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ASHLAND, Ore. — The thunderstorms which moved through on Tuesday afternoon dropped 4,500 lighting strikes in Northern California and Southern Oregon.

One of those hit right in Ashland resident Anne Novina’s backyard. The strike left no scar or scorch mark, but Novina swears she saw the zig-zag pattern hit in the middle of her lawn just 25 feet from her second story sliding glass door. 

She happened to be standing at the door at that exact moment because her cat, Pricilla, was pawing and meowing to be let in.

“The noise was so incredibly loud, it was like an explosion, and so that coupled with the sight of this, bright, thing, was enough to be a little bit intimidating,” said Novina.

Novina says her whole body clenched up for a moment, and she does not know if that was from the lightning itself, or just a the fear and adrenaline.

jacowellness

MEDFORD, Ore. — As of Wednesday, Jackson County employees can make appointments with healthcare professionals at a new wellness center that opened specifically for county employees.

The county has contracted with the private company MiCare, which set up and staffed the clinic on West Main Street in downtown Medford.

The goal is to have county employees choose to go to the clinic like they would an urgent care center.

The clinic is included in the employee’s health coverage, and will not charge a co-pay or other fees the cost of providing care is contracted as one lump sum paid by the county.

Commissioners say a visit to the clinic will ultimately cost less for the county’s healthcare fund meaning less cost for Jackson County taxpayers.

More than 650 participants are eligible to go to the clinic.

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) ruled today that the city council in Grants Pass was in error when it decided to block the construction of low income.

Maple Park off of Fruitdale Drive already has 28 town homes on the property. When the existing homes were in construction, the developer went bankrupt and the remaining land was bought last year by the Housing Authority of Jackson County.

The Housing Authority was then approved to build low-income housing by the area planning commission, but the construction was blocked by Grants Pass City Council based on six points including utility and parking issues.

Now the state has overturned the decision, and the current Maple Park residents have no chance to appeal and a list of worries about the project’s impact.

“We’re probably going to ride it out, and if the crime occurs the way that i think it’s going to, we’ll move. I don’t know where we’ll move to, but we’ll move somewhere,” said current Maple Park resident Jon Frego.

Officials with the Housing Authority of Jackson County confirmed the ruling on Wednesday.

They say they plan to begin construction in the area as soon as this fall.

fire

MEDFORD, Ore. — Another small downtown fire broke out around 9 p.m. on Wednesday night, but police are hopeful that the incident may give them the break they need.

Officials responded to the reports of a fire in the doorway of a warehouse building in the 400 block of South Fir Street. Police and fire officials found a small pile of debris that appeared to have been set on fire.

Medford Police says that they received reports from two witnesses that they saw a person in the area at the time the fire was set. The suspect is described as an adult white male who was about 5’11.” The man had a thin build and shoulder-length or nearly shoulder-length dark hair with no facial hair. The witnesses also reported that he was wearing dark pants, a light brown short sleeved shirt, and a dark colored beanie hat.

Medford Fire officials say the fire was suspicious and they are investigating whether it was connected to 15 other suspicious fires in the area within the last month.

If you have any information, you are encouraged to call the Medford Police Department at 541-774-2250.

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WEATHER DISCUSSION

A cold front swept through the area Wednesday morning, and in its wake, temperatures have been much cooler.  In fact, most locations saw highs around ten degrees below average.  We will still be on the cool side Thursday, but this unseasonable weather will only last a short time longer.  By the weekend, highs will climb to the triple digits in west side valleys and northern California.

The cold front not only brought relief from the summer heat, but measurable rainfall as well.  On Tuesday, some locations saw nearly an inch of rain from the afternoon storms.  As the front passed Wednesday morning, scattered showers added to those totals.  In Shady Cove, nearly 0.20 inches were reported.  On the coast, amounts ranged from a couple tenths up to over half an inch.  In Medford, the official total was just shy of one tenth.

Temperatures will drop rapidly Wednesday night into early Thursday morning, and the abnormally cool night poses a threat for some gardeners in the Klamath Basin.  Overnight lows are expected to fall to the middle 30′s for locations like Chemult and Chiloquin, so patchy frost is possible.  The same goes for portions of the Cascades.  Just to be safe, cover sensitive plants or bring them inside for the night.  Enjoy the pleasant day Thursday…temperatures will only be rising over the several days, with no rain chances in the immediate future.

For more information, or to send me your weather pictures, head over to Facebook or Twitter.

Chief Meteorologist Kate McKenna

LETHAL(CNN) — Joseph Wood died nearly two hours after the start of his execution Wednesday, his attorney said, saying the Arizona inmate struggled to breathe for much of that time.

“It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breathe for about an hour and 40 minutes. We will renew our efforts to get information about the manufacturer of drugs as well as how Arizona came up with the experimental formula of drugs it used today,” attorney Dale Baich said in a statement.

“Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror — a bungled execution.”

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer directed the Department of Corrections to review the process, saying she was concerned by the length of time it took to carry out the execution.

“One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer. This is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims — and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family,” she said.

Wood was convicted of murder and assault in the 1989 deaths of his estranged girlfriend and her father.

“I don’t believe he was gasping for air; I don’t believe he was suffering. It sounded to me like was snoring,” said Jeanne Brown, a relative of Wood’s victims.

“You don’t know what excruciating is. What’s excruciating is seeing your dad laying there in a pool of blood, seeing you sister laying there in a pool of blood. This man deserved it. And I shouldn’t really call him a man,” she said.

The execution procedure began at 1:52 p.m. (4:52 p.m. ET) and concluded, with Wood’s being pronounced dead, at 3:49 p.m. (6:49 p.m. ET).

Troy Hayden, a media witness from KSAZ, told reporters the execution was difficult to watch. He likened Wood’s breathing to a “fish gulping for air.”

“It was tough for everybody in that room,” he said.

Michael Kiefer, a reporter for The Arizona Republic, has witnessed five executions, including Wood’s.

“Usually it takes about 10 minutes, the person goes to sleep. This was not that,” he told reporters afterward. “It started off looking as if it was going alright but then obviously something didn’t go right. It took two hours.”

Kiefer described the sound Wood made as a “deep, snoring, sucking air sound.”

Wood’s attorneys had filed an emergency motion for a stay after his execution began, saying then that Wood had been “gasping and snorting for more than an hour.”

The motion read: “He is still alive. This execution has violated Mr. Wood’s Eighth Amendment right to be executed in the absence of cruel and unusual punishment. We respectfully request that this Court stop the execution and require that the Department of Corrections use the lifesaving provisions required in its protocol.”

Inmate objected to drugs

Earlier, the Arizona Supreme Court lifted its brief stay of the murderer’s execution.

Wood was first set to be executed at 10 a.m. local time (1 p.m. ET), though it was temporarily halted when the court said it would consider his request for the justices to review his claims.

The court lifted the stay shortly after that, saying without explanation that it considered the request but decided not to review Wood’s case.

Wood was the latest American death row inmate to argue that an anesthetic recently introduced in some states’ execution protocols could fail to sufficiently knock out the inmate ahead of the lethal drugs, subjecting the person to an agonizing death.

Opinion: 5 ways to improve the U.S. death penalty

Wood claimed among other things that the state was going to use an “experimental” drug protocol of midazolam and hydromorphone.

In documents filed with the state Supreme Court, he contended the use of the anesthetic midazolam was problematic in recent U.S. executions and that it would violate the Constitution’s guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.

Opinion: I was 17, on death row — and innocent

Controversial Oklahoma execution

Drugs weren’t Wood’s only contention. He also argued the execution should be stopped because his trial attorney was ineffective and that new evaluations from psychologists show he has cognitive impairments that would make him innocent of premeditated murder.

Some states turned to midazolam this decade after they could no longer get sodium thiopental, a drug that was regularly used for executions. A U.S. manufacturer stopped producing sodium thiopental in 2009, and countries that still produce it won’t allow its export to the United States for use in lethal injections.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma put executions on hold after the controversial execution of Clayton Lockett. Midazolam was part of the injection combination, and it took 43 minutes for him to die, Oklahoma officials said.

While state officials said Lockett was unconscious the entire time, a media witness for CNN affiliate KFOR said he uttered the words, “Man,” “I’m not,” and “something’s wrong,” before blinds to the execution chamber were closed. His lawyer, Dean Sanderford, said the inmate’s body twitched and convulsed before he died.

Oklahoma’s Department of Public Safety, acting on orders from Gov. Mary Fallin to get to the bottom of what happened, is investigating whether prison officials followed protocols. The review is also supposed to include recommendations about how to prevent something similar from happening again.

7-23 rob webMEDFORD, Ore. — The hundreds of thousands of acres burning in Oregon and Washington has prompted law makers to take action.

Senator Ron Wyden is working with Idaho senator Mike Carpo to secure more than 600 million dollars of funding from the supplemental funding to this year’s fire season. Senator Wyden is also pushing to allow the largest and most devastating fires access to federal disaster funding.

He said the move would allow federal money to be spent in the most efficient way possible.

“The largest fires, about 1% of them, which eats up 30% of the fire budget. We’d like to have them paid for out of disaster funding,” said Senator Ron Wyden.

Senator Wyden didn’t have an answer as to when or if this additional funding would come through. He said he is very hopeful and believes those in Washington D.C. know the urgent situation in the west.

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MEDFORD, Ore. – Under-stocked refrigerators and bare pantry shelves await families at the Maslow Project, one of Medford’s biggest homeless support agencies.

Their limited resources are being stretched thinner and thinner by growing demand.

The agency serves only families that meet federal guidelines for homelessness. In the past year, the number of families that qualify for their services has risen 10%. The amount of families they actively serve has risen by roughly a quarter.

It’s a sudden, unexpected pattern of poverty for which the agency has little explanation.

“The fact that we’re actually seeing higher numbers is concerning to me,” said Mary Ferrell, Executive Director of the agency.

The trend is also concerning to Medford schools.

For years the district has used what’s called Title 1 federal funding for schools that have a at least 70% of the student body under the poverty line. Those schools get access to a pot of federal dollars to better serve at-risk kids.

For the past decade or so, seven schools have been splitting that pot. Next year, there will be nine.

And the pot is getting smaller.

“What we’ve actually seen is a sequester of funds from the federal government where we’ve actually been cutting programs, not adding,” said Julie Evans, Director of Elementary Education for the Medford School District.

Those cuts amount to about 10-15%, a rate Evans says is unlikely to change. And as more and more schools qualify for the funding, they’ll have to continue spreading it thinner.

Meanwhile, agencies like the Maslow Project are struggling to provide food for the table.

“Even with the free lunch programs in the schools, it’s just not enough to get a family through,” said Ferrell.

And while their strained pantries buckle under the load, a long-term solution remains sadly out of reach.

“I don’t have the immediate answer,” said Ferrell. “I wish I did.”

Oregon Head Coach Mark Helfrich:

Oregon Quarterback Marcus Mariota:

Oregon Linebacker Derrick Malone:

7-23 fireWHITE CITY, Ore. – Fire crews are on clean-up duty after more than 1,200 lightning strikes in Jackson County alone. Tuesday’s lightning storms resulted in nearly 45 hotspots in the area, just on Department of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service land.

Most of those starts remain under an acre, but many of the state’s resources that can help in the fight are tied up elsewhere — and that includes contract crews.

Grayback Forestry, for example, has about 120 people on firefighting duty across five different fires. But all of those are either east of the Cascades or in Washington.

The agency has one crew of 21 firefighters that just got back to White City from the Buzzard Complex.

That crew will remain here hoping that, given the weather, we can dodge a bullet.

“Just because of this rain, I think it might slow down this storm that came in,” said Grayback firefighter Jonathan Frohreich. “We’ll see if more develops, hopefully not.”

The biggest fire in the area is at about 1.5 acres. The remaining starts are mostly at under an acre.

Veteran firefighters say fire seasons historically tend to favor one side of the cascades over the other. Last year they say the west side got hammered, while this year the east has seen most of the activity.

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