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Monday makes the tenth triple digit day so far in 2014, and all of those days have been in July.  The official high in Medford was 106, and as hot as that seems, that’s still two degrees shy of the record 108 set a few years ago in 2009.  Fortunately, the heat will wane over the next few days, but highs will still be very close to 100, and of course, above average.

The heat is not the only story this Monday.  A couple of storms popped up along the Cascades, near Crater Lake, producing a few lightning strikes in Douglas County.  The threat of thunderstorms remains in the forecast off and on throughout the next seven days.  The Rogue Valley is included in the risk as well.  Because of the storm chance Tuesday, a fire weather watch has been issued beginning Tuesday morning and continuing until 11 PM Tuesday night.  Storms containing lightning and associated gusty winds could spark new fires and worsen pre-existing smoldering areas.  The fire weather watch includes most of northern California, the Klamath Basin, Jackson County, and eastern Douglas County.

Over the next several days, a few waves of energy moving through the northwest weaken the ridge of high pressure that’s been in control.  That means thunderstorms are in the forecast each day for the next seven for the Klamath Basin, Cascades, and northern California.  The Rogue Valley will stay mainly dry Wednesday, but isolated storms return to the forecast Thursday and continue through the weekend.

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

Chief Meteorologist Kate McKenna

selmac fireCAVE JUNCTION, Ore.– A 20 to 25 acre fire is burning near Lake Selmac right now.  Oregon Department of Forestry Officials said they are calling in more crew and helicopters to help get a handle on it. They said dry vegetation and strong winds have them concerned about containment. Medford Fire officials also said structures are being threatened at this time. Stay with Newswatch 12 for more updates.

ethiopianUPDATE: Confirmed by UO Police Department - Three of 4 missing Ethiopian athletes are safe in Beaverton. Missing persons case active on fourth. Latest on KEZI 9 News at 5 and 6 p.m.

EUGENE, Ore. — New information is surfacing about the four missing Ethiopian track athletes who disappeared from the World Junior Track and Field championships this weekend.

Investigators think they may have pinpointed their location.

University of Oregon police say they believe the athletes are in the Portland area visiting friends and family.

“The three women are all over 18 and then the one juvenile male who is 17,” said Kelly McIver, UOPD spokesman.

The athletes were reported missing Saturday morning.

“They had not checked into their residence hall room when they were expected to, and so that’s where the report originally came from,” McIver said.

Since the report, UO police have been working with the FBI and homeland security to try to locate them.

Investigators say they believe the missing persons are still in Oregon.

“What we have heard is that they are reportedly in the Portland area visiting family friends of some kind,” McIver said.

UOPD says although they have spoken on the phone with people who claim the four athletes are safe, it still poses a challenge.

“We’ve can’t verify identities over the phone, so that’s where we need, that extra step of people being able to step up and show their identification, show their faces to some kind of government agency or police department,” McIver said.

Until identities can be confirmed, investigators are treating this as a missing persons case. Police say the team is leaving with our without the team members, who can stay if they choose.

“They’re here on a visa. They’re here legally. We don’t have an interest in anything other than making sure they’re safe, so we just want to make sure that they can come forward, verify that they’re safe and secure, and then they can go about their business,” McIver said.

Speculations have come up that the four athletes may be trying to seek asylum, but police say they can’t confirm that. UOPD says with international events like the World Juniors, incidents like this are always a possibility, and they do discuss how to handle it if it were to happen.

runner(CNN)– Good news for runners: A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests running, even for a few minutes a day, can reduce your risk of dying from heart disease whether you plod along or go at race speed.

Researchers studied more than 55,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 100 over a 15-year period, looking at their overall health, whether they ran and how long they lived.

Compared to nonrunners, those who ran had a 30% lower risk of death from all causes and a 45% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, investigators found. In fact, runners on average lived three years longer than those who did not hit the pavement. When data was broken down by age, sex, body mass index, and smoking and alcohol use, the benefits were still the same.

“That’s important to note,” said Dr. Warren Levy, a cardiologist and chief medical officer of Virginia Heart in northern Virginia. “Even with all the negative factors, such as obesity, smoking and diabetes, those who were, let’s say, obese and ran had a less likely chance of dying from heart problems than those obese people who didn’t run. Same with smokers, diabetics, etc. ”

The speed and frequency of a person’s running routine did not make a huge difference either. The data showed novice runners who ran less than 51 minutes, fewer than 6 miles, slower than 6 miles per hour, or only one or two times per week still had a lower risk of dying than those who did not put on running shoes.

D.C. Lee, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at Iowa State University’s kinesiology department in Ames, Iowa, said the researchers found runners who ran less than an hour per week have the “same mortality benefits compared to runners who ran more than three hours per week.” So more may not be better.

“Its been shown that after a certain amount of running over a certain period of time, the benefits seem to wane,” said Levy. “We aren’t quite sure why.”

However, researchers did discover that consistency was key. They found participants who ran consistently over a period of six years or more gained the most benefits, with a 29% lower risk of death for any reason and 50% lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke.

There have been many studies that have shown the benefits of exercise on the heart. But this study is one of the largest to pinpoint the positive effects of running, especially for nonmarathoners or nontriathletes.

“Since time is one of the strongest barriers to participate in physical activity, the study may motivate more people to start running and continue to run as an attainable health goal for mortality benefits,” Lee said.

Activities like running can lower your blood pressure and decrease the production of glucose, which cuts your risk of developing diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. Running also seems to protect the innermost lining of the arteries, keeping the walls and cells intact, which cuts the risk of blockages or clots that can cause strokes or heart attacks.

Levy, a runner himself, said people considering taking up running programs should talk to their doctors first, especially if they have chronic conditions.

“A lot of weekend warriors just go out without preparing for their run. It’s the runner who takes it gradually and trains correctly, even for a run around the block, who’s the one who avoids injuries and other complications.”

Medford Rogue Documents Summer

MEDFORD, Ore. –  Ryan Teel is in his second season with the Medford Rogues, which makes him a seasoned veteran by West Coast League standards, but Teel’s contribution to the Rogues extends beyond the baseball field.  Medford Rogues catcher Ryan Teel cares a lot about hits, not just the hits he gets at the plate but also the hits he gets online. Teel, a journalism major at the University of Nevada, has spent this summer blogging about his experience in the West Coast League.

“I realize how important it is to have people talking about the Rogues, what we’re doing,” Teel said. “The more they think about us, the better chance they’re going to come out to the game so we just want to create another avenue for them to find out about us.”

The blog is called “The Real Rogues,” and Teel is using it as an outlet for fans to get the chance to know the players as more than just their batting averages or jersey numbers.

“People see us on the field and they see us in the community,” Teel said, “but maybe just some of the fun stuff they don’t get to hear about. I try to go with a theme for the blog, but I just end up all over the place just showing people some of the hardships but some of the good things about the people you meet or some of the fun stories.”

Teel, who also focuses on public relations at school, realizes the importance the blog can have for the Rogues. Getting the chance to write about his summer league experience has also been beneficial for Teel.

“It makes you think deeper about what you’re doing,” he said. “You’re not just here to place baseball. You reflect on some of the lessons you’ve learned, the teammates you meet, the coaches, the whole experience of it all and it just documents it and records it.”

And through the feedback he’s received, the blog is serving its purpose.

“Some of the fans mentioned they like my blog,” Teel said. “They liked this piece, liked that piece. It’s fun when a fan comes up to you and says you’re a good writer so now I’m not just a baseball player. They acknowledge something else that I do.”

You can follow along with Teel’s journey at “The Real Rogues.”

7-28 ashland parksASHLAND, Ore. – Ashland Parks & Recreation has hit a snag in the search for a new director after one of their top candidates turned down the job.

The department has been looking for a replacement director for most of the summer after current director Don Robertson announced his retirement.

Over the weekend it looked like they had found their man in current Medford Recreation Superintendent and Ashland City Councilor Rich Rosenthal.

But despite the fact that he had been the one to apply initially, he says he had to turn down the offer.

“I love being a city councilor, and I’m thinking about a year ago this would have been a no-brainer the other way,” said Rosenthal.

The department received 78 applications in total for the director position.

They say they are trying to fill the job as soon as possible, but can’t share any more details until a new director has been appointed.

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GOLD HILL, Ore. – The hacking of hand tools and the distant roar of chainsaws can be heard near Gold Hill. A helicopter drops buckets of water as thick plumes of smoke fill the air.

For firefighters on the ground, it’s an easy day in the field.

“The fire wasn’t really doing a whole lot,” said ODF firefighter Mike Fillis. “It was staying in the shade, creeping, smoldering.”

Crews were able to dodge a bullet thanks to calm and favorable morning conditions, helicopters at the ready just miles away, and overall fast response time.

But Monday’s sleeper fire may be a sign that hidden fires are still lingering from lightning earlier in the month.

“The longest lightning holdover I’ve seen was 12 days,” said Fillis. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we picked up a couple more.”

The most severe strikes from these latest storms came on July 22nd, just before the one-year anniversary of the storm that ignited much of Southern Oregon last year.

But while those fires were already turning into sweeping complexes, the fires on the West side of the Cascades this year have held tight at a couple acres at the most.

It’s thanks to a combination of things that have been going right.

“Aggressive firefighting coupled with a bit of luck,” said ODF Fire Prevention Specialist Brian Ballou.

But those lucky breaks — a bit of rain alongside lightning, favorable morning conditions, and easily accessible fire starts — will likely only last so long.

And there’s a lot of dry season left.

“The extended forecast puts us well into October, maybe later for some meaningful rainfall,” said Ballou. “That’s a long way out there.”

While firefighters count their blessings for now, they say they’ll be keeping hand tools and helicopters at the ready so they can be there when luck runs out.

“As long as we get it on quick and fast, we should be able to keep them small,” said Fillis.

sou scienceASHLAND, Ore. – Science professors at Southern Oregon University said they hope a multi-million dollar project on their science building will bring more interest in the program.

The university recently started work on a $21 million renovation project on the science building.

Professors said they hope it will bring more students and faculty into the programs. SOU estimates about 238 students were enrolled in biology programs this year, and about 196 were enrolled in physical sciences.

“To see that kind of investment, it’s ‘put your money where your mouth is,’” said Karen Stone, Vice President of Curriculum Management at SOU. “And I think that it’s truly speaking to that.”

The work on the building is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2015. While the work continues, labs have been relocated to the old Cascade dorms.

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ASHLAND, Ore – The Ashland Public Works Department has signed up more than 40 homes in its lawn replacement program, as more homeowners attempt to cut down on water use during the current drought conditions.

Ashland launched the program in June and reimburses homeowners who replace their traditional grass lawn with drought-resistant landscaping, including bark mulch, rocks, and some shrubs. As conditions continue to stay hot and dry, officials think more people are becoming interested in conserving water. The city is continuing to accept applications.

“We thought that we’d have a lot of interest, and I think that, because of our drought situation that we were facing this year in Ashland, I think the interest has increased,” said Julie Smitherman, Conservation Specialist for the city of Ashland.

Ashland resident Don Hunsaker, who signed up for the program and replaced his lawn earlier this year, said his water bill has been cut by a third.

“Water bill dropped significantly compared to last year at the same time,” he said. “And in spite of the fact that it’s been much hotter this July.”

For more information on how to sign up for the lawn replacement program, click here.

debra irene johnsMEDFORD, Ore. — Medford Police were able to determine that Debra Irene Johns was responsible for the small fire in the women’s bathroom of the Jackson County Jail lobby on July 24th. Johns is now charged with intentionally setting 3 of the twenty-three fires in Medford since June 25, 2014.

Medford Police suspect said she remains a suspect in several of the other unsolved arson cases. She is currently in the Jackson County Jail on charges of Arson in the Second Degree (2 counts), Reckless Burning, Attempted Burglary Second Degree and Warrants such as Failure to Appear, Endangering, Disorderly Conduct, and Contempt of Court. Her bail is set at $57, 000.

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