Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Eve Blizzard; one Washington Deputy released from hospital; a little prep for the 2010 racing season; dreaming of taking a motorcycle trip

Just when I thought I could stop talking about the weather, we get yet ANOTHER storm! Late last week and early this week, the forecasters said we could get a Christmas storm. What appeared to be a massive winter storm was headed our way! Local forests said we would have snow by Wednesday evening.

People in the Beatrice area woke up to ice-coated trees and rain/freezing rain on Wednesday morning. With the temps staying right at or just above freezing, there was not much of a problem. There was already a lot of snow and wind in the west and central part of the state, though. Over Wednesday night we had periods of light rain, drizzle and mist. When I went home on Christmas Eve morning, I thought the forecasters were wrong, even though they were still saying we were in for a big storm.

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I woke up on Christmas eve to find it snowing and blowing. Forecast was for winter storm warnings, blizzard watches and blizzard warnings across most of the state. When I got to work, arrangements had already been made for us to use the Beatrice Fire Department’s Expedition to get around in the snow. I stayed in my Crown Vic until about 10:30 PM, when I switched over. About 7 PM, the local radio station announced that we were in a blizzard warning until 6 AM on Saturday with high winds and periods of heavy snow. TRAVEL WAS NOT ADVISED!!

Gage County Courthouse

The street department was to start cleaning emergency snow routes at 11 PM. The State Department of Roads was already out by 8 PM. With the high winds, they had a hard time of it. I fill my car with gas about 7 PM and the highway on the north end of town was already almost blown shut. Calls started coming in about stranded vehicles all over the county. Near the state line, a car was in the ditch with 2 adults and 2 infants. Roads all around them were drifted shut and deputies could not get to them. By now, there were many locations with zero visibility due to the blowing snow. Gage County Emergency Management organized a Search & Rescue effort and was able to reach the stalled vehicle and rescue the occupants. Several other vehicles were stalled in the south end of the county. About midnight, the highway on the north end of town was blocked again and several cars were stranded north of the city limits.

City crews kept on working to keep snow routes open. Around 4 AM, a report was received of several stalled cars on Hwy 77 between the east and west junctions of Hwy 41. One was a Jefferson County ambulance on its was to Lincoln with a patient.  The ambulance was able to continue after a snowplow arrived to clear the way.

400 block N 6th

It’s been so long since we’ve had a true blizzard that many people may not realize how dangerous this weather event is. The bottom line is, when the Weather Service says to stay home, STAY AT HOME!! At this point, this area has been lucky and there have been no serious injuries or fatalities.

The weather outside is frightful, but it can also help families enjoy time together. As long as there are enough supplies in the house, there is no reason to go out. At work on Christmas Eve, one of the dispatchers told us That her son told her "I wish that we could just stay home and spend Christmas Day together." I think he has wisdom beyond his years. He also got his wish!!

On Saturday we celebrate Christmas with Jason and Jeremy and their families and they will only have to go across town. Wednesday we’ll have Christmas with my side of the family and watch Nebraska win another bowl game. Hopefully, the weather will give us a few days’ break.


Downtown Beatrice, Christmas Eve 2009

In following up on the two Washington deputies shot early this week, one has been released from the hospital. Sgt Nick Hausner left the hospital on the morning of December 24th and a motorcade of police escorts accompanied him to Harborview Medical Center near Tacoma, where he visited his wounded partner, Deputy Kent Mundell. Deputy Mundell is still listed in critical condition. Vigils are being held at the hospital by officers from numerous agencies. The Law Enforcement community worldwide is praying for Deputy Mundell’s recovery.

Fighting the weather makes the beginning of the racing season seem like a very long time away, but everybody is still working on getting their equipment ready for the 2010 season. I got my engine block, crankshaft and heads back from the machine shop before the bad weather hit us. The block is on the engine stand, wrapped up in a plastic bag. Maybe before the weekend is over I can build a fire in the woodburner and warm the garage up enough so I can put the crank in and torque the main caps. I still need to find a set of pistons before I can put the short block together. I also have to get the engine that is in the car, out so it can be freshened, but I don’t want to have two engines apart at the same time.

Parts Train

I’ve also been looking at the map trying to figure out if I can make it to Billings, Montana in two days on the Gold Wing. We’re going to attend the Blue Knights International Convention there in July. I’d wanted to take my time going both ways, but we won’t be able to leave Beatrice until Saturday morning and I wanted to be there on Sunday evening. I haven’t figured the exact mileage, but it looks like about 110 miles.

We rode to Spokane in 1998 for the International Convention. We left Grand Island about 5:30 AM on Friday and planned to stay in Coer d’Alene, Idaho, on Saturday night. However, mechanical problems on one of the bikes set us back. Anyway, we stayed at a KOA campground at Sheridan, Wyoming on Friday night and were in Billings well before noon on Saturday. Of course, we didn’t take time to do any sightseeing, and Grand Island is 13 miles closer than Beatrice. I hope to be able to take more time coming back from Billings to do some sightseeing.

Jan and I have really gone modern as we got new cell phones. I’m through the first 20 pages of the 150 page instruction manual and am already thoroughly confused. I hope this phone gives me as good of service as the last one. I had it for 5 years and never had a problem with it. Of course, I’d be satisfied if I could get calls, make calls and have my address book. Both of our phones have Navigation and that is included in the monthly bill on Jan’s phone. I can have it if I pay $9.95 a month more. I decided if I ever need it, we’ll probably be together so we’ll just use hers. We both have cameras incorporated in our phones, which is kind of cool. The pictures I took on Christmas eve were taken on my phone. I even got “Bluetooth” with my phone. They say I can talk on my phone without having to hang onto it, which will be cool if I can make the silly thing stay on my ear!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy birthday; Advances in police technology; area dirt tracks setting 2010 schedules; two Washington deputies ambushed, suspect killed; white Nebraska Christmas

My oldest daughter, Heather, celebrated a birthday December 18th. She had a posting on her Facebook page about being 29. I wish she was - it would mean that I’m not as old as I am. However, she also tells on herself because she also has her birthday posted on her profile, including the year she was born.

The night she was born, we headed to the hospital about 1 AM. We lived on the west edge of Grand Island and came in to the old Grand Island Memorial Hospital from the west on Faidley. We’d had a pretty good snowstorm just a couple of days earlier and the snow was still blowing across the road. There were no houses along Faidley back then, it was all cornfields. We got to the hospital and I had a couple of papers to fill out, then I went up to begin my wait. When I got upstairs, it was already over and we had a new daughter! I guess that’s the way to do it!!

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Things came full circle last winter when Heather & Dana had their 1st child, a son, Landon. He will be 10 months old in a few days and he rules the roost in their home. Unfortunately, it’s over 500 miles to Greeley, Colorado, so we don’t get to see him much, but Heather keeps us updated with pictures. She also has Skype on her computer and we have it on ours, so if we’re on the computer at the same time, we are able to talk and see each other on the computer.

Technology, especially in the last few years, has come such a long way. Cell phones, computers, GPS, video, video surveillance. I can set up video surveillance in cities all over the United States and through the internet, I can sit at a computer in an office and watch all of the surveillance cameras at once. I can remember at times thinking that I wish something was on video, now I have it. When our patrol cars got the first video systems, we had a big lock box in the trunk of the patrol cars that had a VCR in it. We had to ch ange the tapes every 8 hours. We now have digital video that is recorded on a memory card and the entire system is contained in the rear view mirror. We have laptop computers in our patrol cars from which we can run license plates and warrant checks. We can talk to dispatch and other officers through chat on our laptops instead of using the radio. All of our patrol cars have GPS so dispatch can see where we are at all times. They can see us on a map of the city or county and even know how fast we are going.

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I found out the other night that the GPS and mobile data now works when we’re out of the county. I had to make a trip to Lincoln, and could communicate by mobile data to dispatch. They could tell me where I was before I knew it, naming cross streets I was passing. All this technology enhances officer safety.

With winter setting in, all the racing going on here is “bench racing.” Nebraska Raceway Park at Greenwood, Nebraska has a tentative schedule posted on their website. Thunderhill Speedway, at Mayetta, Kansas, is under new ownership and they have announced that they will be IMCA sanctioned in 2010. Their program will be IMCA modifieds, sportmods, stock cars and hobby stocks and they will continue to race on Saturday nights. We raced at Thunderhill in a special at the beginning of 2008 and I’d love to go back there some time when the weather is nice and the track is in good shape. Maybe we’ll be able to make another trip there in 2010. We’re already making plans to go to Ft Worth in April for the NASCAR weekend. I’m hoping that with the economic downturn, rooms will be a bit less expensive. Tickets aren’t available as a package deal like they were at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but it looks like even buying them individually, they will be less than they were in Las Vegas.

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At about 8:45 PM (PST) on Monday evening, December 21, two Sheriff’s Deputies were ambushed when the responded to a call near Eatonville, Washington. They were responding to a dispute at a home between two brothers. The deputies were shot by David Crable before he was killed when they returned fire. The gunman has a history of "terrorizing" his family. The names of the officers were not immediately released.

The officers were met at the door by Crable's brother. When the deputies entered the house, Crable fired at the deputies from upstairs, hitting one of the officers multiple times.


One deputy was flown to Harborview Medical Center In Seattle, where he was listed as critical in the intensive care unit. The other deputy was taken to Madigan Army Medical Center, where he was listed in serious condition.

We’re in the Christmas season, but not everybody is in the Christmas spirit. PLEASE, everybody, BE CAREFUL out there!!

It looks like we’ll have a white Christmas as there’s another storm taking aim at Nebraska. If you’re living in this area and you don’t have to drive, please stay indoors. If you absolutely must be out in it, be careful. I might be boring to read, but I would not want to spice this up by writing about the misfortunes of people who are playing bumper cars in the bad weather.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, everybody!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nebraska snowstorm; Danica will be in NASCAR; McCool Junction awards banquet; more Officers down

Following the snowstorm last week, we went into a DEEP FREEZE! Having Monday and Tuesday off, I didn’t have to deal with the falling snow, but when I went back to work Wednesday evening, the bottom fell out of the thermometer. Of course, it could have been worse as it “only” dropped to -14 here. Thursday night it was about 0 when I went home shortly after 2 AM.

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My nephew, Charlie, is a Marine Staff Sergeant stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He posted a comment on his face book page about the bad weather they were having, with rain and weather in the 60’s. I told him I’d gladly trade places with him as long as there wasn’t a hurricane. He did not give me an answer.

In the world of NASCAR, IndyCar driver Danica Patrick has finally signed a two year contract with JR Motorsports to drive in select Nationwide series races in 2010 and 2011. The races she will drive in have not been announced yet, but it is anticipated that she will be scheduled around her IndyCar season. Patrick admits that she will have a steep learning curve, but hopes to be competitive in the #7. Patrick will be testing an ARCA car at Daytona later this month.

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On the local racing scene, The Junction Motor Speedway held their annual awards banquet on December 12th. Their tentative schedule shows the annual USMTS Spring Thaw race will be Friday and Saturday March 5th & 6th, 2010. Support classes will be open stock cars and 2-preson cruisers. Junction Motor Speedway is also planning to add limited modifieds to the schedule, but officials are still working on rules for the class. The regular season opener is scheduled for Saturday, April 17th, 2010. I’m really hoping the weather for the USMTS show is nice, as it will fall on my weekend off and I’d like to go race that weekend. However, with the snow and nasty weather we’re having now, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was still snow on the ground that first weekend of March.

Over $20,000 in track and NASCAR money was presented to the drivers in the top 10 in points in each class. I got my first ever (and probably my only) NASCAR trophy for our 10th place points finish. With fog and light freezing drizzle in the evening, our decision to stay overnight was a good one. We slept in on Sunday, then had a good breakfast and hot coffee before heading back to Beatrice.

Since the murders of four Lakewood, Washington Police Officers two weeks ago, at least 6 more officers have died in the line of duty. Two were the result of traffic accidents and four were from gunfire. I’ve mentioned this before and I can’t stress it enough, most fatal line of duty traffic accidents CAN BE AVOIDED!! For those officers reading this, PLEASE USE YOUR SEATBELTS!! The other thing I would urge is to SLOW DOWN a little. On December 3rd, Osage County, Oklahoma Deputy Sheriff Michael Mehagan, 26, was responding to back up another officer on a call when he lost control of his patrol car on an S-curve and rolled twice. Deputy Mehagan was ejected from the vehicle and sustained fatal injuries. He is survived by his wife and 11 month old daughter.


On Friday December 11th, Jefferson County, Indiana Deputy Sheriff Roy Sutton, Jr, 33, was killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call involving weapons at about 11:30 PM. Deputy Sutton met a vehicle on a hilly, winding section of road when his patrol car ran off the right side of the road and down a steep embankment. His patrol car went airborne and hit a tree on the drivers’ side of the car. Deputy Sutton was wearing a seatbelt and suffered severe head trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene.

On December 3rd, Pelham, Alabama Police Officer Phillip Davis, 33, was killed while making a traffic stop when the suspect opened fire and fled the scene. On December 6th, Penn Hills Police Officer Michael Crawshaw, 32, was shot and killed in an ambush while responding to a call. He parked several houses away from the call, then reported that he heard shots fired. The suspect exited the house and shot Officer Crawshaw several times as he sat in his car before he was able to get out. The suspect had shot and killed the resident of the house over a drug debt. On December 8th, Martin County North Carolina Sheriff’s Deputy Charlie Brown, 38, was shot and killed as he and other officers responded to a call of a man walking on a street and firing a long gun. Officers located the man and confronted him, telling him to put the gun down. Instead, he fired and killed Deputy Brown. Other officers on the scene returned fire, killing the suspect. Finally, on December 13th, Henderson, Tennessee Police Captain Dennis Cagle, 56, died from a gunshot wound he suffered three days earlier when he responded to a robbery call at a local grocery store. Captain Cagle was the first officer on the scene and was shot once when he entered the store. He returned fire and wounded the suspect, who was taken into custody at the scene.

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It would appear that in addition to our military fighting wars overseas, our police officers are fighting a war in the United States. Three of the above suspects were captured and the fourth was killed. I would hope that none of the three is ever released from jail. Please, officers out there, don’t take any chances and come home at the end of your shift! Non-law enforcement reading this, if you are contacted by law enforcement, use common sense and everything will be OK. We are all in a heightened state of awareness, so if at times we seem short or terse with you, please understand.

Parts Train

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nebraska Cornhuskers lose heartbreaker, Suh for Heisman, Nebraska winter storm, NASCAR at Texas Motor Speedway

The Nebraska Cornhuskers lost a heartbreaker to Texas Saturday evening at Arlington, Texas. After taking a 12 - 10 lead with less than 2 minutes to play, it appeared that an incomplete pass by Texas’ quarterback ended the game as time expired. However, an official review of the play clock had the officials reset the clock with one second and Texas kicked a field goal.

Nebraska has nothing to be ashamed about in the way they played. The match-up between Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh thrust Suh into the Heisman spotlight and he will be making the trip to New York at the end of this week. Wouldn’t it be a great honor for a defensive lineman the caliber of Suh to be the Heisman recipient? His interview with the Lincoln TV station was very gracious and he said he wouldn’t even be considered for the award if it weren’t for his teammates.

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With the big game on TV and the weather being decent, we expected there to be a lot of traffic in town during the evening. However, it appeared that the parties were all at home as it was a very quiet night, even after the game was over. There was not much traffic on the street all night long.

Winter has taken aim at southeast Nebraska and after dropping about 6” of snow on us Sunday afternoon and evening, we are bracing for what forecasters are saying will be another 7” to 12” by the time it stops sometime Wednesday. So far, we haven’t had much of a wind, but the weather service says we could get 40 MPH winds in the next day, too.

Even with the nasty weather Sunday evening, there was a lot more traffic on the streets. It’s almost like some people don’t have the good sense to stay home when the weather is nasty. If I hadn’t had to work, I would not have left the house. The Sheriff’s Department was busy with two injury accidents between 6 PM and 7 PM in the Wymore area. Fortunately, none of the injuries were serious. The snow stopped before midnight and Beatrice street crews began cleaning the downtown streets.

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Of course, the snow started again on Monday evening and as of 6 PM Tuesday, we’d gotten another 9” of snow. I got the snowblower out just after noon and cleaned the driveway as I had to get the grandkids from daycare. When I got home, I wasn’t able to get the car back up the driveway. I got an area on the street cleaned so I could park the car close to the curb, not 3 feet from the curb where the street crews cleaned the snow. On the way back with the kids, I saw a sure sign of a huge storm coming in when I passed two people who are well-known to local law enforcement. They were walking along the street, each carrying two 30-packs of beer. I’m guessing they were afraid of running out of beer before the snow stops.

I remember snow storms when I was in grade school and junior high. From about the 5th grade on, Crete had students from country schools that had closed, and those were the only bus routes. If I remember correctly there were five bus routes then. The kids that lived in town usually either walked or rode their bicycles to school. It seemed like after we had bus routes we had a lot more days off for snow.

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I also remember when I was in 7th grade, in February 1965, a storm that we had. Dad worked at Cushman’s in Lincoln and went to work the morning the storm started. Dad ended up staying with his cousin in Lincoln and didn’t get home for 3 or 4 days.

I happened to check the Beatrice Speedway website last night and found that the schedule for 2010 has already been posted. Spring Nationals is set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 18th, 19th & 20th. Thursday night will be an open practice for all classes. Friday night will have IMCA modifieds, IMCA sport mods, IMCA hobby stocks and factory stocks. Saturday night will be IMCA modifieds, IMCA sport mods, IMCA hobby stocks and IMCA sport compacts. The regular season is scheduled to start on Friday April 16th. I hope that the snow will be gone before Spring Nationals time is here. The R & R Racing #6 entry should be ready to race long before the practice night.

Beatrice Speedway’s car show & test & tune are scheduled for April 10th, and the regular season opener is scheduled for Friday April 16th.

I’ve attended the NASCAR weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway each year since 2003. Each year, we’ve taken two days to drive each way, and spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the track. The economy has hurt the attendance as in 2009, there were a lot of empty seats in Turn 4. That is where we sat in 2003 and 2004 and except for not being able to see Turns 1 & 2, we had decent seats. The cars came out of 2 and down the back straightaway straight at us.

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We’ve enjoyed the city, the vendors, the tailgating and making new friends at Las Vegas. I keep track of what’s going on in the valley by looking at the Las Vegas Review Journal on-line several times a week. Every time we go back, there are a lot of changes on the strip from the year before.

In 2010, we plan to go to the spring Texas NASCAR weekend. It’s the same weekend as the scheduled start for Beatrice Speedway, but I’ve decided I want to do some other things in 2010 than just race. I’m hoping the weather in April is nice enough that we can take the Gold Wing when we go to Texas. Due to the economy, ticket prices have been lowered and, depending on the location at the track of the tickets, I can get Friday, Saturday and Sunday tickets for $100. If I book the hotel soon enough, it looks like I can get a room for about $65 a night. I’m guessing we’d stay overnight in Oklahoma City on the way back, so all in all, it would not be as expensive as going to Las Vegas again.

This last weekend I found out that Dad gave the Veterans Day speech at Crete High School this year. He’d originally been asked to talk to a class about his experiences in WW II. Somehow, that didn’t develop, and he was asked to do the Veterans Day address. He even found one of his old uniforms to wear. Mom said he talked a little longer than he was supposed to, but everybody enjoyed it. He also got a video of it, and I want to be sure to see it soon.

As police officers, we see the best and worst of society. I’ve dealt with kids that I’ve never seen their parents and wonder why the parents had kids if they weren’t going to take responsibility for them. I’ve tried to point teens and others in their early 20’s in the right direction and hope they become respected, contributing members to society. Now I’ve come across a website honoring the heroes in our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The website, gives short stories of our soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen/women who are doing their jobs at a great risk to them selves. As I read through some of these stories, it struck me how young most of these heroes are. I can see that many of our younger people ARE becoming responsible citizens. These are our next generation of heroes. Thank you to our military for keeping us safe at home.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lakewood, Washington cop killer dies

Suspected Seattle cop killer Maurice Clemmons was shot and killed by a Seattle Police Officer in the early morning hours of Tuesday December 1st. Clemmons had a gun that belonged to one of the slain Police Officers tucked in his waistband. When the investigation into the cowardly murder of 4 Lakewood, Washington Police Officers started, Clemmons was developed as a person of interest. He soon became a suspect.

On Sunday evening, police narrowly missed capturing Clemmons as they cordoned off a neighborhood and SWAT teams began checking house after house. Clemmons had a network of family members and friends who helped hide him and provided him with money, food and cell phones. The investigation does not end with his death as several accomplices have been arrested and Law Enforcement has announced that several more will be arrested.

This was a senseless tragedy that could have been prevented if the criminal justice system worked the way is is supposed to. What I mean by that is this: this piece of human trash should not have been on the streets- not now, not EVER! In 1989, before his 18th birthday, he was sentenced to spend 95 years in prison in Arkansas for a laundry list of charges including robberies, burglaries, thefts and bringing a gun to school. However, in 2000, after spending 11 years behind bars, his sentence was commuted by then-governor Mike Huckabee. According to newspaper reports, Huckabee said that the fact that Clemmons was 17 at the time of his sentencing was a factor in his sentence. He was later arrested for violating his parole and landed in jail to serve his full term, but the charges were dropped and he was released.

He was recently charged with the rape of a child and assaulting a police officer and was released after a bail bondsman posted his $150,000 bond.

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I am sure there will be a long and drawn out investigation into this case. Where do we begin? Every was I turn, I see news about gun control and new laws. Here’s a news flash for those that want more gun control - IT IS AGAINST THE LAW FOR A FELON TO POSSESS A FIREARM!!! Let’s enforce the gun laws we already have instead of making new ones. Clemmons did not buy his gun at a sporting goods show.

How about early release, parole and probation? Let’s see, if you get 20 years in Nebraska and are a good boy or girl, you’re out in 10 or less. With jail overcrowding, it’s all about parole and probation. Get them out and back on the streets as soon as possible. Said Brian Wurts, The Lakewood Independent Police Guild president and Lakewood police officer, "I can't believe he was out on the street," Wurts said of the suspect. "You have 5 percent of the people out here committing 90 percent of the crime -- not against just us, but against all of you. And we've got to hold these people accountable. We've got to keep them locked up. And if they want to rehabilitate them, you can rehabilitate them, but you rehabilitate them in prison, where they're supposed to be. This guy should have never been on the street."

This is a time for healing for the families, friends and co-workers of the fallen officers. It’s my hope that something like this will never happen again, but we all know it will. Contact your lawmakers and let them know you are outraged that someone like Clemmons can be out on the street and you want the laws changed. Let those changes be the legacy of Sgt Mark Renninger and Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Greg Richards.

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