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Spokane woman missing since Thursday rescued on Blewett Pass

PESHASTIN — A 68-year old Spokane Valley woman missing since last Thursday was found Monday night 30-40 feet down an embankment on Blewett Pass. She was found at 7:32 p.m. in her crashed car and transported to Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee, where she was listed in satisfactory condition Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities had issued a Silver Alert for Lynelle McFarland last week. A Silver Alert is activated when an elderly, developmentally, or cognitively-impaired person has gone missing and is determined to be at-risk.

She was traveling from Ellensburg on Thursday when she went missing.

On Nov. 18, McFarland left the Ellensburg area at 2:30 p.m. to return home to Spokane, her daughter Amanda told KIRO-TV in Seattle.

The daughter texted her mom approximately an hour and a half later asking if she had arrived home, and received a text that said “not yet, but I will swing by your apartment first.”

McFarland’s daughter reported her missing around 8:30 p.m. the next day, as she had still not shown up at her residence or her daughter’s apartment.

McFarland’s daughter reported concern for her mother’s mental health and driving capabilities, mentioning that McFarland often gets lost and takes medication that can cause impairment, according to KIRO.

“We got some information on this Silver Alert early Monday morning. There was a (cell phone) ping in Chelan County off a tower at the top of Blewett Pass. The ping came back with a 10,000-meter (6.21 miles) radius on the ping, which is pretty big and not very reliable,” said Chelan County Sheriff Sgt. Jason Reinfeld.

Chelan County Sheriff’s Department deputies searched some roads in the area during the day on Monday without success.

On Monday night, McFarland’s family members obtained an exact point rather than a large search area, Reinfeld said, but he’s not sure how they came up with that.

“A WSDOT employee went to the area of the ping and looked over an embankment and located the vehicle. A deputy in the area who was searching some roads responded to the scene,” he said. “The deputy rappelled down to the vehicle 30-40 feet down an embankment and across the creek.”

McFarland’s black Mitsubishi Eclipse was found on its side about a mile north of the pass summit. The deputy said the woman was alive and had some injuries. The Rope Rescue Team from Chelan County Fire Department 1 responded, along with fire districts from Cashmere, Chelan and Leavenworth.

“It was snow-covered up. It was fairly simple to get to her. It was just getting her out of the vehicle, onto a backboard and up the slope,” Chelan County Fire District 6 Chief Phil Mosher said. “We rigged up a system and had to cut off the top of the car to get to her. She was conscious and fairly alert for being there for 3-4 days.”

Mosher said the woman had a wrist injury,broken ribs and a possible leg injury.

“The WSDOT found her at Milepost 165. We believe she was coming northbound on 97 and hit a slick spot and ended off the road,” Mosher said. “She was transported to Central Washington Hospital.”

Reinfeld said it was very fortunate she was found.

“If she was down there since Thursday, then she had survived a long time with injuries and in the cold,” Reinfeld said. “I don’t if know she had food or water. The deputy responding said there were a lot of items in the car which had been tossed everywhere.”

The investigation is continuing. Reinfeld said he wants to find out how the family got the ping with the exact location.

Physics students lay siege to Wenatchee Valley College in catapult contest
  • 1 min to read
seabrook / World photo/Don Seabrook 

Wenatchee Valley College physics students use catapults they made to launch tennis balls for distance and accuracy during the annual contest on the Wenatchee campus Tuesday. One of the ropes holding the tennis ball broke on this attempt.

WENATCHEE — Squeaks could be heard from across the Wenatchee Valley College as students wheeled in their battle stations Tuesday afternoon.

“We need some medieval fighting music,” said physics professor Bruce Unger, who was overseeing WVC’s annual catapult contest.

Physics students at the contest lined up handmade wooden catapults to be tested for accuracy, design and throwing distance.

Results varied.

“I’m going to launch it at you,” said student Arlen Brazill while taking aim at Unger with a tennis ball in his catapult. “I can duck,” replied Unger who was holding a model Space Needle that was the official target of the student siegemasters.

Brazill, who built a catapult taller than himself, placed in the contest’s top three.

The other two winners included the team of Sauviah and Brevik Myrbo, and Jianfan Lin.

seabrook / World photo/Don Seabrook 

With physics instructor Bruce Unger holding a model of the Space Needle, a physics team launches a tennis ball toward it for an accuracy contest at the annual catapult event at Wenatchee Valley College on Tuesday.

Brazill said his catapult took about 14 hours to build. The first few test shots “did not go well,” but he made a lot of improvements along the way, he said.

Class restrictions only allowed students to use all-natural materials like wood and cotton, he said. Metal screws were not allowed.

Making the sling was one of the most difficult parts, Brazill said. Preparing the catapults to throw the tennis balls was a difficult task in and of itself for students.

Judges watching the distance contest shouted numbers after contestants launched tennis balls from their catapults.

“39 ... 17 ... 110,” the judges shouted while marking each catapult launch distance in feet.

Student Sauviah Myrbo constructed one of the contest’s most powerful launchers, so powerful that it fell apart on the second throw.

After about three weeks of work on the catapult, the wooden dowel just finally gave out, she said.

Myrbo said her catapult’s rock counterweight clocked in at about 32 pounds, which sent her launches well past many of the contestants’ throws.

Student catapults that did not place in the top three include a mini catapult about a foot tall and another which, despite a two-student team’s best efforts, preferred not to launch.

seabrook / World photo/Don Seabrook 

Arlen Brazill gets ready to launch a tennis ball with his homemade catapult at the annual contest at Wenatchee Valley College on Tuesday.

COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases down but health officials urge caution

WENATCHEE — COVID-19 hospitalizations at Central Washington Hospital reached a new three-month low on Monday, a hopeful sign of a downward trend, but health officials advise the public to be cautious.

The hospital had 29 COVID-19 patients on Monday, the first time the total count dipped below 30 since Aug. 16, according to data collected by The Wenatchee World. Fourteen patients were in the intensive care unit.

Two among the 29 patients hospitalized were fully vaccinated, according to the Confluence Health COVID-19 webpage.

Provided photo 

Luke Davies

Chelan-Douglas Health District administrator

“We’re still at the same level if not just a little bit lower than we were last winter,” said Luke Davies, Chelan-Douglas Health administrator, at Monday’s monthly board of health meeting. “It’s easy to normalize the high numbers ... and be like, ‘Oh, we’re good, we’re totally fine.’ But we’re still going to a level of high contingency, and staffing is still a challenge for a lot of health care providers.”

Davies also said that with COVID-19 hospitalizations declining slowly, hospitals will soon be strained as long-postponed elective care begins to occur.

“There’s a backlog of three to six months and even up to 18 months of deferred care where people haven’t gone to the hospital for a reason, or their surgeries have been pushed back. We’re looking at six to nine months ... of really high (hospital) census levels across (the state) and across the country.”

The Chelan-Douglas Health District updated its COVID-19 death count last week by 11, bringing the total number of COVID-related deaths in Chelan and Douglas counties to 127. As of Nov. 21, 9,139 people have died due to COVID-19 across the state.

Davies said that more deaths believed to be COVID-related are pending confirmation. The Chelan-Douglas Health District only reports COVID-19 deaths after the cause of death has been confirmed on the death certificate, which can create a three-week lag between the date of death and when it is reviewed, he said.

“We have seen a significant number of deaths in the last couple of months,” he said. “We’re really hopeful that the decrease in (COVID-19 case) rates will bring that down as well.

Dr. James Wallace

Okanogan County Public Health health officer

COVID-19 cases continue to drop slowly on a “rollercoaster decline,” said Dr. James Wallace, Chelan-Douglas interim health officer.

Chelan County’s 14-day rate per 100,000 people was 517.2 as of Nov. 21, according to health district data. The Chelan County rate was 477.03 on Aug. 9, the last time the rate was this low, according to state Department of Health data.

In Douglas County, the rate was 507.4 per 100,000 on Nov. 21. It was 509.71 on Oct. 25.

Wallace said the slow decline is a good sign but the upcoming holiday season could spell problems.

“We’re headed into a time where we all enjoy gathering more frequently and with the weather steering us indoors we certainly have reason to be cautious as we move ahead,” Wallace said.

Wenatchee water and sewer rates set to increase

WENATCHEE — City water and sewer rates will increase in the coming years.

The city of Wenatchee has made a number of modifications to its sewer and water code, including changes in rates and connection fee increases.

The modifications are in response to increased material and labor costs. Jessica Shaw, Wenatchee deputy public works director, said the city has seen costs for materials and parts increase between 20% and 75% in the last five years. Meanwhile, construction costs have gone up 30-40% in the past year.

Shaw said the changes will give the city the necessary funds to replace aging infrastructure. About 60 miles of water pipes, or 60% of the city’s water system, is nearing the end of its lifespan. Putting off that work could result in outages or contamination, she said.

“If you think about a day without water — you can’t make coffee, can’t take a shower, can’t do laundry, can’t wash dishes. Water is just a really big part of our everyday life,” Shaw said. “We really want to be more proactive and make sure that we’re replacing the old veins before they fail.”

Planned projects for the next few years include replacing a large water main on Crawford Street and replacing asbestos cement water pipes on Seventh and Eighth streets and Chelan Avenue.

Shaw says the city expects annual sewer revenues will increase by $450,000 and water revenues to increase by $580,000. Additional revenue from increased connection fees will be dependent on new development.

The increased revenue is minuscule when juxtaposed with the cost of replacing just a mile of water mains, which Shaw said ranges between $2 and $3 million.

Changing rates

Water rates will increase 12% annually for the next three years before returning to an annual increase rate of 6%. Shaw said the average monthly water bill for a single family will increase by about $3.56. The consumption rate per 100 cubic feet (748 gallons) will also increase from $2.25 to $2.52.

The city updated the sewer rate increase schedule. Previously, rates were scheduled to increase by 6% annually in 2022 and 2023 before switching to a 4.5% annual increase in 2024. However, after looking at a 10-year financial forecast, Shaw said the city realized it would need to continue 6% annual rate increases.

Beginning in January, single-family homes will see about a $2 monthly sewer bill increase. Despite the increase, the city’s rates will be the lowest in Central Washington, said Shaw.

Connection fees

Both water and sewer connection fees will increase 3% starting in March 2022. Shaw said the city opted for a later start date to give developers time to plan.

The city revised how it calculates sewer connection fees for multi-family properties. Rather than basing the fees on the size of the water meter, they will now base them on the number of units. A 30% discount is still in place for owners of existing homes who want to connect to the sewer system when the city extends sewer lines.

The city also removed a water connection fee waiver for multi-family residences and increased the fee from $400 to $1,200 per single-family home.