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KUOW Blog

News, factoids, and insights from KUOW's newsroom. And maybe some peeks behind the scenes. Check back daily for updates.

Have any leads or feedback for the KUOW Blog? Contact Dyer Oxley at dyer@kuow.org.

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  • Trial gets underway for Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer on false reporting charges

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: Attorney Anne Bremner, left, delivers opening statements to the jury in the trial of Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer, who faces two misdemeanor charges in Pierce County District Court.
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    Attorney Anne Bremner, left, delivers opening statements to the jury in the trial of Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer, who faces two misdemeanor charges in Pierce County District Court.
    Credit: Image courtesy of Pierce County District Court.

    A jury has been selected and attorneys on Wednesday delivered their opening statements in the trial of Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer.

    Troyer is charged with two misdemeanors for false reporting and making false statements, stemming from his off-duty encounter with a Black newspaper carrier, Sedrick Altheimer, in January 2021.

    Prosecutors say Troyer followed Altheimer and accused him of being a thief, before calling a 911 dispatcher and saying, according to the recording, “I'm about two blocks from my house and I caught someone in my driveway who's threatened to kill me and I blocked him in and he's here right now.”

    The call triggered an emergency response, but according to the complaint, Troyer then reversed himself, and told Tacoma police that Altheimer never threatened him.

    “In effect, Sheriff Troyer backpedaled from his statements to the 911 dispatcher about Mr. Altheimer threatening to kill him — statements that prompted more than 40 officers to rush to him, and caused Mr. Altheimer to be questioned as a possible suspect," said Barbara Serrano with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office in her opening statement.

    Serrano said the state will endeavor to show that Troyer knowingly lied about facing a threat.

    “This case is quite simple. Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer got into a confrontation with a newspaper carrier and then lied to a 911 dispatcher reporting that the newspaper carrier threatened to kill him.”

    Defense attorney Anne Bremner said she will emphasize that Troyer called a non-emergency phoneline to reach the dispatcher, and that the emergency response was quickly curtailed so that most police officers never arrived on the scene. In her opening statement, she maintained that Troyer was merely looking out for his neighbors when he followed Altheimer. She said that she will disprove the prosecution’s claims.

    “They have to prove that he willingly lied,” Bremner said. “How could they ever prove that? Because that claim is false.”

    Bremner said the case by Troyer’s defense will be focused on questioning the credibility of two people. One of them is Tacoma police officer Chad Lawless, now a detective, who interviewed Troyer at the scene and said Troyer backtracked on his claim of being threatened. Bremner said Lawless “didn’t memorialize his conversation in any way, saying something different than what the Sheriff says.”

    The other person that Troyer’s defense team will try to discredit is Sedrick Altheimer, the newspaper carrier. Bremner told the jury Altheimer has a financial motivation in this case because he’s filed a civil lawsuit seeking $5 million in damages. Bremner said the accounts of the police who responded to the scene are at odds with one another. Some of those officers are expected to testify on Thursday.

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  • Where can Seattle find more money?: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
    caption: Nearly $3.2 million has poured into campaign coffers so far, most of it being spent to votes through spending on direct mail, digital and TV.
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    Nearly $3.2 million has poured into campaign coffers so far, most of it being spent to votes through spending on direct mail, digital and TV.

    Seattle just passed its budget, but officials still say the city needs to find new revenue to make up for funding gaps. Here are a few ideas.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for October 30, 2022.

    While the region was dealing with snow, ice, and rain yesterday, the Seattle City Council passed its biennial budget. For those who hit snooze whenever news about numbers and budgets comes along, this basically lays out how the city is going to pay its bills over 2023-24.

    This is a lot like when you're trying to figure out how to pay for your own bills in Seattle each month — add up your income, then consider your costs like rent, credit card bills, food, gas, and so forth. It's about setting priorities through what you pay for. And just like how many Seattleites these days figure they will pay rent first, and then maybe nix paying things like gas, food, credit cards (it's funny because it's terribly sad), the city is dealing with its own financial shortfalls.

    "We knew that it was possible that there would be a downturn, but specifically there was a downturn of $64 million in the real estate excise tax," Council budget chair Teresa Mosqueda told KUOW's Soundside. "This is funding for projects that are core to our city's infrastructure, capital projects, and transportation."

    Mosqueda says this means the Council had to "realign" the city's money to make sure projects already in progress could continue — stuff like sidewalks, bike lanes, and traffic mitigation, along with housing and food programs. She notes that the Council has also invested additional funds in public safety, small business support, and worker support.

    "I think that has been a challenge, but across the board we will see preservation of programs," Mosqueda said. "...there are no austerity approaches in this, there are no layoffs. And we are trying to do so in an effort to weather this storm, worsened by Covid. Obviously, the economic situation is not stable across the nation, and in Seattle our investments are really to protect our most vulnerable, invest in small businesses as well as make those infrastructure investments that will help us rebound much faster."

    Another main takeaway from this whole process: New taxes are coming. While talking with Soundside, Mosqueda restated something she has been up front about these past few weeks. New "progressive revenue" streams are being considered to make up for declining revenue in other places.

    "That needs to be in the books in 2025, and there is commitment both with the Council and the mayor's office to making sure that comes together over the course of the next year."

    The budget does have its critics. Councilmember Kshama Sawant is among them. Check out the full conversation with Soundside here.

    If I were to put on my thinking cap for new forms of revenue in Seattle, there are a few options the city could consider:

    • A street racing fee for cars on I-35 (aka NE 35th Avenue) between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. Extra fee for cars that are louder than a metal show at El Corazón.
    • Daily visual tax for new construction that features more than two siding textures, and bright colors that do not exist in nature. Note to developers: Wood, metal, brick, other wood, other metal paneling — just pick one siding and go with it.
    • A selfie fee for the gum wall, the Fremont Troll, and sunset photos at Kerry Park.
    • IPA tax. Hey, maybe this will encourage breweries to make something else, like anything else. Because there are other beers out there.
    • A citation any time someone comes to town and says "Pike's Place Market." And then another fee based on the level of snobbery when locals correct them.
    • A special transportation fee for all Seattle vehicles with canoes strapped to their roofs which exceed the length of the car by at least 3 feet, front and back.
    • A field trip tax for all Eastside schools when they bring bus loads of students to SAM and Pike Place Market.
    • A tax on any elected official who uses the term, "It's a win-win."
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  • Rise in syphilis cases prompts new guidance from health officials

    KUOW Blog
    syphilis cases 2007-2022
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    Public Health officials in King County are recommending all women ages 45 and under test for syphilis annually.

    Cases of the sexually transmitted infection have gone up five-fold since 2015 in cisgender women.

    “The increase in syphilis in cisgender women and pregnant people suggest that syphilis may be spreading in the general population and among women in particular,” said Dr. Matthew Golden, director of the Public Health – Seattle & King County HIV/STD Program, in a statement. “Rising rates of syphilis in cisgender women and pregnant people is alarming, which is why we are recommending that most sexually active women 45 and under get tested if they haven’t had a test since 2021, and why we are asking providers to increase syphilis testing in pregnant persons.”

    Seattle and King County Public Health seeks to help women catch it early, and reduce congenital infection, by asking all sexually active women under 45 to get tested. Syphilis is treatable when detected, but when undetected and carried in pregnancy, it can cause birth defects or miscarriage.

    According to Public Health: "Prior to 2019, there had not been a case of congenital syphilis in King County for many years. In 2019 there were three reported cases and just one case in 2020. However, there were 11 cases of congenital syphilis in King County in 2021. Two of the babies were stillborn and five were born prematurely. Twelve cases of congenital syphilis have occurred in King County so far in 2022, resulting in 8 premature births and 9 babies with congenital syphilis symptoms."

    Syphilis has been on the rise locally and nationally in recent years, prompting efforts in the Seattle area to raise awareness and encourage people to get tested.


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  • 19K Seattle-area patients could face steep bills or be forced to find a new doctor

    KUOW Blog
    caption: A zoomed in photograph of a health insurance claim form next to glasses and a pen.
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    A zoomed in photograph of a health insurance claim form next to glasses and a pen.

    A dispute between the owner of the Polyclinic and a major insurance company could affect nearly 19,000 patients in Western Washington. It could leave them with a choice between higher medical bills or finding a new provider.

    The people caught in the middle are Regence BlueShield insurance customers who get their health care at the Polyclinic, a multi-specialty health clinic that has nearly a dozen locations in the Seattle area. Also, the Everett Clinic, which has nearly two dozen locations, most of them in Snohomish County. In 2019, all those clinics were bought by Optum, a subsidiary of the large health-care company UnitedHealth Group.

    The dispute is about how much those clinics should be paid for the care they provide. This is the first time negotiations between these clinics and Regence have gotten this close to the wire.

    The insurer, and the owner of the clinics, have until Dec. 19 to come to a deal. But many Regence customers have only until the end of Wednesday to switch insurance companies before the end of open enrollment, if their employer offers another option. Open enrollment at some employers, like Boeing, is already over.

    If the Polyclinic and Everett Clinic no longer have a contract with Regence, patients could opt to pay higher, out-of-network costs, or they could go to UW Medicine, Swedish, Virginia Mason, or some other providers for their care.

    With 19,000 other patients possibly in the same boat, that could be a lot of competition for doctor’s appointments.

    If the split goes through, and Regence customers become unable to access their benefits because of a lack of in-network providers, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner could levy a fine or take a different enforcement action against the insurance company.

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  • 2 shows in Seattle that should not be missed this holiday season

    KUOW Blog
    caption: Director and choreographer Kelly Foster Warder talks to the cast of The Wiz at rehearsal
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    Director and choreographer Kelly Foster Warder talks to the cast of The Wiz at rehearsal
    Credit: Mike Davis KUOW

    If you are a fan of live shows, we have entered the best part of the year. The holiday season is when venues around the city put on their best shows, aimed at getting as many seats filled as possible.

    This weekend, I saw two shows: "The Wiz" at the 5th Avenue Theatre; and "The Nutcracker" (presented by the Pacific Northwest Ballet) at McCaw Hall.

    Both were amazing.

    The Wiz at 5th Avenue Theatre

    "The Wiz" caught me by surprise. I covered the show for KUOW's Soundside. I interviewed director and choreographer Kelly Foster Warder and spent some time with Kataka Corn who plays Dorothy. I also visited DAT-5, a space tucked underneath the theatre where rehearsals happen, and I got sneak-peak of the cast performing the song "Brand New Day." But none of that prepared me for the show I saw on Saturday night.

    I could get technical and tell you how awesome the costume designs were and explain how two rotating platforms in the stage were used immaculately to bring motion to the world of Oz. But instead, I’ll give it to you straight — I had so much fun!

    Somehow, each song was perfect and the audience was alive as we experienced the brilliance of so many characters. The tap-dancing Tinman almost stole the show, and the hilarious Cowardly Lion had his moments, but Corn, as I learned in my interviews, has a voice that is truly special. With her power, confidence, and stage presence, I watched the birth of a star on Saturday night.

    So many of us are familiar with "The Wiz." You may have seen the Broadway version, or the movie, or any of the many renditions that have been done in regional theatres around the country. But this performance was special. From the costumes to the stage design, the acting, the choreography – top to bottom this play was excellent. If you are able to see a production this holiday, "The Wiz" is definitely my recommendation.

    The Nutcracker at Pacific Northwest Ballet

    "The Nutcracker" is holiday tradition for many families. This year, I took my family. I now understand why this production has been a staple for so long.

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  • Chief Seattle Club launches cafe showcasing Indigenous foods

    KUOW Blog
    caption: Anthony Johnson (Anishnaabe) is manager and chef at ?al?al Cafe in Pioneer Square focused on Indigenous foods.
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    Anthony Johnson (Anishnaabe) is manager and chef at ?al?al Cafe in Pioneer Square focused on Indigenous foods.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna


    Chief Seattle Club, a nonprofit that provides social services to Seattle’s urban Native people, has a new café featuring Indigenous foods. The name of the café is ?al?al, pronounced "ahl-ahl."

    "?al?al means home in Lushotseed," said cafe manager and chef Anthony Johnson. "And Lushotseed is the Native language of the Puget Sound.”

    Johnson says part of the cafe's mission is to uplift and showcase Indigenous foods like blue corn mush, bison tacos, and wild rice and wojapi parfait. Most of the ingredients are sourced from Native growers and producers around the country.

    For now, the menu will be limited, but Johnson hopes that will change.

    “We’re trying to serve as many types of traditional foods from various regions of the country as we can,” he said.

    The café anchors Chief Seattle Club's newly opened affordable housing project in Pioneer Square and is open to the public.

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  • Washington is shutting down its Covid response website

    KUOW Blog
    caption: A 15-minute, at-home Covid test.
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    A 15-minute, at-home Covid test.
    Credit: Dyer Oxley / KUOW

    After nearly three years of providing pandemic information, Washington state is shutting down its Covid response website.

    According to the website: "Beginning Dec. 1, this website will no longer be available, and users will be redirected to the Washington State Department of Health’s website."

    Throughout the Covid pandemic, Washington's website has been a one-stop shop for information about the state's response. It provided a range of information from where to find vaccines, to workplace safety guidelines.

    The Department of Health, however, will keep its Covid website going, as well as its Covid dashboard.

    The website shutdown is yet another sign that the pandemic has shifted into a new phase. Many of Washington's lingering emergency orders expired at the end of October, bringing to a close pandemic precautions around schools, travel restrictions, and other measures. Gov. Jay Inslee's overall state of emergency also ended.

    The Department of Health also recently announced that it is out of free Covid tests, which are provided through sayyescovidhometest.org.

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  • Seattle snow advice for (snickering) Midwest transplants: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
    caption: Tire tracks are shown in a slushy mixture of rain and snow on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, near the intersection of 7th Avenue South and Bell Street in Edmonds.
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    Tire tracks are shown in a slushy mixture of rain and snow on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, near the intersection of 7th Avenue South and Bell Street in Edmonds.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for November 29, 2022.

    Snow has arrived in Western Washington. But you already know that by the time you're reading this newsletter. So the main things to know now are that it likely won't stick around too long as warmer rain moves through the area tonight. The other thing to be aware of is that, despite the snow going away, that doesn't mean it won't be icy out there.

    I can already hear it — the chuckles and the snickering of Midwestern transplants humored by Seattleites' wariness upon hearing the word "snow." That usually precedes the sound of those same Midwesterners eating crow. For such boastful Midwestern transplants, please consider the following Northwest wisdom.

    Our region has this thing where we get freezing and then non-freezing temperatures in the same day, or over many days. That is evident right now — we got some flurries, maybe a dusting, and it will all melt pretty soon or get rained away. So roads get snow, then rain and melted snow, and then all that rain and melt freezes again, making an icy roadway. Throw some more snow on top of that ice and you have some pretty deceptive and dangerous driving conditions.

    Midwest drivers often like to scoff at us and say, "I didn't grow up with your puny Seattle snow that drops a couple inches here or there. Blizzards dump feet and feet of snow upon us! And we laugh at the snow and show no fear as we drive through it with ease and tell of our snowy triumphs over a mug of mead!"

    Here's the thing that the Midwest doesn't consider: Seattle has hills. Plus, the Northwest has those icy conditions that I explained above. It's not really driving in snow, as much as it is driving on an ice rink — unlike that luxurious powdery Midwest snow that is easier to grip into. Midwest transplants probably shouldn't speak so soon and learn from our past mistakes ... like this one.

    The snow may be meager, or even brief, but it can still be mighty slippery.

    Now, having said that, we have to be honest with ourselves. Locals have to admit that there are a lot of drivers out there with more Subaru confidence than driving wisdom, and that can lead to some problems. Or worse, new Toyota Tacoma drivers that are hopped up on TikTok mudding and trail videos. So be aware out there.

    Part of that awareness is knowing your city's plowing schedule and routes. Thankfully, KUOW's Paige Browning has put together this helpful roundup of snow plow routes across our region. If you do need to drive anywhere, it's probably best to check which roads are going to be cleared.

    The snow might be gone by tomorrow or later this week (depending on where you are around the lowlands), but this week should prove to be a good primer on snow preparation and icy roads.

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  • Seattle-area snow plow routes activated as first snow falls

    KUOW Blog
    caption: A snow plow activated as Seattle expects snow, Nov. 29, 2022.
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    A snow plow activated as Seattle expects snow, Nov. 29, 2022.
    Credit: Juan Chiquiza / KUOW

    Dozens of snow plows are at the ready in the Puget Sound region in case snow accumulates on busy roads.

    The city of Seattle has 50 deicer and plow trucks fueled up and ready to hit Seattle's streets, if the snow does pile up. Bellevue has 17 trucks that can be fitted with a plow, and Bellingham has seven.

    There's a chance of rain and snow every day this week.

    When snow starts to accumulate, city of Seattle trucks drop granular salt and liquid magnesium chloride to help melt it. Plowing happens when there's a break in the storm, and crews only plow heavily used roads.


    Seattle has three tools to monitor roads during snow:

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  • First snow of the season arrives in Seattle

    KUOW Blog
    caption: A snowflake falls on the windshield of a car on Tuesday, November 29, 2022, in Seattle. 
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    A snowflake falls on the windshield of a car on Tuesday, November 29, 2022, in Seattle.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

    The season's first snow for the Seattle-area began falling Tuesday morning. Rain Tuesday night is expected to wash it all away, but in the meantime, drivers should be mindful of icy conditions.

    The National Weather Service in Seattle has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for the Western Washington lowlands, including the Seattle and Everett areas. On top of snow, high winds are expected across the Puget Sound region.

    RELATED: Seattle-area snow plow routes activated as first snow falls

    Predictions for how much snow will fall range from mere flurries to 4 inches in Seattle.

    Continue reading »
  • Season of goodwill and food banks: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
    caption: A volunteer at Rainier Valley Food Bank fills a bag with produce. Local food banks are seeing a jump in demand as people struggle to make ends meet.
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    A volunteer at Rainier Valley Food Bank fills a bag with produce. Local food banks are seeing a jump in demand as people struggle to make ends meet.
    Credit: KUOW Photo/Ruby de Luna

    As we head into a season of giving, food insecurity is one issue we can address in the Seattle area.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for November 28, 2022.

    To all the regular TSF readers out there: I only half ruined the turkey. Let's just say it wasn't as much of a roast turkey as it was a steamed turkey.

    It feels awkward to talk about triumphs and trials of what is essentially a feast, when our region is also dealing with significant strains on places like food banks. This is something that KUOW's Ruby de Luna has been covering for quite a while now, especially amid the pandemic. Earlier this year, Ruby reported that food insecurity in Washington has nearly tripled since the pandemic began. Inflation certainly hasn't helped. More recently, she has covered how Seattle-area food banks are trying to meet demand and adapt to challenges. This increasing strain on food banks has been going on for a while now.

    Many folks might be unaware that food banks often have their own supply chains, such as grocery store donations, donations from people, and so forth. Seattle's Food Lifeline is a local organization that supplies banks with donations. Ryan Scott with Food Lifeline recently told KUOW that, "In a normal year, we have somewhere between 4-5 million pounds of food in our warehouse, moving out for distribution. Right now, we just have a little over a million.”

    While talking with Seattle Now, Ruby pointed out that conditions at food banks are often early indicators of larger economic struggles. Strain at a food bank today could indicate more widespread financial strain in the months ahead. That is something Seattle's food banks have been watching for. As many pandemic-related programs ended over the past few months, food banks began bracing themselves for an anticipated increase in demand.

    Looking at Seattle-area food banks, people are using them more and more as a means of supplementing their budgets — use the food bank, and then you have enough money for gas. On top of that, the banks are struggling to keep up. For example, grocery stores that often donate food have been unable to contribute as much as usual these days.

    "Demand has grown, especially since the pandemic, and food banks have been terrific in trying to meet the needs of people," Ruby told Seattle Now. "But that is coming at a cost. They were able to get federal assistance through Covid emergency measures. That helped, but everybody is feeling the pinch. With retailers, they are also getting hit with supply chain issues, which is also why they are not able to donate as much to food banks like they normally have. As a result, food banks are shelling out more money in order to buy food to donate."

    One food bank in Ballard recently told Ruby that their annual budget to purchase food before the pandemic was around $300,000. Last year, it was $1.5 million.

    Some food banks around Seattle are set up like grocery stores. Instead of getting a bag of food, you go in and shop for what you need. Fresh food from the grocery chains helped with this. Now, Ruby says the banks are getting "creative" to get the food.

    "They have worked with P-Patches or farmers who will grow some of the produce for them, and some of them are even planning on having their own gardens. There is more of a shift to providing foods that are nutritious and culturally relevant ... food banks are trying to provide what their clients are requesting, and what their clients are used to having."

    Check out Ruby's full conversation with Seattle Now here.

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  • One year after the Nooksack River flooded Sumas

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: Laura Anker cleans up mud from flooding at the Cherry Street Market, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in Sumas, Wash. An atmospheric river—a huge plume of moisture extending over the Pacific and into Washington and Oregon—caused heavy rainfall in recent days, bringing major flooding in the area.
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    Laura Anker cleans up mud from flooding at the Cherry Street Market, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in Sumas, Wash. An atmospheric river—a huge plume of moisture extending over the Pacific and into Washington and Oregon—caused heavy rainfall in recent days, bringing major flooding in the area.
    Credit: (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)


    It has been a year since the great Sumas flood hit Whatcom County and British Columbia. The flood was extra destructive because it sent a section of the Nooksack River north into Canada, over dry land that is now occupied by homes, farms, churches, and businesses.

    Paula Harris is Whatcom County’s river and flood manager. She says that flood opened people up to change. Local leaders have supported her plan to demolish 39 homes in the flood path, and raise 29 others onto taller foundations.

    “For the first time in my career here, I can see maybe a vision that could move forward to a final solution," Harris said. "And I really hope we can maintain the focus and we can have a safer community, and I can sleep good when it rains again.”

    Climate change has made the Nooksack less predictable, as glaciers on Mount Baker recede, exposing more sediment to erosion.

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