California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, Jan. 27.

Power outages hit thousands as storm rolls into California.
A stark warning on more contagious coronavirus variant.
And San Francisco votes to toss Lincoln and Washington names.

Atmospheric river


A satellite view of the incoming storm on Tuesday.

An atmospheric storm barreled into California right on schedule Tuesday evening, snarling traffic and knocking out power to tens of thousands of customers across Northern California. Communities along the coast from Big Sur to Napa County braced for potential mudslides along slopes desiccated by recent wildfires. A blizzard warning was issued for the Sierra Nevada, with forecasts calling for up to 10 feet of new snow over the next week. S.F. Chronicle | Mercury News | Accuweather

Follow storm updates. 👉 S.F. Chronicle

See a live satellite loop. 👉


Sacramento's mayor, Darrell Steinberg, lashed out during a City Council meeting Tuesday night over the city's failure to open warming centers ahead of the storm as temperatures dropped to freezing. "People are going to die tonight and it's just business as usual,” he said. “We can’t get a goddamn warming center open for more than one night because the county has rules? I’m sick of this.” Sacramento Bee

Watch Steinberg's remarks. 👉 @tclift (1 min)




People waited in a standby line in hopes of getting a vaccine in Los Angeles on Monday.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Labor unions and other groups reacted angrily to California's plan to adopt an age-based system of vaccine eligibility that appears to push some vulnerable people further back in line. “California labeled these workers essential when the state wanted their service through the pandemic," a labor leader said. "If they are removed from the priority list for vaccination, the state is now saying they are expendable." | L.A. Times

Even as people are inoculated, Americans need to continue using masks and social distancing until midsummer to avoid thousands of new deaths, an analysis found. N.Y. Times


A UC San Diego infectious disease modeler raised alarms about the risks posed by a coronavirus variant that was first detected in Britain and is now spreading in California. Natasha Martin said the B.1.1.7 strain was as much as 70% more transmissible than initial versions of the virus. “In a scenario where contact rates increase," she told local officials, "in two weeks time, due to reopening activities, a substantial surge would occur, exceeding our health care capacity, in all of the scenarios, even with vaccination." S.D. Union Tribune


A student got a temperature check before entering a tutoring center in Culver Center on Sept. 2.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Three new reports on the situation in our schools:

A study of California schools found significant learning declines in early grades during the pandemic, with low-income students and English learners hit hardest. EdSource
New projections found that enrollment in California K-12 public schools fell by a record 155,000 students during the pandemic. Many parents have resorted to private schools or homeschooling. CalMatters
A major study by the CDC concluded that American schools operating in-person have seen scant transmission of the coronavirus. The real threat, researchers said, has been indoor athletics. Washington Post



Rep. Kevin McCarthy hasn't quit Donald Trump. After rebuking the former president for his part in the deadly Capitol siege, the Bakersfield Republican is now trying to claw his way back into his good graces. In recent days, McCarthy has argued that Trump didn't incite the Jan. 6 mob and said that "Trump continues to have that ability to lead this party and unite.” Sources said the effort has been appreciated by Trump. Politico


A bear wandered in Yosemite National Park.

Legislation introduced Monday would ban bear hunting in California. The sponsor, state Sen. Scott Wiener, cited habitat loss and public opinion polls showing support for a prohibition. Opponents say the move would deprive conservation efforts of funding derived from hunting permits. Moreover, California's black bear numbers are the highest they've been in decades. Sacramento Bee


The names of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John Muir, and Dianne Feinstein are officially too tainted for San Francisco's schools. In a 6-1 vote late Tuesday, the city’s school board voted to remove 44 names from its schools, portraying the move as a step toward reckoning with a racist past. Critics called the process, which included little to no input from historians, sloppy and ill-timed during a pandemic. S.F. Chronicle | Courthouse News Service


Chamath Palihapitiya in San Francisco in 2016.

Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

A former Facebook executive threw his hat in the ring to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom. Chamath Palihapitiya, who owns a minority stake in the Golden State Warriors, has been a fierce critic of Newsom on taxation and his response to the pandemic. His proposals include a 0% state tax, a guaranteed $70,000 salary for teachers, and $2,000 for every new child born in California. Reuters |


The visitor center at the Better Place grove in Point Arena.

Hewitt Photography

There are burial grounds along the Santa Cruz and Mendocino coasts with redwoods for gravestones.

A Bay Area startup called Better Place Forests bought the groves with the idea of reimagining the modern cemetery. People buy a claim to a particular tree and feed cremated remains mixed with fertilizer into the roots. Choosing the right tree is an act loaded with symbolism. Debra Lee, 60, told the N.Y. Times she was drawn to one that looked like it had survived hard times, curving toward the sky. “But she made it to the top to get to the sunlight,” she said. N.Y. Times | Sierra Magazine


Joan Didion has a new volume of essays out, which has triggered a small wave of commentary on the California writer's place in the culture.

Durga Chew-Bose in the N.Y. Times: "She’ll notice the hydrangeas are plastic and mention it once, in passing, sorting the scene. Her gaze, like a sentry on the page, permanently trained on what is being disguised."
Hilton Als in the New York Review of Books: “There’s an energy to her writing ... that sheds an awful and beautiful light on a world we half see but don’t want to see, one in which potential harm is a given and hope is a flimsy defense against dread.”
Nathan Heller in the New Yorker: No magazine writer has done better than Didion's best. But her innovation was something else. Didion's work, Heller wrote, "declares its own terms and vernacular, and, if successful, conveys meaning in a way that transcends its parts."

A subject in the new book "What She Said."

Deanna Templeton/MACK, 2021

“Hate Life, hate me, hate you!! Wanna die when I’m 18.”

For 20 years, the Huntington Beach street photographer Deanna Templeton has been drawn to the angst of female adolescence. In a new book, she connects her pictures with diary entries from her own youth. The result, wrote one reviewer, is "a touching, at times tough, testament to female solidarity across the intergenerational divide. " The Face | AnOther magazine


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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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