Castle Valley Comments
Feb. 7, 2013
by Ron Drake
Feb 07, 2013 | 640 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It is still winter but the extreme cold weather that we experienced during the month of January is in the past and the temperatures will gradually warm up from here on. It was an extraordinarily cold winter but not really uncommon for here. I’ve been reminiscing with people about our first winter in Castle Valley over 34 years ago when the first snow fell before Halloween and continued on a regular basis until the end of February.

The temperature that year dipped to minus 22 several nights and continued with 16 to 20 below for six weeks, staying below the freezing mark day and night during that time. Old-timers in the area also remember extreme winters in the 1960s and 1970s. This year, Bill Rau was keeping a log on the weather and said it didn’t get above freezing for 35 days at his home in Castle Valley, except for one evening. About 7 p.m. on Jan. 10, a warm south wind raised the temperature for about eight hours before plunging back to below zero later that night.

With such a long period of sub-freezing weather, it is no wonder that so many people in the valley and elsewhere experienced frozen water pipes and sewer lines. Some people won’t be getting their plumbing back in working condition until spring, when the ground completely thaws out. With such a long time since we last experienced really cold weather, I think some residents and contractors have become complacent or unaware of what Mother Nature can do and do not plan accordingly when building and remodeling homes. Some people move here with the idea that our weather is similar to St. George on the other side of the state and are caught completely off guard.

Now, just like most winters when we get a lot of snow, we have to deal with the muddy yards and driveways. I’ll take the cold and snow any day over the mud.

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Plans are currently underway by the Castle Valley Fire Department and Grand County Emergency Medical Services to begin classes for a Castle Valley Emergency Medical First Responder class. Once certified, the Castle Valley First Responders will respond to medical emergencies within the fire district boundaries and administer aid until Grand County Emergency Medical Services personnel arrive.

No date has been set for the 40-hour class, but once they begin the classes will be held at the Dar Star Academy and the instructors will be from the Grand County Emergency Medical Services personnel.

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This column reports occasionally on mountain lion sightings here in lower Castle Valley. Last week, Frank Menconca of Castleton reported coming face to face with one at his home while the cat was ready to have dinner.

“At about 8:30 Tuesday evening I heard a loud scream coming from outside my living room window,” he said. “I ran out thinking something had one of my cats. I came face to face with an amazingly large mountain lion lying in the snow about 30 feet from me. There was something dark and furry and very loud in its mouth. I yelled and it dropped what turned out to be a raccoon and ran up the hill next to the cabin.”

The next morning, he went out and tracked it. There was a large divot in the snow where he first saw the cat, with three distinct tail marks, and a yardstick revealed a distance of seven feet between the marks made by the cat in the foot-deep snow as it bounded up the 45-degree hill next to his cabin. The average mountain lion track is just over 3.5 inches wide, but this cat’s tracks were about five inches wide and he said, “judging from the marks in the snow, I estimate the cat was very close to eight feet from nose to tail.”

Mendonca continued: “At some point during the night, it caught a raccoon about 150 feet from the cabin. It carried and dragged the raccoon for about 600 feet to the west. It stopped periodically to lie down, creating distinct tail marks in the fresh snow each time. It then went down a steep hill toward the creek. That’s as far as I tracked it. I didn’t feel safe tracking it through thick trees and brush.”

A few days later there were fresh lion tracks in his yard again but not the same one as before because these tracks were three inches wide. Mendonca tracked the smaller lion as it meandered all over his yard, including the exact place as the first lion was a few days earlier before heading east. “Just a wild guess,” he concluded, “it was the female of a pair and they were taking turns hunting. Tuesday’s cat was most likely a mature male.”

***

We can expect more of the same traffic lights on the Colorado River Pathway Project, according to the news release. The expected work from Feb. 1 to Feb. 10 will be more foundation drilling near the mouth of the canyon on state Route 128 and will require one-way traffic with signals during the work week. Areas of one-way traffic will continue 24 hours a day as needed.

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