for the National Weather Service.

Under 2 inches of rain fell in Camarillo Springs during the Dec. 11-12 storm — not that unusual. But the volume of rain in just 10 minutes that night left the meteorologists reeling.

Camarillo Springs residents said it sounded like a freight train, a rushing river, enough rain to stop you from seeing even across the street.

"From 2 a.m. to 2:10 a.m., we had 0.60 inches in 10 minutes," said Jayme Laber, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service.

The statistical chance of that happening is once every 500 years, or 0.2 percent in any one year. That doesn't mean that same rate of rainfall couldn't happen next year or next month, but the chances are extremely low.

"I have never seen this amount of rain in this short a period of time in a storm like this," Jackson said. "On a scale of 1 to 10 for intensity, this is a 10."

Likely between 2:10 and 2:20 a.m. Dec. 12, tons of rocks and mud rushed downhill in Camarillo Springs, damaging 16 homes and leaving 10 uninhabitable.

Jackson watched San Como Lane, the hardest-hit street there, from his home that night. Authorities had set up a remote camera pointing toward the hill after mud and debris came down on two homes during a storm on Halloween night.

Rainfall rates that night were about 0.45 inch per hour, more than other storms since but far less intense than Dec. 11-12.

"I could not believe what I was seeing," Jackson said of the images of rocks piling up. "I called the office and said, ‘This is a major debris flow. This is major, what happened.'

"It all happened so quickly," Jackson said.

Just before 1 a.m., the National Weather Service had issued a flash-flood warning for mud and debris flows in areas burned in the Springs Fire.

Outside the Oxnard office, a rain gauge measured 0.93 inch from 1:30 to 1:45 a.m. Dec. 12. Statistically, that's considered a 1,000-year event, or 0.1 percent chance of happening in any given year.

"That's unprecedented," Jackson said. "As meteorologists, as we watch these things and see 0.93 in 15 minutes, we're like, ‘This is the sky is falling.' "

Steve Polley on Gitana Avenue in Camarillo Springs woke up to a rumbling noise about 2 a.m. Dec. 12.

"It sounded like just a huge roar," Polley said. "It was just like the sound of a rushing river."

A rain gauge at the Circle X Ranch, high above the Pacific Coast Highway in the Santa Monica Mountains, measured 0.75 inch from 2:26 to 2:36 a.m. Dec. 12. There's about a 1 percent chance of that happening in any given year, Laber said.

All of the totals far exceeded thresholds the National Weather Service uses to issue warnings about flash floods and debris flows in burn areas.

In Ventura County, the thresholds are 0.2 inch per 15 minutes, a third of an inch per 30 minutes, or a half-inch per hour, figures based on a U.S. Geological Survey study.

Local authorities chose to go with an even lower threshold for Camarillo Springs, based on an engineering report that found just a quarter-inch per hour could bring rocks and mud down the hills.

After the Springs Fire, U.S. Geological Survey scientists examined which areas would be most at risk during heavy rain, based on the steepness of the slope, type of dirt and how hot the fire burned.

Burn areas above the PCH, Sycamore Canyon and Camarillo Springs all were in a high-risk category. All three had major mud and rock flows Dec. 11-12.

Scott Holder, a hydrologist with the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, saw the heavy band of rain on radar images the night of Dec. 11 from the county's Office of Emergency Services center.

The only storm in recent times that he thought showed that type of rain intensity was in February 1998, "but I don't think that even came close" to what happened Dec. 11-12, he said.

"Thank goodness it was a short period of intensity and not longer," Holder said.

New season's rainfall

The rain season runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, and all but one area in the county has topped 100 percent of normal rainfall for this point of the year, according to preliminary figures from the Ventura County Watershed Protection District.

From just over 4 inches in most cities to 10.3 inches in Matilija Canyon, only Fillmore sits below normal, at about 84 percent. Other areas range from 100 percent in Santa Paula to 162 percent in Oxnard.

It's too early to say how the rest of the winter will go. Hydrologist Scott Holder from the Watershed Protection District said he's optimistic it will at least top last year's totals — a very dry year. Most areas are almost there already. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a report Thursday predicting a 75 percent chance of average or above-average precipitation between January and the end of March for California.