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Alexis Besinaiz is the new director of operations for the Northern Arizona women's basketball team.


Local
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Flooding tame Wednesday in Flagstaff as rainwater mainly sticks to washes, drainages
  • Updated

Along with intense rainfall throughout the Flagstaff area, areas of the city experienced the first flooding in about five days Wednesday afternoon.

Residents of numerous neighborhoods across Flagstaff's easy side were put on notice by 1 p.m. for flash flooding and told either to shelter in place if inside or seek high ground if caught outdoors. A flash flood warning was announced for the entire Flagstaff area until 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday.

But flooding Wednesday appeared somewhat more tame than that of past incidents.

Water was pouring down the Spruce Wash toward the culvert at Linda Vista Drive, but instead of overwhelming the drainage and spilling into the streets, residents and city and county crews stood and watched as the water simply moved through the drainage and into the wash on the other side of the street.

That left streets such as Grandview Drive, which has seen swift-moving water several feet high during past flood events, untouched by water this time around.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Floodwater moves through the culvert underneath Linda Vista Drive Wednesday afternoon after a monsoon storm dropped rain over the Museum Fire burn area. City staff removed a debris screen from the culvert after several recent blockages led to floodwater leaving the wash and moving through neighboring streets.

Still, some areas of the Sunnyside neighborhood flooded as drainages and storm water infrastructure in that area was overwhelmed.

One of those overwhelmed drainages was at the elbow of North Rose Street, near a line of small town houses.

Outside the town houses nearest to the drainage stood Killip Elementary School teacher and recent Northern Arizona University graduate Kaitlyn Russo with her mother who is visiting from California.

Wednesday's flooding was the fourth time in just over a week that Russo said she has stood outside her house and watched water rush past. She and her fiancé just bought the house in May.

“We live here with our 1-year-old daughter. She's actually had a lot of fun with this because she got to play in mud and watch big tractors,” Russo said.

Indeed, the water appears not to have dampened Russo’s spirits either.

Between her home and the drainage sit several large concrete barriers and a number of sandbags. Even so, water has found a way past, flowing through Russo’s parking space and into the street. But Russo said the barriers seemed to be doing their job much better overall this time than past days.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun 

Residents of the Arroyo Seco Drive town houses watch floodwater flow through their street Wednesday afternoon after a monsoon storm over the Museum Fire burn area.

Russo said they did get some water inside the house on Tuesday of last week, when flooding started to show its ugly head in the city. That day, water seep into the living room, damaging about 2 inches of drywall along that side of the house.

And with her and her fiancé’s wedding just a few days away, they decided that while this may be their home, they should move some of the most important things out of the house.

Namely, Russo said, her wedding dress is now kept at her mother-in-law's house in Greenlaw.

The flooding came after a flash flood watch was issued for Coconino County and much of the rest of the state for the latter half of the week.

Although last week brought significant flooding to Flagstaff, a weather pattern of more scattered showers over the weekend and in the early section of this week largely missed the Museum Fire burn scar, giving residents a break from flooding.

The flooding has now impacted at least 91 pieces of public infrastructure, including drainages, storm water systems and streets.

City officials have estimated that so far the flooding has caused as much as $2.9 million in damage to public infrastructure. That includes the cost of labor and equipment as crews work to clear storm water infrastructure of debris after each flood.

On top of that there has been damage to private homes in the flooding areas.

Of 108 assessments that city and county staff have completed of private property, 45 have reported interior damage. Another 38 have reported exterior damage, while 25 have reported both interior and exterior damage.

The cost estimate to date of the damage to private property is $1.13 million.

If a home has been impacted on the interior by flooding, residents are asked to report the impacts by calling the Museum Flood Area Call Center at 928-679-8525.


Mount Elden and its lava flow lobes looming over Flagstaff. The San Francisco Peaks are in the distance (upper right).


National
AP
US life expectancy plummets in 2020
  • Updated

NEW YORK — U.S. life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020, the largest one-year decline since World War II, public health officials said Wednesday. The decrease for both Black Americans and Hispanic Americans was even worse: three years.

The drop spelled out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is due mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic, which health officials said is responsible for close to 74% of the overall life expectancy decline. More than 3.3 million Americans died last year, far more than any other year in U.S. history, with COVID-19 accounting for about 11% of those deaths.

Black life expectancy has not fallen so much in one year since the mid-1930s, during the Great Depression. Health officials have not tracked Hispanic life expectancy for nearly as long, but the 2020 decline was the largest recorded one-year drop.

The abrupt fall is "basically catastrophic," said Mark Hayward, a University of Texas sociology professor who studies changes in U.S. mortality.

Killers other than COVID-19 played a role. Drug overdoses pushed life expectancy down, particularly for whites. And rising homicides were a small but significant reason for the decline for Black Americans, said Elizabeth Arias, the report's lead author.

Other problems affected Black and Hispanic people, including lack of access to quality health care, more crowded living conditions, and a greater share of the population in lower-paying jobs that required them to keep working when the pandemic was at its worst, experts said.

Life expectancy is an estimate of the average number of years a baby born in a given year might expect to live. It's an important statistical snapshot of a country's health that can be influenced both by sustained trends such as obesity as well as more temporary threats like pandemics or war that might not endanger those newborns in their lifetimes.

For decades, U.S. life expectancy was on the upswing. But that trend stalled in 2015, for several years, before hitting 78 years, 10 months in 2019. Last year, the CDC said, it dropped to about 77 years, 4 months.

Other findings in the new CDC report:

  • Hispanic Americans have longer life expectancy than white or Black Americans, but had the largest decline in 2020. The three-year drop was the largest since the CDC started tracking Hispanic life expectancy 15 years ago.
  • Black life expectancy dropped nearly three years, to 71 years, 10 months. It has not been that low since 2000.
  • White life expectancy fell by roughly 14 months to about 77 years, 7 months. That was the lowest the lowest life expectancy for that population since 2002.
  • COVID-19's role varied by race and ethnicity. The coronavirus was responsible for 90% of the decline in life expectancy among Hispanics, 68% among white people and 59% among Black Americans.
  • Life expectancy fell nearly two years for men, but about one year for women, widening a longstanding gap. The CDC estimated life expectancy of 74 years, 6 months for boys vs. 80 years, 2 months for girls.

More than 80% of last year's COVID deaths were people 65 and older, CDC data shows. That actually diminished the pandemic's toll on life expectancy at birth, which is swayed more by deaths of younger adults and children than those among seniors.

That's why last year's decline was just half as much as the three-year drop between 1942 and 1943, when young soldiers were dying in World War II. And it was just a fraction of the drop between 1917 and 1918, when World War I and a Spanish flu pandemic devastated younger generations.

Life expectancy bounced back after those drops, and experts believe it will this time, too. But some said it could take years.

Too many people have already died from COVID-19 this year, while variants of the coronavirus are spreading among unvaccinated Americans — many of them younger adults, some experts said.

"We can't. In 2021, we can't get back to pre-pandemic" life expectancy, said Noreen Goldman, a Princeton University researcher.


Crime-and-courts
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Phoenix man sentenced 28 years for attempted Flagstaff jewelry heist
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A 42-year-old man found guilty of attempting to burglarize a Flagstaff jewelry store has been sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Police say Porter Deron Land, who is from Phoenix, traveled to Flagstaff in order to carry out an elaborate scheme to rob Jim Anderson Jewelers in 2014. It involved multiple getaway vehicles, hotel bookings and weapons.

But his plans were thwarted when store owner Mary DeLeon, who was held at gunpoint at the time, was able to grab a gun and fire it.

During the sentencing Tuesday at Coconino Superior Court, DeLeon made an emotional plea to the judge to give Land the maximum allowable sentence. It was Land’s actions, she said, that had taken a lasting toll on her mental health and led her to close her jewelry store.

“Most of my physical wounds have healed a long time ago, but I am afraid my mental wounds will never go away,” DeLeon said. “I sometimes think I will never be able to forgive Mr. Land for what he did to me, my family and my employees.”

DeLeon said she opened Jim Anderson Jewelers in 1972 with her mother and father, working hard to make the business successful. But after being robbed at gunpoint, she “had to close the jewelry store due to her paranoia.”

“I will never forget those memories. But I am going to try hard to forget Mr. Land,” she said. “Mr. Land made me retire way too soon, because I know I would still be working there.”

Coconino Superior Court Judge Cathleen Brown Nichols said she “could not ignore the aggravating factors” as she handed down the maximum sentence for each of Land’s six felony counts.

Land has a list of prior felony convictions dating back to 1998, including a past conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Police investigators say they have also linked Land to a string of heists targeting local pharmacies in Phoenix.

But it was DeLeon’s testimony throughout the trial that appeared to play a deciding role in the judge's ruling.

“I don’t sentence people to the maximum very often,” Nichols said, speaking directly to Land. “But I can’t ignore the aggravating factors the court found and the incredible, serious emotional, financial and physical harm caused to Ms. DeLeon.”

Nichols ruled that Land is able to serve his sentences concurrently, the longest of which carried 28 years in prison.

The maximum sentence comes after a jury found Land guilty on all charges in May -- which included counts of first-degree burglary, attempted armed robbery, armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and criminal damage.

Land’s aunt, Deloris Land, was present at the sentencing along with her two brothers to support their nephew. While she did not excuse Land’s crimes, she painted a picture of his “troubled past” at the sentencing and asked Nichols to “have mercy.”

“He did not have a lot of upbringing because of the loss of his dad. It still does not make any excuse for what has happened, but all we have to do is have mercy,” she said. “We wanted to let him know that he does have a family who loves him in spite of this.”

She hoped DeLeon “could find it in her heart” to forgive her nephew, she said.

Land’s attorney, Lindsay Smith, similarly asked Nichols to consider Land’s trauma suffered throughout his childhood and adulthood as mitigating factors

“If we look at [Land’s past], is anybody surprised?,” Smith asked. “When we don’t take care of our children and the state doesn’t get involved or pay attention until something like this happens, how can we be surprised?

“This isn’t to say that he isn’t responsible ... but context is important,” she added.

Prosecutor Ammon Barker pointed to Land’s history of previous convictions and the circumstances of the robbery, including an accomplice and the usage of a deadly weapon, as cause for a lengthier sentence.

“It wasn’t like he one day woke up and decided to rob a jewelry store. He has been doing this. It has been, or had been, his occupation,” Barker said.

Land’s co-defendant, DeQuint Blunt, is awaiting a trial to determine whether he is guilty of similar charges connected to the incident. His trial is scheduled to take place next week.

Police say one of the two men, believed to have been Blunt, entered the jewelry store  the day of the attempted robbery around 11:15 a.m. claiming to be interested in shopping for a wedding ring. As DeLeon led the man around the store, she got the sense that something was wrong.

Her concerns grew as the man asked her if anybody else was in the store, according to a police report. DeLeon lied and said there was another jeweler in the back as the man subsequently made his way toward a set of jewelry cases near the back of the store.

It was at this moment that the robbery appears to have taken a violent turn, as the man pointed a gun at DeLeon and demanded information about the store’s safe.

Smith acknowledged on Tuesday that it was Blunt who had pointed the gun.

After a short scuffle, evidence suggests DeLeon eventually found an opportunity to trigger a silent alarm as she accessed a gun hidden in the store. She fired a shot in the direction of the man, intentionally missing.

Startled, the gunman threw himself through a window to escape.

Land was ordered to pay a restitution of just over $400 to DeLeon for the cost of replacing the window.

Throughout the case, witnesses ran into difficulty identifying the suspects on the day of the robbery. But DeLeon was able to identify that it was Land who had come into her store the day prior and police matched Land’s DNA to evidence recovered from the scene.

Police said Land might have been attempting to case the store before returning the next day.


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