TIME Environment

Unprecedented California Drought Restrictions Go Into Effect

In this Feb. 4, 2014 file photo, a warning buoy sits on the dry, cracked bed of Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, Calif. Rich Pedroncelli —ASSOCIATED PRESS

Poor water conservation could cost you up to $500 a day

California implemented emergency water-conservation measures today as it struggles to cope with an ongoing drought that has sapped reservoirs and parched farms across the state.

The new rules — the first statewide curbs on water use since the current drought began nearly three years ago — can lead to fines of up to $500 per day for using a hose to clean a sidewalk, running ornamental fountains that do not recirculate water and other wasteful behaviors. The regulations will be in effect for 270 days, unless they are repealed earlier.

Officials have said they don’t expect to issue too many tickets. Instead, they hope the rules will promote conservation by making it clear how serious the drought in California has become.

“We were hoping for more voluntary conservation, and that’s the bottom line,” Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Board, told TIME when the body voted to approve the regulations on July 22. “We hope this will get people’s attention.”

An earlier effort to do that landed with a thud. In January, Governor Jerry Brown issued an emergency declaration and called for residents to voluntarily cut their water use by 20%. Earlier this month, a state survey found that California actually used more water in May than the previous three year average for that month. With the entire state experiencing some degree of drought and 80% of it in an extreme drought, the new measures are the latest effort to wake residents to the crisis.

“We can’t count on it raining next year or even the next,” Marcus said.

TIME weather

California Firefighters Battle ‘Sand Fire’ Blaze

Around 1,500 firefighters in Northern California were trying to contain the Sand Fire Sunday, officials said. The blaze has so far destroyed at least 10 homes and forced hundreds to evacuate

TIME California

Driver Seriously Injures Woman During Zombie Walk

Alex Valadez
Crowds cross the street outside the convention center on Day 3 at the 2014 Comic-Con International Convention in San Diego Denis Poroy—Invision/AP

Some witnesses chased the car for several blocks until the driver spotted a police officer and stopped

(SAN DIEGO) — A driver struck and seriously injured a woman while fleeing from angry members of the annual Zombie Walk held during Comic-Con, police said.

The 48-year-old driver and his family, who are all deaf, had waited for several minutes at a downtown intersection Saturday as a large crowd taking part in the walk, including some in zombie makeup, went by at around 5:30 p.m., Officer David Stafford said.

However, when small children in the car became frightened of the crowd, the driver rolled slowly forward to get through, Stafford said.

Some crowd members became angry, surrounded the car, pounded on it, climbed on it and smashed the windshield, he said.

The driver then sped up to flee and sideswiped a 64-year-old woman, who fell under the car.

“Her arm was badly scraped. It’s going to need surgery,” he said.

Some witnesses chased the car for several blocks until the driver spotted a police officer and stopped.

The driver was not arrested but the investigation continued, Stafford said.

A witness, Sean Foley, said that in his opinion the driver was at fault.

After waiting about 10 minutes, the motorist started honking his horn and inching forward into a crowd that included children and babies in strollers, Foley said in an email to U-T San Diego.

TIME California

Man Dies After Lightning Hits California Beach

The unusual weather came from monsoon moisture that brought a line of brief but fierce afternoon thunderstorms to the region

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(LOS ANGELES) — A 20-year-old man died after lightning from a rare summer thunderstorm jolted a Southern California beach, injuring or rattling more than a dozen people, authorities said.

Witnesses said they saw a glare of light and heard a tremendous boom as lightning struck the water off of Venice Beach around 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Swimmers cooling off on a muggy day, volleyball players on the sand and people strolling the famous boardwalk were jolted.

A 20-year-old man was taken from the beach to a hospital where he died, Los Angeles County coroner’s Lt. Larry Dietz said. His identity was not immediately released.

Confirmation of the cause of death was pending an autopsy. Dietz said he also can’t confirm whether the man was a swimmer who was pulled from the water and given CPR.

Twelve other people, including a 15-year-old boy, were examined after they felt the effects of the lightning, ranging from anxiety to a man who needed cardiopulmonary resuscitation. However, not all were necessarily actually struck by lightning, said Katherine Main, a city fire spokeswoman.

Nine were taken to hospitals, where one was listed in critical condition.

Most of the others were mainly shaken up and expected to recover, fire officials said.

Lightning also struck a 57-year-old man on a golf course on Santa Catalina Island. He’s in stable condition

Stuart Acher said he was shocked while playing volleyball on the beach.

“We went about our game and then all of a sudden, there was a big flash of light and a boom, and it felt like someone punched me in the back of my head,” he told KABC-TV. “It went down my whole side of my right body, and my calves sort of locked up, and I fell over. And I looked up and everybody else was, you know, falling over.”

Paramedics examined Acher but he felt all right and went back to playing volleyball.

Steve Christensen said his friend had been body-surfing and was sitting on the beach when lifeguards began searching for a missing swimmer.

“He (Christensen’s friend) went out to the water to find him and walked right into him,” Christensen said. “He was face down on the bottom.”

Christensen said his friend pulled the man, who appeared to be in his 20s, from the water, and lifeguards began CPR before taking him away.

“The guy wasn’t moving. He wasn’t responding at all,” Jesus Zamudio of Riverside told the Los Angeles Times.

“This tragedy reminds us that we can take nothing for granted or underestimate the power of nature,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.

Earlier, off the coast, lightning struck a 57-year-old man on a golf course on Santa Catalina Island but he was taken to a hospital in stable condition, said Steve Denning, a law enforcement technician with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He did not have other details.

The lightning strikes occurred as a fierce but brief thunderstorm hit the island, dumping more than three-quarters of an inch of rain in about two hours, causing minor flooding and setting two small fires in the brushy backcountry that were quickly doused.

Hundreds of lightning strikes were reported all around Southern California as a moisture-laden monsoonal flow spread up from the south and swept the region all the way out to the ocean.

“This is pretty rare” because usually the flow affects just the deserts and sometimes the mountains, said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

The storms began to dissipate as they moved northwest, leaving just a chance of storms through Monday, mainly in the deserts and mountains, Seto said.

TIME California

Northern California Wildfire Destroys 13 Homes

A burned out car near a home that was also burned by the Sand fire in Amador County in Northern California on July 27, 2014.
A burned out car near a home that was also burned by the Sand fire in Amador County in Northern California on July 27, 2014. Josh Edelson—EPA

The fire, which has also destroyed 38 outbuildings, was 50% contained late Sunday, but it threatens hundreds of homes in the drought-stricken region

(PLYMOUTH, Calif.) — Wildfires burning near Northern California vineyards and in the Yosemite National Park area were threatening hundreds of homes even as crews worked to contain them.

The Sand Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento was 50% surrounded as of late Sunday, after burning 13 homes and 38 outbuildings. It has scorched roughly 6 square miles of rugged grassland and timber near wine-growing regions in Amador and El Dorado counties.

While crews significantly enlarged the area they had corralled Sunday, “the steep, dry terrain continues to be a challenge” and about 515 homes remain threatened and under evacuation orders, according to a statement the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire started Friday when a vehicle drove over vegetation that is tinder-dry from years of drought.

About 1,900 firefighters, aided by aircraft including a DC-10 air tanker, were working to control the blaze.

The fire destroyed homes, cabins and a collection of 13 antique cars that a man was restoring in the town of Plymouth, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Neighbors, however, stepped in to help those forced from their homes and ranches.

The Amador County fairgrounds made room for displaced animals and as of noon Sunday had taken in 12 horses, seven rabbits, 15 chickens, two dogs, three cats and seven goats, said Karen Spencer, the marketing director for the Amador County Fair.

“We’re right in the middle of our fair, but our livestock people are just moving over and making room,” she told the Bee.

While the Red Cross has been able to provide clothes and food for the evacuees, the neighboring communities have joined the organization to help.

“We’ve got like 10 bags of new and slightly new clothes,” Rodney Stanhope of Placerville said.

Stanhope said his Facebook call has led to people offering to buy underwear and socks and others offering their homes to evacuees.

“Everybody wants to help,” Stanhope said.

In Central California, a fire near Yosemite National Park had spread to about 4 square miles and continued to threaten the small town of Foresta, where it destroyed one home.

An estimated 100 homes in Foresta and the small community of Old El Portal were evacuated Saturday, and residents remained out of their homes Sunday. Two shelters opened for people and animals.

The park itself, home to such sites as Half Dome mountain, Yosemite Meadows, a grove of Giant Sequoia trees and other wonders, remained open throughout Sunday and authorities said none of its treasures were threatened.

Wildfires also burned in other Western states, including Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Utah.

The nation’s largest wildfire — the 618-square-mile Buzzard Complex in eastern Oregon, 45 miles northeast of Burns — was almost fully contained Sunday.

In north-central Washington, the Carlton Complex fire, the biggest in the state’s history, burned as temperatures rose Sunday, but no major flare-ups have been reported.

TIME weird

Person Who Left Dolls on Little Girls’ Porches Not a Huge Creep After All

Handout of a combination photo showing two of the porcelain dolls found on doorsteps of numerous residences in the Talega community of San Clemente
A combination photo showing two of the porcelain dolls found on doorsteps of numerous residences in the Talega community of San Clemente, Calif., July 24, 2014. Oragne County Sheriff's Department/Reuters

Each doll resembled a little girl who lived in the house

There are few things spookier than opening your front door and finding a porcelain doll that looks like your young daughter, but that’s exactly what happened to eight families in a Southern California town.

Many residents were freaked out by the dolls, and thought there could be some kind of stalker on the loose. “I’m actually thinking the worst, like someone creepy watching our children and I’m actually pretty scared about it,” Mary Robin Baziak told NBC Southern California. “(Someone) found a China doll on her stop that looked like her daughter.”

The dolls, which started appearing on doorsteps in San Clemente on June 16, had initially stumped police. But the Orange County Sheriff’s Department announced Thursday that they’ve identified the person responsible as a woman who went to church with some of the families and didn’t mean any harm. “Investigators have concluded that her motivation was out of goodwill and that she intended it as a kind gesture,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a press release.

 

MONEY

What Six Californias Would Really Look Like

Under a tech mogul's proposed breakup plan, some "states" are more equal than others.

Tim Draper, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist behind companies like Tesla and Skype, has a crazy idea. In order to make California more responsive to the needs of local communities, it should be broken up into six separate states: South California; Central California; North California; West California; Silicon Valley; and Jefferson.

This concept might seem more fit for a speculative novel than reality, but Draper’s dream may actually get its moment in the sun. On Tuesday, he informed USA Today that his Six Calfornias campaign had received 1.3 million signatures—far more than the roughly 808,000 required for the initiative to appear on the 2016 ballot.

Draper’s proposal still has virtually zero chance of ever happening. Even if the ballot initiative is approved (a December Field Poll showed only a quarter of residents support it), a California breakup would require the approval of Congress. And it is all but impossible to imagine a GOP-dominated House ever approving a plan that could potentially create 10 new Democratic senators.

That said, the venture capital mogul has apparently captured the imagination of many Californians who yearn for a more representative and responsive government than the one in Sacramento. In that light, it’s worth examining what six new Californias would really look like.

The major flaw in Draper’s plan is that the six new states he has outlined are not economically equal. In fact, they’re so unequal that many have wondered if the whole concept isn’t just a techno-libertarian plot to free Silicon Valley from having to share its wealth.

Under the breakup plan, some new “states” would be getting a pretty good deal. Others, well, not so much. Here’s a breakdown of each region and how it compares on various economic metrics. (All state comparisons are relative to the current United States.)

The common theme: Things look pretty darn good for Silicon Valley and West California (which includes Los Angeles), at the expense of making Jefferson and Central California two of the poorest states in the union.

Major Cities

Silicon Valley: San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose

North California: Sacramento, Santa Rosa

West California: Los Angeles, Santa Barbara

South California: San Diego, Anaheim

Central California: Fresno, Bakersfield

Jefferson: Redding, Chico

Population

West California: 11.5 million (8th in the U.S., similar to Ohio)

South California: 10.8 million (8th in the U.S., similar to Georgia)

Silicon Valley: 6.8 million (14th in the U.S., similar to Massachusetts)

Central California: 4.2 million (27th in the U.S., similar to Kentucky)

North California: 3.8 million (29th in the U.S., similar to Oklahoma)

Jefferson: 949,000 (45th in U.S., similar to Montana)

Personal Income Per Capita

Silicon Valley: $63,288 (1st in U.S., similar to Connecticut)

North California: $48,048 (7th in U.S., similar to Wyoming)

West California: $44,900 (15th in the U.S., similar to Illinois)

South California: $42,980 (21th in the U.S., similar to Vermont)

Jefferson: $36,147 (40th in the U.S., similar to Arizona)

Central California: $33,510 (50th in the US, similar to Idaho)

Percentage Living in Poverty

Silicon Valley: 12.8% (35th highest U.S., similar to Colorado)

North California: 13.7% (28th highest in U.S., similar to Illinois)

West California: 15.2% (21st highest in U.S., similar to California)

South California: 17.8% (7th highest in U.S., similar to West Virginia)

Central California: 19.9% (2nd highest in U.S, similar to New Mexico)

Jefferson: 20.8% (2nd highest in U.S., similar to New Mexico)

Median Home Price in Largest City

Silicon Valley (San Jose): $708,500

West California (Los Angeles): $520,500

South California (San Diego): $494,500

North California (Sacramento): $247,400

Jefferson (Redding): $207,600

Central California (Fresno): $165,000

Number of State Universities

West California: 9

Silicon Valley: 7

South California: 7

North California: 4

Central California: 4

Jefferson: 2

Sources: Zillow.com, U.S. Department of Commerce, United States Census Bureau, Huffington Post, California Legislative Analyst’s Office, 2008-2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.

TIME California

3 Dead in California Bank Robbery, Gunbattle

(STOCKTON, Calif.) — Robbers fleeing a California bank took three women hostage and threw two of them from their getaway vehicle, as they fired repeatedly at police during a high-speed chase. Police shot out their tires but the shooting continued, fatally wounding two suspects and the last hostage.

The violence in this central California city erupted Wednesday afternoon when officers responded to a report of a robbery at a Bank of the West branch and spotted three men taking three female hostages from the bank at gunpoint, Stockton police officer Joe Silva said.

The suspects with their hostages in tow fled in an SUV stolen from a bank worker and led officers on 45 minute chase.

During the pursuit, police said two of the hostages, both bank employees, were thrown from the SUV. One was taken to a hospital with a gunshot wound; the other suffered a grazing bullet wound.

The pursuit continued as the suspects fired with AK-47 style rifles from the SUV. Fourteen police cars and many homes along the robbers’ path were peppered with bullets, Police Chief Eric Jones told a news conference late Wednesday.

“It was such a chaotic … fluid situation, really one of the most dangerous, tense situations that a police officer could go through,” Jones said.

“There was a lot on the line and the officers responded appropriately,” he said.

When the SUV’s tires were shot and the vehicle came to a stop at an intersection, officers exchanged gunfire with at least one of the assailants.

“The firing never stopped,” Jones said, noting that the suspects had ammunition strapped to their bodies. “They were trying to kill (the officers), no doubt.”

When it was all over, the third hostage was found dead in the SUV and one of the robbers was also dead. The police chief said the hostage was a bank customer, and that she appears to have been used by the suspects as a human shield during the shootout.

Police said the other two suspects were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds, and one of them later died.

The surviving suspect was conscious, Jones said.

Witnesses said the shootout that brought the episode to a close looked like a war.

“It sounded like five minutes of straight gunfire,” witness Sam York told KCRA-TV. “It seemed like it wasn’t real.”

Jose Maldonado, who said he saw the robbers taking the women out of the bank, said the men had rifles that looked like AK-47s slung over their shoulders and they didn’t seem to care that there were police all around.

“They were not afraid. They weren’t going to take no for an answer. These poor women, they were screaming, they were so distraught, so scared,” Maldonado said.

Jones said the robbers also tied up a bank security guard.

The bank said in a statement that it would not provide information about the victims.

“This is a tragic incident and we are focused on supporting our customers and employees,” the statement said.

TIME Crime

California Judge Rules Death Penalty Unconstitutional

Lethal Injection Execution
Walls Unit in Huntsville prison where lethal injections are carried out on inmates in Huntsville, Texas. Jerry Cabluck—Sygma/Corbis

Uncertainties and delays over executions violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, says federal judge

A federal judge ruled California’s death penalty unconstitutional Wednesday, saying uncertainties and delays over executions violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

In his 29-page decision, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney, a Republican-appointed judge in Orange County, vacated the death sentence of Ernest Jones, who was sentenced to death in 1995 for the rape and murder of his girlfriend’s mother, while making a lengthy and detailed critique of the death penalty.

“The dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Judge Carney wrote. “Indeed, for most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death.”

Since the death penalty was reinstated in California in 1978, more than 900 people have been sentenced to death while only 13 have been executed. More than 90 have died awaiting their executions, and more than 40% have been on death row for longer than 19 years. California currently has 742 inmates on death row, the most in the U.S. according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Death penalty experts and law professors called the decision unprecedented on Wednesday. “It’s the first time I can think of since the 1970s that a judicial opinion has taken on the death penalty as a whole rather than just the individual,” says Hadar Aviram, a law professor at the University of California Hastings.

It’s unclear how binding the ruling will be outside of the Jones case. Elisabeth Semel of the University of California-Berkeley’s Death Penalty Clinic says the state is likely to appeal to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, potentially opening up a new chapter in the legal wrangling over the death penalty in California.

“Certainly, prosecutors will argue that the order does not have the effect of ‘automatically’ invalidating the death penalty in the cases of other individuals who have been sentenced to death or who are facing capital prosecution,” Semel wrote in an e-mail. “But also, certainly, there will and must be efforts to give the ruling traction on behalf of other defendants.”

The ruling may also give fresh urgency to calls from anti-death penalty advocates for a state referendum on executions, and may prompt Gov. Jerry Brown to re-evaluate how the system functions. Gil Garcetti, a former Los Angeles district attorney and a spokesperson for SAFE California, an anti-death penalty group, called the decision “historic.”

A spokesperson for the state’s attorney general’s office says it is reviewing the decision.

TIME animals

This Dog Surfing Competition is Totally Gnarly

Get ready for some ruff waves

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What’s cooler than surfing? Surfing with your dog. And not just riding the same board as your pet, but pushing your pup to ride a wave on their own. That’s what the dogs in Unleashed, the largest dog surfing competition the U.S., do, and they rock at it.

Hanging 20, the dogs perch on top of the boards as the waves sweep toward the beach. When the wave collapses, the canine surfers hop off, no harm done (some are wearing adorable life jackets, just in case).

But are the dogs scared to go on the surfboards? Are their owners forcing them into unwanted roles as surf bros? Eric Felland, owner of the champion of the large dog heat, tells The Guardian that his dog “loves what he does.” Fellow owner James Wall says “it’s hard to say it’s cruel; some dogs like it some dogs don’t.” One thing’s for sure—it’s great for everyone watching.

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