Friday, Feb. 22:

Tarmo Hannula: Several road projects are unfolding around Watsonville causing some delays and detours. A crew from Pacific Gas and Electric closed westbound East Lake Avenue between Hill and Brewington avenues for some underground work for a good chunk of Friday. Nearby on Blackburn Street a crew from the City of Watsonville Water Services Division continued their work on a lengthy underground water pipes project. A bunch of heavy equipment is out there, and traffic has to slither between rows of road cones. One worker said the job will spill into next week.


ABOVE: A crew from City of Watsonville Water Services Division continue their work on a lengthy project involving underground water pipes on Blackburn Street. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)

The 94th Academy Awards ceremony takes place Sunday where a load of Oscar statues are handed out to folks in the movie industry. The opening ceremony gets going at 3:30 p.m. and the show starts at 5 p.m. I’m sure, to some folks, this is a huge deal. I really couldn’t care less. I truly don’t know who most of these folks are. With all their diamond necklaces, flowing gowns that run into tens of thousands of dollars, streamline tuxedos and hairdos alone that are worth more than everything I own, the whole affair pretty much leaves me behind. But if the Oscars are your thing, I do hope you settle in to your sofa, make a batch of buttered popcorn and enjoy it.

The California Highway Patrol reported more black ice along Freedom Boulevard early Friday morning as temperatures, in some places dropped into the low 30s. The National Weather Service is saying that there is a 20 percent chance of rain Monday. The chances increase further into the week until, they say, Thursday should be clear.

On East Beach Street this morning, in front of the Veterans Memorial Building, a worker was loading a tall stack of folding chairs into a truck and the stack gave way and crashed onto the hood of a parked Kia sedan. The impact smashed the windshield and left a hefty dent in the hood. The good thing was that no one was hurt. Dig into the glove box for the insurance papers…


ABOVE: A tall stack of folding chairs crashed onto the hood of a parked Kia sedan on East Beach Street Friday morning in front of the Veterans Memorial Building. A worker from Pajaro Valley Unified School District was loading the chairs when it happened. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)

About 3,000 teachers are on strike for the second day in Oakland. The say they want better pay and smaller classes. One request is for a 12 percent raise over the next three years. In their support, I hear that a loud group of supporters showed up on the corner of South Green Valley Road at Main Street this morning from 7 to 8 a.m.

At Pacific Golf Centers, 101 Ranport Road in Watsonville, a half a dozen golfers were tuning up their skills Friday morning as the driving range, on the other side of Highway 1 from Watsonville Municipal Airport, began to dry out from recent rains. Though chilly, the bright sunlight was warming things up.

Johanna Miller: Yesterday in Moss Landing, The Haute Enchilada Cafe, Galleries & Social Club hosted a special party to welcome a new addition to the business’ family: Valentina the Owl.

The Haute Enchilada is one of many business, farms and homes across the Monterey Bay Area who have adopted a new type of eco-friendly rodent control. Owl boxes are installed on a property, attracting a pair of mated owls who often start a family within.

The owls live freely on the property—hunting for mice and other rodents, keeping control of that population in a natural way.

Teco, the Haute Enchilada’s resident male barn owl, sadly lost his first mate named Lotte last October after she was struck by a car. In January, a new female owl was finally spotted in the box. She was named Valentina by staff and a celebration was soon in the works.

I have always been fascinated by owls. Last year, on a hike with the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, I had an amazing encounter with a barn owl at Watsonville Slough Farm. We were walking along a path when suddenly we heard a rusting in the nearest tree.

An adult barn owl leapt out of the tree a few feet away, even turning in mid air to look straight in our direction before taking off across the slough. It’s a moment I will never forget.

Last night, guests at the Haute Enchilada were treated to complimentary chips, salsa and guacamole and participated in an owl-themed raffle and silent auction. Proceeds of the event were raised to fund the installation of owl boxes in local schools. Additionally, a demonstration was given by Wildlife Emergency Services in building your own barn owl nest box.

You can view a livestream of Teco and Valentina in their owl box at

Thursday, Feb. 21:

Tarmo Hannula: Weather forecasters said this morning that the temperature in Watsonville “feels like” 32 degrees. It sure did when I woke up this morning. I was caught off guard by a few rainsqualls that splashed through Watsonville Wednesday. One blast of rain opened a dramatic double-rainbow that arced over the city for about 45 minutes.

Forecasters say the next chance of rain will most likely be Sunday night and spilling into Monday.


A dramatic rainbow arcs over Watsonville late Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)

On Wednesday evening my colleague, Johanna Miller, and I covered the annual Egg Drop, which falls under Engineer’s Week and offers mostly kids a chance to get a taste of engineering by building a contraption to help a raw egg survive a four-story drop off the Civic Plaza Building. The event is always filled with a lot of excitement and fun. Our full story will be in Friday’s R-P.

Two large signs still stand on Freedom Boulevard in Corralitos to let the public know of three ongoing events at the Corralitos Cultural Center, 127 Hames Road:

• Sunday Acoustic Open Jam, (an informal musical gathering for musicians with acoustic instruments). It runs 3-5 p.m.

• Friday Night Open Mic at 7 p.m. (sign up at 6:30 p.m.).

• Farmer’s Market, Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For information, visit

A delegation from Croatia came to Watsonville Thursday for a tour of various spots around town, including Watsonville Police Department, the fire department, the main branch of the Public Library, Martinelli’s and Gizdich Ranch. Ivo Radonic, deputy principal minister of Cavtat, and Mario Curic, head of department of general affairs, will also be in town for a dinner gathering Saturday night and then at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting where official papers will be signed to endorse Cavtat as Watsonville’s newest sister city. The events all fall under the 40th anniversary of SACO, Slavic American Cultural Organization.


Wednesday, Feb. 20:

Tarmo Hannula: Last night I went on my computer and learned, once and for all, how to photograph the full moon. I was interested because I read it is not only full but is the largest “super moon” of 2019. Last night the moon was supposed to be 99 percent full.

The website I found gave me five tips. The first I ignored — using a tripod, because it was way too cold last night to be outside setting up my tripod, and I was lazy. Using the setting the man suggested, with my feeble gear (I could never afford the $10,000 lens for such things) I actually came away with my best photo of the moon ever. Not bad for getting an image of something 238,900 miles away. Compare that to a bunch of photos I ruined, let’s say, of a field worker 50 yards away from me. Oh well.


A super moon was 99 percent full Tuesday night as seen from Santa Cruz. The past few days mark the closest the moon will be to the Earth in 2019, making it appear larger. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)

Last evening I stopped by the YMCA on Sudden Street to do a little write up on their annual fundraiser kickoff. Robert Wollenzien, director of the YMCA in Watsonville, said the campaign last year brought in $115,000 that went to people in need. Funds raised also go into fixing up the Y and building up their equipment

“This is about our community taking care of each other,” Wollenzien said. “It is all volunteer and every day we have people coming in to help.”

He added that next month an additional $60-$70,000 will go in to further upgrades.

Work is nearly complete on a huge upgrade to the heavily travelled intersection of Riverside Road at Carlton Road. New lanes and striping, better signage, lighting and a major reconfiguration of the intersection was part of the job.


Last minute touches are being completed on the intersection of Riverside Road (Highway 129) at Carlton Road which has been reconfigured to enhance safety. A crew from Caltrans took on the project. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)

And speaking of new lanes, a crew from Chrisp Company created a new turning lane and safer roadway in back of Ramsay Park on Harkins Slough Road Wednesday where the new Blackbird Homes Project is about to open. The entrance to the project spills into Harkins Slough Road.

Erik Chalhoub: Crews from the City of Watsonville and California Conservation Corps are currently tearing out the grass on the Bridge Street median between Bronte and Tuttle avenues, and replacing it with drought tolerant plants, wood chips and drip irrigation.

The old, tired grass landscape has been in place for more than 40 years, according to Michael Johnson, who manages the city’s Landscape Water Conservation Program, and its sprinkler system would spray out into the road. Not good in a time of conservation.

The first phase of the project is expected to wrap up next week.

I noticed a Dignity Health Mobile Wellness Clinic in the parking lot of the Assumption Church on Salinas Road in Pajaro this morning.

The clinic travels to various locations throughout Santa Cruz County. It visits the Assumption Church on the fourth Monday of the month, as well as the third Wednesday of the month, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The mobile clinic offers medical condition evaluations and directs patients to medical resources in their communities, among other services.

The list of locations can be found at


Tuesday, Feb. 19:

Tarmo Hannula: Wow was it cold last night! What that translated for a host of emergency workers was black ice. Several roads were closed this morning around Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. I heard on the news that as many as 17,000 people were without power around the Monterey Bay due to recent storms.

The California Highway Patrol got help from the Sheriff’s Office in slowing traffic along Freedom Boulevard near McDonald Road because of ice. It created a major snarl in the Aptos High morning commute.

CHP Capt. Craig Kunzler said, in a press release this morning, “Santa Cruz County has been experiencing freezing temperatures which has led to icy road conditions. CHP officers have been responding to numerous icy road incidents through the county, especially in early morning hours. We’re urging drivers to slow down and be prepared.”

The CHP went on to offer these tips:

• Ensure the vehicle’s exterior lights and windows are clean, especially the windshield.

• Drive with the vehicle’s headlights to increase visibility.

• Use low gears, especially on hills to help keep traction.

• Drive slowly and do not use cruise control.


The male driver of this Toyota pickup lost control in slick conditions early Tuesday morning on Browns Valley Road in Corralitos. No injuries were reported. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)

Early this morning I tried to photograph the moon because I heard on the news it is not only full but is the largest “super moon” of 2019. Though my photos were a disaster, I sure enjoyed seeing the moon drop over the horizon.

Johanna Miller: Once again I find myself house/pet sitting in Scotts Valley this week, and once again I’ve been having quite the adventure.

Some of you might remember my experience in December with the fire alarm, having to call the fire department to get into a locked room to stop and dismantle it.

This time, it was the power.

Large portions of Scotts Valley, Felton and Ben Lomond were all without power yesterday afternoon after power lines came down onto Lockwood Lane. Little by little, power came back — but a handful of us remained without it until 5:30 a.m. this morning.

The adventure began before I even got back to the house from work. Traffic was backed up onto the freeway overpass immediately after taking the Mt. Hermon Road exit. Soon I discovered that this was due to a traffic light being out at the intersection of Scotts Valley Drive. It took almost 15 minutes to get from the freeway exit to the end of Mt. Hermon Road, where I would turn onto Lockwood to yet another surprise.

Lockwood Lane was blocked off by police. I would later discover why, but initially, we were just told to find another way onto the street. I found myself confused at first — I am a Watsonville girl, so aside from a few major roads I am quite unfamiliar with Scotts Valley. But I eventually found my way through the back streets and to the house.

The power was out from about 3 p.m. yesterday to 5:30 a.m. today at the house. And it really made me realize how dependent we are on electricity.

First of all, the heat. Temperatures dipped to below freezing in the Santa Cruz Mountains last night (I had to scrape ice off my car this morning). Unable to turn on either central heating or the gas fireplace in the downstairs den, I took to layering clothes. I even doubled up my socks. The three cats I was taking care of huddled together and close to me throughout the evening.

Then there was the issue with the perishable food. As time went on, I began to worry about the food in my friends’ refrigerator and freezer going bad if the outage lasted for more than a day. Thankfully, the cold house helped in keeping it cool enough before power was restored.

As I kept facing challenges, I wondered how I could be better prepared next time. I know how to live without electricity during camping trips, but a surprise outage can really throw you for a loop.

We should all be prepared for any eventuality. Tips like keeping flashlights and lanterns in easy to reach places, buying a power bank for your cell phone, and having a large cooler in case you need to save your food can be life-saving.

Monday, Feb. 18:

Tarmo Hannula: The weather people were right this time: it rained and then it got cold — really cold! I saw on the news this morning that it was 3 degrees in Truckee. Temperatures were in the 20s and 30s around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Pinto Lake is full. It’s so full that city officials closed the gate to Pinto Lake City Park last week. They reopened it Monday but under guarded conditions. A big hunk of reeds, like a little island, has drifted into the boat launch area and parked itself there. A few years ago a huge island of reeds did the same thing. It eventually drifted off to another part of the lake.

Watsonville is absolutely dead today, Presidents’ Day. I drove along Freedom Boulevard and had both southbound lanes to myself, except for a 1959 Rambler station wagon that cruised past me.


A 1959 Rambler station wagon rolls along Freedom Boulevard Monday morning. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Pajaronian)

Local residents staged a protest today in Watsonville Plaza at noon to voice opposition to Donald Trump.

The California Highway Patrol had to close down a section of Freedom Boulevard this morning because of black ice near Titus Lane in Aptos. I heard there were several crashes because of slick conditions.


For last week’s About Town installment, visit

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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