California Sun

Good morning. It's Tuesday, Feb. 12.

More wild weather gets ready to barrel into California.
A fight over the name Dixie grips liberal Marin County.
And the quest for an autonomous society on the Lost Coast.



A weather model shows an atmospheric river making landfall on the West Coast late Tuesday.

Buckle up. Forecasters said an atmospheric river would sweep across an already soaked California between Tuesday and Thursday with enough strength to topple trees and unleash flooding and mudslides. "It is a classic Pineapple Express," an oceanographer said. "It's coming from deep in the tropics south of Hawaii aiming right at the West Coast."


Dead trees have been ready fuel for forests fires, including last year's Ferguson fire in the Stanislaus National Forest, above.

Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images

More than 18 million trees died in California last year — and that's seen as a positive development. Past years saw even larger death tolls, including 27 million trees in 2017, thanks to drought and beetle infestation. Scientists said increasing rain has helped slow a die-off that turned vast tracts of the state forest from green to brown.


The N.Y. Times took a deep dive into Kamala Harris's background as a public official. In a dozen years as the top law enforcement official of San Francisco and then California, she had a reputation for caution — frustrating critics who saw her as just another politician trying to be all things to all people. That record haunts her now as she runs for president as a "progressive prosecutor."


Yosemite's Mirror Lake dressed in white last Friday.

Matt Gundersen

Some people have the mistaken idea that Yosemite is closed in winter. In fact, many regulars regard it as the park's best season — when a blanket of snow creates a hushed stillness. Here are some gorgeous recent photos from the park on Twitter, and live views from the Yosemite Conservancy's webcams.


The USS Macon over Berkeley in 1933.

Museum of Flight/Corbis via Getty Images

The USS Macon was among the world's largest flying objects in the 1930s. Dubbed the "Queen of the Skies," the 785-foot-long airship was designed as a flying aircraft carrier that could launch and retrieve planes. It was on this day in 1935 that it ran into trouble off the Big Sur coast. A fin broke in a storm and sent the Macon tumbling into the Pacific, killing two of its 83 crewmen. The disaster spelled the end of the Navy's dirigible program.

The wreckage is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. In 2015, a robot vessel provided a close look at the crash site 1,500 feet under the sea. You can see the video over here.


Northern California


The school district was named after San Rafael's historic Dixie Schoolhouse, pictured above.

Wikimedia Commons

"The Confederacy doesn’t need an outpost in Marin County." In the heart of liberal Marin County is a school district named Dixie. Activists want it changed, arguing that the word is a reminder of the South and slavery. Others say it means no such thing and to change it would be to surrender to the forces of political correctness. The fight has gotten so intense that neighbors have stopped speaking to one another.


A man delivering newspapers before dawn in Madera County happened upon a shocking sight in the middle the road: an abandoned newborn baby, umbilical cord still attached. The girl, just hours old, was rushed to a hospital, where she was expected to make a full recovery. Investigators are searching for the mother.


Edna was taken away from her fire station on Monday.

The saga of Edna the fire station cat took a sorry turn. Despite a public campaign to keep the formerly feral cat, employees of the station were forced to say goodbye as Edna was removed in response to an anonymous complaint. "It just sucks to uproot a once feral cat from her home of 5yrs and one that she could come and go as she pleased but chose to stay with unlimited 24/7 loving from 200+ amazing EMS members," station employees said in an Instagram post.


When a Bay Area homeowner reached out to the county about making a minor addition to her house, she learned they had no record of her decades-old basement apartment. She was told to evict her tenant or do a renovation she couldn't afford. "I would tell people to never apply for a permit. Never let them on your property," she said. "Don’t engage with them in any way."


Life is different along the Lost Coast.

The Lost Coast town of Petrolia is tucked into one of America's remotest corners. It was there in 2007 that a local maverick launched a homegrown currency with coins minted from pure silver — part of a quest to build an autonomous society. Many residents signed on, with contractors and massage therapists agreeing to accept it. The experiment didn't last, but it still resonates as a symbol of a community on the fringe that wants to stay there.


Southern California


Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, center, walked toward a Los Angeles courthouse for sentencing in 2017.

Al Seib/L.A. Times via Getty Images

Lee Baca, Los Angeles County's once-powerful sheriff, was poised to spend years in prison after a judge upheld his conviction for interfering with an F.B.I. investigation into abuses at county jails and later lying to prosecutors about his role. Prosectors welcomed the ruling against Baca, 76, saying it "confirms the principle that no one is above the law."


When California legalized recreational marijuana, it gave cities the right to impose "reasonable" restrictions on growing. So the city of Fontana passed a battery of requirements, including a $411 fee, background checks, and notarized approval from landlords. Now Fontana owes a resident $106,916 in legal fees after a judge ruled the city had violated California law in a case seen as a test of how far local marijuana restrictions could go.


An aerial view of the Hollister Ranch coastline west of Santa Barbara.

A judge refused to approve a deal that would have let landlords keep a stretch of coast near Santa Barbara largely to themselves. The deal — reached behind closed doors between landowners and coastal officials — became a flashpoint in the battle to ensure that California’s beaches remain open to everyone, not just to those fortunate enough to own oceanfront property.


Kevin de León during a Senate campaign stop in Los Angeles last September.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/A.P.

Kevin de León, former president of the state Senate, said he planned to run for Los Angeles City Council. The announcement comes a few months after his failed bid to unseat Sen. Dianne Feinstein. De León is viewed as a strong potential candidate for Los Angeles mayor in 2022. Asked whether he'd serve a full four years on the council, he sidestepped the question.


Susie Keef Smith and Lula Mae Graves at Corn Springs, 1930.

Warner Graves Collection

In 1926, Susie Keef Smith took a job as postmaster in the wild desert east of Palm Springs. Joined by her 21-year-old cousin from Tennessee, Lula Mae Graves, they set out to photograph the region's burro prospectors, aqueduct surveyors, and newborn Salton Sea. A collection of their photos, now on display in the Coachella Valley, offers an unparalleled portrait of California's desert outback.


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The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

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