January 3, 2011 in Region

NW today: Seattle rainy on all major holidays

Compiled from wire reports

What’s news in the Northwest today:

SEATTLE — Deserved or not, Seattle has long had a bad reputation for being rainy on days that most people have off. But it was true in 2010. It rained on every major holiday in the city in the past year. It even was wet on Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween. Columbus Day was dry — but it rained both weekend days before it. The heaviest rain fell on New Year’s Day 2010 and on Valentine’s Day. The city started off better this year — it was cold on New Year’s Day, but no precipitation fell.

29 killings in Yakima County in 2010

YAKIMA, Wash. — Officials say Yakima County had one of its worst years on record for homicides in 2010. The Yakima Herald-Republic reports that sheriff’s officers say there were 29 killings last year. That’s six more than last year. The county coroner’s office lists 27 homicides in 1988, when the county’s population was much lower. Other records say there were 25 in 1987, but the two lists differ in how they define a homicide. Sheriff’s chief detective Stew Graham tells the newspaper that it’s hard to determine motives for last year’s deaths, largely due to uncooperative witnesses, victims and suspects.

Sagle woman sentenced for embezzlement

COEUR d’ALENE — A 40-year-old Sagle woman has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for embezzling more than $100,000 from the founders of a humanitarian relief organization. The Coeur d’Alene Press reports April Leigh Mathews was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Justin L. Quackenbush, who also ordered her to pay $109,486 in restitution. She earlier pleaded guilty to five counts of making false statements on credit card applications. Mathews defrauded The Luke Commission, which provides medical in Swaziland, Africa. It is operated by Dr. Harry VanderWal and his wife, Echo. Mathews was hired as an office assistant in 2007. Prosecutors say she opened lines of consumer credit in the victims’ names, added her name to existing charge accounts and forged checks and overpaid herself and her husband for work they were contracted to do.

Law enforcement vehicles damaged at homes of officers

HAILEY, Idaho — Police in Hailey are investigating two recent attempts to damage law enforcement vehicles parked at officer’s homes in Hailey. Police chief Jeff Gunter says they have some people they’re investigating. On Dec. 27, someone poured an accelerant on a Blaine County sheriff’s department sport utility vehicle parked at a deputy’s home and set it on fire, causing minor damage. The next night, two Molotov cocktails were thrown at a Ketchum Police Department SUV. One of the bottles broke a side window.

Gov. Otter to be sworn in during private ceremony

BOISE — Gov. Butch Otter is getting ready to be sworn into office for a second term. Otter will take the oath of office during a private ceremony at noon today in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office in the Capitol. Only family members and invited guests will attend. The Republican will be sworn in by U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge. Otter will take part in a more public event later in the week. On Friday, he will participate in the public inauguration and deliver his address at noon on the Capitol steps. The traditional Inaugural Ball and Processional is scheduled for Saturday night. Otter was elected to a second term in November when voters by a large margin picked him over Democratic challenger Keith Allred.

Street closure tonight for Seattle Viaduct

SEATTLE — The first major street closure in the work to replace Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct happens tonight. The state Department of Transportation says it’s closing First Avenue South next to Qwest Field from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. to allow crews to set up space for the huge construction job. When it reopens Tuesday, First Avenue — a major route from downtown to Interstate 5 — will be reduced to two lanes until April 1 to demolish an onramp to the elevated highway and build a temporary replacement. Crews are hurrying to get the job done before baseball season starts at Safeco Field, just south of Qwest Field.

Snowmobiler rescued after accident on Mount St. Helens

VANCOUVER – A 44-year-old Vancouver woman was rescued on Mount St. Helens this afternoon after her snowmobile rolled onto her and fractured her right leg. A new cellular tower played a key role in her rescue. After being brought down from a steep slope, Cheryl Carter was flown to Southwest Washington Medical Center by Life Flight helicopter. She was in satisfactory condition and headed to surgery at 5 p.m. Tom McDowell of North Country EMS and the Volcano Rescue Team of Yacolt said the mishap occurred about 11 a.m. He said Carter was in a group of seven people. The accident happened in the Lahar area on the southeast side of Mount St. Helens.

Amtrak back on track after weekend stoppage

HELENA, Mont. — Amtrak trains are resuming their normal schedule after a weekend weather stoppage in Montana and North Dakota. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says the Empire Builder will return to normal operations today in both directions, with departures from Chicago, Seattle and Portland, Ore. Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Gus Melonas said Saturday that snow, freezing temperatures and subzero wind chills led BNSF to halt passenger traffic on its tracks across Montana and North Dakota. Freight trains were running at slower speeds. Amtrak ran the Empire Builder between Seattle and Whitefish, Mont., and between Chicago and St. Paul, Minn., but not between St. Paul and Whitefish.

Oregon county settles suit over landfill methane

EUGENE, Ore. — A lawsuit over methane gas seeping from a former Oregon landfill in Lane County has been settled for about $500,000. The Register-Guard reports the county will pay $475,000 to the owners of the Eugene property, a group led by Veneta businessman Greg Demers. The county will also spend $30,000 to $50,000 or more building and monitoring a trench to intercept the dangerous gas coming from the former landfill. The recently approved settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by Demers against Lane County in 2009 in U.S. District Court in Eugene. Demers had been seeking $12 million to compensate for his company’s inability to develop the land, plus other costs. Demers and his associates bought the old dump site and adjacent property with plans to turn it into an industrial park.

Portland police kill knife-wielding man

PORTLAND, Ore. — Authorities say Portland police shot and killed a 60-year-old man who was advancing toward them with a knife and refused to drop it. Police say the officers responded to a security guard’s complaint at a business Sunday of a man threatening to kill him. Officers spotted the suspect at a closed car wash and he began advancing toward them with a knife. Authorities say the two officers ordered him to drop the knife. When he refused one of them fire a stun gun, which was ineffective. Both officers fired their pistols when the man continued to advance. Paramedics declared the suspect dead at the scene. The officers were place on leave pending an investigation.

Governor’s higher ed task force to share its ideas

SEATTLE — A task force charged with finding stable money to pay for higher education in Washington state has some ideas it wants the Legislature to consider. The group appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire is holding a news conference today to share its suggestions. Gregoire asked 16 business, government and education leaders to come up with ideas to increase college degree production by 30 percent over the next decade, while dealing with budget deficits. She wants the task force to suggest viable, long-range budget plans, recommend ways to improve accountability and performance of the state’s colleges and universities, and consider whether changes should be made in the way the state governs its higher education system.

Clakston students catch the wind

LEWISTON – Wind doesn’t only mean energy, it means jobs. That’s why Walla Walla Community College’s Clarkston campus wants to plug into the spike of interest in renewable electricity with a new professional-technical program in wind energy technology. “For every 10 wind turbines, you need about one full-time technician for maintenance and operations,” James Bradshaw, the college’s director of energy systems technology, said of the demand created by the thousands of wind farms sprouting around the globe. And with the proliferation of wind energy in eastern Washington, much of that demand is local. For example, a 600-turbine Puget Sound Energy project with the Bonneville Power Administration near Pomeroy will create about 60 long-term jobs, he said. The college is also training for the short-term turbine construction jobs that can take workers anywhere the wind blows.

Havre High students have today off due to roof collapse

HAVRE, Mont. — Students at Havre High School had their holiday break extended by a day after part of the roof collapsed in last week’s heavy snowstorm. Superintendent Andy Carlson says an engineer has determined that the school shouldn’t use its wood shop, metal shop, home economics room, library and computer lab. Carlson says school won’t be held today while officials try to figure out where to hold those classes. He says the cafeteria is not safe for students, but the kitchen is, so school lunches will be prepared as usual, but students may end up eating in the hallways. Carlson says they’ve been removing books from the library out of concern that the roof could start leaking. The collapse occurred in a pitched portion of the roof.

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