WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee Valley could see its first triple-degree temperatures of the season as early as next Tuesday.
Warming and drying trends will begin this weekend and carry into next week, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures are expected to climb this weekend and peak at 100 degrees on Tuesday and Wednesday. A cool-down and winds could offer respite from the heat late next week.
“It’s been so unseasonably cool for most of the summer, so this is going to be the first really hot weather we’ve seen.” Mike Turner, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Friday. “It might come as a bit of a shock to some people.”
Residents should stay hydrated and take normal heat precautions like avoiding long hours in the sun or leaving dogs or children in the car, even with the windows down.
Those choosing to beat the heat by spending the day on the water should be mindful that water temperatures are still cool given the mild season so far, according to Turner.
“This will be a shock to the system,” said Turner.
Warmer, dryer weather also increases the risk of wildfires. Roughly 200 of this year’s wildfires were started by escaped debris burn piles, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said on Twitter.
With hotter, drier weather on the horizon, everyone needs to take extra caution. About 200 of this season's #wildfires were caused by escaped debris burn piles. Please help protect your neighbors, communities, and our #firefighters. Check https://t.co/K9VpJfKvn2 for fire danger. pic.twitter.com/8R514qqRyV— Hilary Franz (@Hilary_FranzCPL) July 17, 2020
Open burns are currently banned in the Wenatchee Valley, but recreational campfires at private residences and approved campfire areas at campgrounds are allowed. The Wenatchee Valley fire danger rating is high for the weekend, according to the state Department of Natural Resources Burn Portal.
Clear evening skies increase the odds of Comet NEOWISE, located northwest directly under the Big Dipper. Residents should sneak a peek now because the comet won’t reappear for another 6,800 years, according to NASA. Sunset is around 8:50 p.m. in Wenatchee. The comet can be seen with the naked eye, but will appear like a fuzzy star with a fading tail without binoculars.
“It will be great weather for going out and watching the comet,” Turner said. “Hopefully, it will be visible for the next week or more.”
CHELAN — Slidewaters will close for the season Monday, ending a 30-day run in defiance of restrictions accompanying the state’s COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chelan water park on Thursday received a “Notice of Immediate Restraint” from the state Department of Labor & Industries, along with a $9,639 citation for the “willful” violation of state’s Safe Start rules. Those rules would allow it to open in Phase 3 of the restart plan. Chelan County currently is operating under a modified Phase 1.
“We have no choice but to layoff our 150 employees and suspend our season effective Monday,” co-owners Burke and Robert Bordner said in a news release sent Friday. “This is because of extraordinary and unfair harm and suffering being brought upon us from the actions of Governor Jay Inslee and the Department of Labor and Industries.”
The park will continue to operate through the weekend under its “Clean & Safe Plan” at 50% capacity, they said. That plan was approved by the Chelan-Douglas Health District as meeting operational requirements once the county reached Phase 3. Confusion about the approval paperwork led to Slidewaters moving forward with plans to open. A clarification from the health district followed, but Slidewaters continued to operate as it had planned.
Its operation was confirmed by inspectors from the state Department of Labor & Industries. The details were provided in the department’s press release, along with the department’s notifications to Slidewaters that it was operating illegally and outlining the consequences.
Continuing to operate past Monday, the L&I deadline to cease operations, the Bordners said, “will compromise our legal battle as law-abiding citizens, expose us to more crippling fines and create the possibility of criminal charges that would potentially include imprisonment.”
Represented by the Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based nonprofit anti-regulatory group, Slidewaters filed lawsuit seeking a 14-day temporary restraining order in June to prevent fines being imposed if the park opened against state rules. That order was denied in Chelan County Superior Court. A request for a temporary injunction filed in U.S. District Court also was denied this past week. The Freedom Foundation, on behalf of Slidewaters, is appealing the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Inslee mentioned the water park during a press conference Thursday, saying the business would face penalties for non-compliance. He cited a federal judge’s dismissal of a request for an injunction against his COVID-19 emergency order closing businesses and said it validated his authority.
“This is great news for the state of Washington, because it allows the state to continue to protect that which is most precious to us, which is the health and safety of Washingtonians,” Inslee said.
The state has not lost any lawsuits against it for the actions it has taken during the pandemic so far, he said.
Robert Bordner said he wants people to know that the legal fight is not over.
“(The governor) made it sound like there was finality to this issue, but we’ve appealed and the legal process is still continuing on multiple fronts,” he said.
He said the state is being hypocritical in how it applies its orders with state parks brimming with people on weekends, disobeying social distancing guidelines. Meanwhile, businesses cannot operate at limited capacity with safety features in place.
“After operating for 30 days and seeing all our team members remain healthy, with no contact tracing of the virus back to us from any guests, now more than ever we stand behind our Clean & Safe Plan,” the Bordners said in Friday’s press release. “For four weeks we have offered a safe place for families to escape the stress of 2020 and live, laugh and enjoy life again. It is with tremendous sadness that we face the reality that after 38 years of offering a place for family recreation, Sunday could be our last operational day ever.”
EAST WENATCHEE — Eastmont is joining Wenatchee schools in officially restricting students’ use of cellphones during class, though the new rules aren’t much different than what has been the unofficial practice.
The Eastmont School Board on July 20 reviewed the revised policy and draft of the new procedures. The policy will come back to the board for official approval next month.
“The new policy reflects the majority of opinions in our community regarding the need for our young people to learn how to use this technology balanced with the need to ensure students learn important interpersonal skills,” Superintendent Garn Christensen said. “As with all policy, our goal is to clarify expectations for all involved.”
The bottom line is student cellphones are allowed on all school campuses, but they may not be used during class and are restricted at other times if the teacher says to put them away. The specifics vary by age level.
Younger students (kindergarten through fourth grade) may use phones before and after school, but not during the school day.
Students in grades 5-7 may use cell phones during the lunch break, as well as before and after school.
High school students may use cellphones when they’re not in class — or when instructed to put them away.
The new rules provide students with access to phones should an emergency arise, which was a concern for some parents, Christensen said, while making it clear “appropriate” use is expected. Students who violate the rules will be subject to discipline, but not expulsion.
Wenatchee High School last year implemented cellphone rules that also do not allow students to access phones during class. Wenatchee’s middle and elementary schools already had fairly strict cell phonerules in place.
“Overall, we believe it was extremely successful,” WHS Principal Eric Anderson said, though he notes in the post-COVID-19 era, recalling student behavior in classrooms seems like a very long time ago. “Students were clear on the expectations and teachers were given resources — a cell phone locker — to assist in the implementation of that policy.”
Anderson said it’s fair to say the majority of students were not happy about the policy.
“They did, however, understand the level of distraction the phone caused and understood the reasoning behind the policy,” he said.
When classrooms reopen, the policy will remain in effect.
Wenatchee High School is in the process of moving to a one-to-one technology initiative — where every student will have a Chromebook — which will further reduce the cellphone distraction, he said.
“The excuse students used frequently was that they needed their phone during class to complete coursework and that there was not enough technology available,” Anderson said. “So when we go to a one-to-one tech policy, every student will have the needed technology and will not have the excuse of a phone being needed.”
The school-owned tech devices are programmed to limit the ability to use the technology for social purposes.
“Restrictions are in place that are designed to keep our students safe while using the technology,” he said.
Eastmont’s new cellphone policy and procedures do not take the hard line some were hoping for, Christensen said.
“There were differing opinions at the high school. Some wanted no use of phones,” he said.
The new rules address the main cellphone distractions, which were part of the concerns Christensen raised last summer. He proposed a general shift away from reliance on technology to make sure students were learning “soft skills” that come from verbal, nonverbal and interpersonal communication.
Some of that focus changed with the arrival of COVID-19, which moved classroom instruction online this spring.
“The pandemic has pushed all educators further into the technology world than ever before,” he said. “Our students are usually better at on-line group activities than the adults. Though very hard on everyone, the technology skills of students and educators who are navigating schools right now will be stronger than ever as we transition to what will be our new normal.”
The new procedures, he said, provide balance.
“It is my opinion that part of the process of moving through the K-12 system as a student is learning what the appropriate social expectations are for different settings ranging from music concerts with friends to weddings, funerals and public meetings,” he said. “My observation is that even now, our Eastmont seniors are very good at knowing when phones need to be off and put away.”