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Baker basks in 76-degree weather


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S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Engineers and crew with the Oregon Department of Transportation connect about 10 electrical sensors at critical areas on the underside of the Bridge Street bridge Tuesday morning. Tests were being done to determine the present load capacity of the bridge. Flaggers directed traffic safely through the area until early afternoon. Sensors would reveal the amount of stress bearing down on concrete and steel from an ODOT truck loaded with about 50,000 pounds of rock, according to John Snyder, an ODOT employee. Wires connected sensors to laptop computers on shore, where engineers accumulated data to be reviewed later at their Salem office.

Tuesday was the sort of day that happens only once a year.

Spring, the genuine article, arrived in Baker County.

Lawnmowers buzzed. 

Short-sleeve shirts emerged from hibernation.

Lilac leaves thrust a little farther from their buds.

The temperature topped out at 76 degrees at the airport, making Tuesday the warmest day in more than half a year.

(79 degrees on Sept. 20, 2013.)

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Baker builder, noxious weed fighter, Sid Johnson dies at 89


By Jayson Jacoby

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The homes Sid Johnson built in Baker County will shelter families for decades, but perhaps the greatest legacy of his handiwork is a forest.

Johnson, who started one of the county’s larger construction companies, died Saturday at his home in Baker City.

He was 89.

Besides being a prominent business owner, Johnson served in a variety of public positions, including the Baker County Planning Commission and the Weed Board.

One of his great passions, though, was improving the property he and his wife Nancy, whom he married in 1948, owned along Alder Creek about 15 miles southeast of Baker City.

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Protecting Power

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon pushes for tougher security measures for the nation's electricity grid


By Pat Caldwell

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Even now the assailants who conducted a nighttime raid on an electrical substation near San Jose, Calif., last year remain anonymous.

But the assault that nearly produced a massive power outage in the Silicon Valley triggered a number of troubling questions and eventually caught the attention of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon.

The unsolved attack kindled fears regarding the safety of the nation’s power grid.

The assault on the Metcalf substation began under cover of the night in April 2013 when telephone cables were slashed and then individuals began to fire guns into the facility. The saboteurs severely damaged more than 15 transformers that channel power to the Silicon Valley, and then disappeared into the darkness just before police arrived.

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An Electric Ride

It Costs $97,000 — But You’ll Never Go To A Gas Station


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S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Richard Haynes’ Tesla Model S is a fully electric car with a range of almost 300 miles.

By Jayson Jacoby

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The loudest part about driving Richard Haynes’ car is latching the seatbelt.

When Haynes mashes the gas pedal to the floor the vehicle scarcely whispers, yet it accelerates at a rate normally associated with jet fighters 

(And projectile vomiting, if you’re not prepared for the pace.)

Your vision blurs slightly.

And your ears, well, they’re even more confused because your brain insists that no car amasses speed so rapidly without making an awful racket.

Haynes drives a Tesla Model S.

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Couple avoids trouble in Peru


By Chris Collins

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A Baker City couple who have traveled the world and thought they’d figured out how to keep themselves safe, are still shaken by a scheme they narrowly escaped when they landed at the Lima, Peru, airport in January.

Wayne and Linda Wall had planned a month-long vacation that included visits to Lima, Peru’s capital and largest city, with a population of nearly 10 million people; Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire; the Sacred Valley of the Inca; and Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Inca, which was rediscovered in 1911.

The Walls flew to Lima on Jan. 28, the beginning of a South American tour that also included visits to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and the Falkland Islands.

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BMS students show off their science skills


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S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Can you use household items to extract DNA? That is the question behind Isabella Evans’ Science Fair experiment at Baker Middle School Tuesday. By combining rubbing alcohol, saltwater and Dawn dishwashing liquid, she says she would get DNA from strawberries and a banana. Evans methodically worked on the presentation for judges, who were to figure out the best projects done by all the students.

By Chris Collins

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Science experiments on topics ranging from how to make plastic out of milk to preserving potatoes were presented by the 255 students of Baker Middle School during a Science Fair Tuesday night.

BMS science teachers are Nicole Butler, Chelsea Hurliman and Alan McCauley.

Here are the top winners at this year’s event:

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La Grande woman thinks she found missing Malaysian airliner

Internet sleuths seek clues in ongoing mystery, share information through Facebook


By Pat Caldwell

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Sharon Cantrell thinks she knows where the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is.

And it isn’t off the coast of Australia.

Instead, the La Grande woman said she believes the missing Boeing 777-200 crashed into the Andaman Sea off the northern coast of Sumatra. She said she reached her conclusion after spending days poring over satellite imagery on the NASA web site and while working with an online group of amateur sleuths via Facebook.

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Getting in Deep

Snowpack Gains Ground


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S. John Collins/Baker City Herald This March photograph reveals the high peaks in the Eagle Cap Wilderness laden with snow that could help ease concerns about severe summertime drought.

By Jayson Jacoby

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Northeastern Oregon’s mountain snowpack hasn’t made up for its sluggish start.

But it has turned a major deficit into a minor one.

After the fifth-driest autumn on record, and a similarly arid January, the region’s snowpack was about 32 percent below average.

The dramatic shift in the weather pattern that started around the first of February, though, has nearly made good those early shortfalls.

A series of storms has boosted the water content in the snowpack, as measured at 16 sites, most in the Elkhorn and Wallowa mountains, to just 8 percent below average.

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Pickup truck rolls onto side in Albertsons parking lot


A Boise woman drove a pickup truck into a landscaping rock causing the vehicle to flip on its side in the Albertsons parking lot just after noon Tuesday.

Teresa Coombs, 46, was taken by ambulance to St. Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City. 

“There seems to be a high likelihood that there could have been some type of medical event that led to the crash,” said Chief Wyn Lohner said. 

Coombs had driven into the west end of the parking lot from Oak Street and ran into the rock at 12:06 p.m., Lohner said. 

 

Hot food, friendly faces

 

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S. John Collins / Baker City Herald A recent Open Door breakfast program at the Presbyterian Church finds eighth-grade student Derritt Gwyn receiving a plate of hot food from two of the volunteer servers, Kate Averett and Dave Davis. Bob Moon is in the background. (S. John Collins)

By Chris Collins

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Nestled on a couch in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church on the Thursday morning before spring break, Chandler Blatz, Jason Buchanan and Destin Lahey were plowing through a breakfast of sausage and eggs before class.

It’s the food, the friends and the fun that keeps them coming back each school day to the Presbyterian Church’s Open Door program, they said.

“You get a nice warm meal and a fun place to be,” says Chandler.

His pal, Jason, says the church basement filled with friendly adults is a good place for the middle schoolers to wait for the building just across the street to open its doors before class starts in the mornings.

“It’s cool for people whose parents have to go to work really early,” he says.

And when they are finished eating, Chandler and Jason and Destin Lahey, along with the 30 to 40 other students who come for a meal, find other ways to occupy their time before the school day begins.


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