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Labor Day fly-in supports local firefighter/pilot who died in plane crash

It’s been five years since Tom Weiss died in a mid-air plane collision, but friends and family continue to honor his legacy every year on Labor Day.

Friends in the aviation community, fellow firefighters, teaching staff at Roseburg High School and fellow members of Redeemer’s Fellowship church met for the fifth annual Tom Weiss Labor Day Fly-in at George Felt Field in Roseburg to raise college scholarship money for deserving students.

Aircraft lined the side of the grass field alongside tents, fresh kettle corn, a barbecue truck and a silent auction. Firefighters helped children run through a firefighter’s obstacle course.

The event included helicopters from REACH Air Ambulance and the Douglas Forest Protective Association remote control airplane demonstrations. Fifteen planes, two ultralights and three helicopters attended the event.

Tom Weiss, who died in a crash in the High Sierras in Nevada in October 2014, was a captain for the Winston Dillard Fire Department, a pilot for the Douglas Forest Protective Association and a 24-year resident of Roseburg.

In addition to honoring the life of Tom Weiss, his wife, Jennifer Weiss, daughter, Julia Weiss and son, Davis Weiss, announced Gretchen Lucido as the recipient of a $500 scholarship.

Larry and Kelly Lucido accepted the scholarship on behalf of their daughter. Gretchen Lucido, who is already attending Montana State University in Bozeman, viewed the announcement with the help of Facetime.

Davis Weiss, who is also a pilot and a fireman, said the choice was easy.

“Gretchen was a really obvious choice for the committee this year. She is an honor student, student leader, varsity track athlete, member of the high school robotics team and also serves the community through her many volunteer opportunities,” Davis Weiss said.

Gretchen Lucido was selected for “reflecting the essence of Tom Weiss,” which included integrity, positivity, passionate pursuit of a hobby or activity, responsibility and spirit of adventure.

“That’s why she’s at Montana State,” said Kelly Lucido, her mother. “She likes to volunteer, likes to be outside and she’s outgoing.”

Jennifer Weiss said her husband would have been proud of this year’s winner of the scholarship.

“Tom would have been excited,” she said. “Gretchen is a lovely young lady.”

Money for the scholarships is raised from donations and a silent auction. This year, the family was able to secure a signed baseball bat from Reggie Jackson and a signed electric guitar from Billie Jo Armstrong of the band Green Day. Local businesses provided donations, including members of Roseburg Firefighters Local 1110 donated all proceeds from fresh kettle corn at the event to the scholarship fund.

Jennifer Weiss said this year’s fly-in raised more than $2,300 for scholarships, nearly matching the $2,500 raised from the previous four fly-ins combined.

Eric Giusto, an engineer for the Winston Dillard Fire Department, knew Tom Weiss for almost 20 years and worked under him at the department for several years.

Giusto said you always knew where Tom Weiss stood.

“Right was right and wrong was wrong, and I really appreciated that about him. And he loved to fly, oh my goodness, he loved to fly,” Giusto said. “His loss had a big impact and it still does today. We miss him greatly.”

Aircraft at the event included a 1977 Maule, M5-235 flown by Tom Donnelly, who came all the way from Seattle with his wife, Susan Parker.

The couple met Tom Weiss at Johnson Creek, Idaho, six years ago. While bad weather stopped them a few times in years past, Monday provided a perfect opportunity to fly down and pay tribute to Tom Weiss.

“It’s a good cause, we’ve been trying to get down here for a couple of years but got weathered out,” Donnelly said.

Fort Umpqua Days teaches kids about history

ELKTON — Historical reenactments, live music and craft booths filled the Elkton Community Education Center (ECEC)on Saturday afternoon for the annual Fort Umpqua Days celebration.

This year, the event also honored the 20th anniversary of the ECEC, with dinner and a concert Saturday evening.

Down at the fort, historical reenactors were set up at various stations, teaching kids about what life was like for the early settlers of the area.

“There are some folks that set up as Hudson Bay Company trappers, they’ve got their encampment there so you can see how they would have lived and slept at night and cooked and that sort of thing,” said Marjory Hamann, executive director of ECEC.

Ashlee Moehring, of Tigard, said she and her family of four grew up in Bandon and come down for Fort Umpqua Days every year.

Baylor Moehring, 9, said he and his sister, London Moehring, participated in historical activities at various stations at the fort.

“So first, we got to pump and carry water to the garden, so we just got a bunch of buckets of water and we had to pump them,” Baylor said.

London said they both learned how to say “we speak Indian sign language,” and “we trade knife for beaver,” in Native American sign language.

“Once you complete all the stuff, then you get to go up to the store and you get to get a prize. You can either get these really round rocks that were painted and they were like marbles from back in the old days, or you can get these arrowheads that are made here,” London said.

Grace Whitley of Elkton coordinated the Fort Umpqua celebration this year.

“It’s really nice to see it come together in the end, for me I was just glad the band showed up. It was nice and very fun,” Whitley said.

Whitley will attend Oregon State University this fall to pursue a degree in history and religious studies.

She said she wants to become a museum archivist or curator.

She participated in ECEC’s youth employment program throughout high school and said her experience there helped her prepare for college.

“It’s been awesome to have a place to go. In Elkton, very small limited options, so it’s nice to have a place that’s willing to hire students, especially at age 14,” Whitley said.

Hurricane Dorian parks over the Bahamas

FREEPORT, Bahamas — Practically parking over the Bahamas for a day and a half, Hurricane Dorian pounded away at the islands Tuesday in a watery onslaught that devastated thousands of homes, trapped people in attics and crippled hospitals. At least five deaths were reported, with the full extent of the damage far from clear.

The United Nations and the International Red Cross began mobilizing to deal with the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the wake of the most powerful hurricane on record ever to hit the Bahamas.

Dorian’s punishing winds and torrential rain battered the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, which have a combined population of about 70,000 and are known for their marinas, golf courses and all-inclusive resorts. The Grand Bahama airport was under 6 feet of water.

Bahamian officials received a “tremendous” number of calls from people in flooded homes, and desperate callers trying to find loved ones left messages with local radio stations.

One station said it got reports of a 5-month-old baby stranded on a roof and a woman with six grandchildren who cut a hole in a roof to escape rising floodwaters. At least two designated storm shelters flooded. The U.S. Coast Guard airlifted at least 21 people injured on Abaco. Rescuers also used jet skis to reach some people.

“We will confirm what the real situation is on the ground,” Health Minister Duane Sands said. “We are hoping and praying that the loss of life is limited.”

Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cochrane said more than 13,000 houses, or about 45% of the homes in Grand Bahama and Abaco, were believed to have been severely damaged or destroyed. U.N. officials said more than 60,000 people on the hard-hit islands will need food, and the Red Cross said some 62,000 will need clean drinking water.

The Red Cross authorized a half-million dollars for the first wave of disaster relief, Cochrane said.

“What we are hearing lends credence to the fact that this has been a catastrophic storm and a catastrophic impact,” he said.

As of 8 a.m. PDT, Dorian’s winds had dipped to 110 mph, making it a Category 2 hurricane, down from a terrifying Category 5 when it struck. The storm was centered about 45 miles north of Freeport and 105 miles east of Fort Pierce, Florida.

After standing still for nearly a day, it was on the move again, but just barely, pushing northwest at 2 mph (3 kph), or about as fast as a person walks. Hurricane-force winds extended up to 60 miles from its center.

NASA satellite imagery through Monday night showed spots in the Bahamas where Dorian had dumped as much as 35 inches of rain, said private meteorologist Ryan Maue.

The Bahamas’ health minister said that Dorian devastated the health infrastructure on Grand Bahama and that severe flooding rendered the main hospital there unusable.

Sands said the main hospital in Marsh Harbor in the Abaco islands was intact and sheltering 400 people but in need of food, water, medicine and surgical supplies. He said crews were trying to airlift five to seven kidney failure patients from Abaco who had not received dialysis since Friday.

To the south, the Bahamas’ most populous island, New Providence, which is the site of the capital, Nassau, and has over a quarter-million people, suffered little damage.

Dorian was on track to approach the Florida coast later Tuesday and begin moving up the shoreline, but the threat to the state eased significantly, with forecasters not expecting a direct hit after all. The forecast instead showed North Carolina in the crosshairs toward the end of the week.

As Labor Day weekend drew to a close, over 2 million people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina were warned to evacuate for fear Dorian could bring life-threatening storm-surge flooding even if the hurricane’s center stayed offshore, as forecast. Several large airports announced closings, and hundreds of flights were canceled.

Having seen storms swamp his home on the Georgia coast in 2016 and 2017, Joey Spalding of Tybee Island decided to empty his house rather than take any chances with Dorian.

He packed a U-Haul truck with tables, chairs, a chest of drawers, tools — virtually all of his furnishings except for his mattress and a large TV — and planned to park it on higher ground. He also planned to shroud his house in plastic wrap up to shoulder height and pile sandbags in front of the doors.

“In this case, I don’t have to come into a house full of junk,” he said. “I’m learning a little as I go.”

Leaving one person dead in its wake in Puerto Rico, Dorian hit the Bahamas on on Sunday with sustained winds of 185 mph (295 kph) and gusts up to 220 mph (355 kph).

It tied the record for the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever to hit land, matching the Labor Day hurricane that struck Florida Gulf Coast in 1935, before storms were given names.

Scientists say climate change generally has been fueling more powerful and wetter storms, though they say linking any specific hurricane to global warming would require more detailed study.

In the Bahamas, choppy brown floodwaters reached roofs and the tops of palm trees. Parliament member Iram Lewis said he feared waters would keep rising and stranded people would lose contact with officials as their cellphone batteries died.

“It is scary,” he said, adding that people were moving from one shelter to another as floodwaters kept surging. “We’re definitely in dire straits.”

Forecasters said that the storm had come to a near standstill because the steering currents in the atmosphere had collapsed, but that Dorian would resume moving later in the day, getting “dangerously close” to the Florida coast through Wednesday evening, very near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Wednesday night and Thursday, and near or over the North Carolina shoreline late Thursday.

Walt Disney World in Orlando planned to close in the afternoon, and SeaWorld shut down.

In South Carolina, Interstate 26 was turned into a one-way evacuation route away from Charleston on the coast, and Georgia officials likewise reversed lanes on I-16 on Tuesday to speed the flow of traffic away from the danger zone.

“We’re taking the ‘better safe than sorry’ attitude,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said.