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Stories by William Howell

Better joint for imprisoned women

Las Colinas facility is near completion

After years of critical reports by the San Diego County Grand Jury about the condition of the San Diego sheriff's Las Colinas Detention Facility, and following legal battles with the City of Santee about placing ...

Guy in the sky: Drought no joke

Local reservoirs indicate water shortages

Flying over San Diego County's various reservoirs on the morning of February 14 at about 1500' above each, it's easy to see that the water levels are not where they should be at this time ...

International Space Station flying over San Diego tonight

Oh, at about 17,500 miles per hour

The International Space Station will overfly San Diego this evening, October 8, at 6:59 p.m. The station will appear as bright as Venus. It is approximately 220 miles above the Earth and traveling at 17,500 ...

Fire fought on hill in Santee

Four planes drop retardant, contain fire

At about 10:15 a.m. on Sunday, October 6, wisps of smoke were seen from the foothills just north of El Nopal Avenue on the border of Santee and Lakeside. Immediately, up to four S-2 CDF ...

Guy in the Sky: Spots SR-52 grass fire

Gillespie Field runway obscured

I had just taken off from Montgomery Field with my friend in his Cessna 172 at 4:30pm on Sunday, June 16, and we turned to fly eastbound. Smoke was clearly visible just beginning to rise ...

How the Imperial Valley solar panel land looks from the air

Already disturbed, low productivity

My friend Richard Bailey, grandson of Julian's founder Drury Bailey, brought my attention to a construction project west of Calexico which sounded amazing. With my photographer Pam Wilmers, we struck out on Wednesday, April 3, ...

Coyote explores Gillespie Field

Flights delayed 20 minutes

At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 12, the normal traffic pattern at Gillespie Field was interrupted when a coyote decided to take a tour of the field. Six aircraft were ordered by the control tower ...

International Space Station to soar across San Diego skies

Resupply vessel to be nearby

On Friday, March 1, at 6:20 pm, the International Space Station and the Dragon unmanned resupply ship will be visible for three minutes, flying "in formation" over the San Diego skies. Both ships will be ...

Marine aircraft conduct training exercise at Gillespie Field

Two V-22 Ospreys delay our guy in the sky

I was sitting in the engine warm-up area at the end of Gillespie Field's runway 27R at 10 a.m. on February 26, getting ready for takeoff on a flight to Camarillo. Four other planes were ...

Aerial view of Julian’s snowfall, February 22

Winter wonder mesmerizes our guy in the sky

Plenty of snow in downtown Julian this morning. I flew over at 9 a.m. in a light plane at 8000 feet above sea level, about 2000 feet above the ground, and was mesmerized by the ...

Cold morning over Corte Madera Dam

Snowbird’s eye view

Flying eastbound along Interstate 8 this Saturday morning of January 12, I could not help but notice the beauty of our East County with a light dusting of snow. It has been so cold (in ...

Windmills of Change in Ocotillo

Many readers have probably driven out to SR-2 just north of Ocotillo and taken Dos Cabezas Road to its western terminus in order to hike Goat Canyon and see the wood railroad trestles and tunnels ...

Early Easter in Santee?

One of the foothills at the north end of Santee seems to be sprouting large Easter eggs. Just off the road and up the hill from the 10000 block of Healy Way, five large boulders ...

Aerial View of Shockey Fire Aftermath

The 2800-acre Shockey Fire, which started on Sunday afternoon, September 23, destroyed 25 buildings and took one life. The devastation is heartbreaking. The neighborhood of Tierra del Sol in Boulevard was hardest hit, with up ...

Restraining Order Non-Starter, Ocotillo Windmill Project to Continue

U.S. District Court judge William Hayes dismissed a request for a restraining order against the Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Project late last week. He found that the plaintiffs, CARES (Community Advocates for Renewable Energy Stewardship) ...

More Desert Damage from Ocotillo Wind Energy Project?

On September 6, this photo was taken by Pam Wilmers in a private aircraft 5000 feet above a chain of sites carved into BLM land at the west end of Ocotillo Valley as part of ...

Wind Project’s Heavy Equipment Damages Desert

On August 28, Parke Ewing, an Ocotillo resident, took photos of heavy equipment being operated by Pattern Energy employees who are building the Ocotillo Wind Express Energy Project. The machinery is plowing over and crushing ...

Ocotillo Wind Energy Project Advances

On Thursday morning, August 23, Parke Ewing, a resident of Ocotillo, took this photo of the erection of the first of 112 towers for the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility Project. Heavy equipment, such as a ...

First Tower Arrives for Ocotillo Wind Energy Project

On August 16 at 8 a.m., the first of 111 towers for the Ocotillo Wind Energy Project arrived via trucks passing through the small community of Ocotillo. Traffic was halted as the trucks had to ...

Pilot of Home-Built Airplane Makes Landing on SR-67

At 10:30 a.m. on July 21, a 79-year-old pilot from Gillespie Field, in his home-built airplane, experienced an engine problem. He realized that he was not going to make it back to Gillespie Field so ...

Wind-Turbine Project Creating Flooding Problems?

I flew over Ocotillo on July 17 to check out reports that recent construction roads and footings for the planned 100-plus wind-turbine towers had adversely affected the natural drainage for the village. Last Thursday, July ...

Windmill Project Begins, Opponents Don’t Stop

Photo taken over Ocotillo at 9 a.m. on June 29. Construction has begun on over 100 turbine towers, each over 400 feet tall, on Bureau of Land Management land between the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park ...

Wildfire South of Boulevard

At 1 p.m. on June 27, one mile south of the border, near Tierra del Sol, a fire broke out and was being blown toward the U.S. side of the border by winds pushing it ...

Fire in the Backcountry

About 1.5 miles south of the border near Tierra del Sol, at 5 p.m. on May 15, a wildfire ignited and began burning eastbound. Cal Fire monitored the situation and was ready to move in, ...

Group Gathers in Desert to Address Windmill Problems

Eighteen concerned citizens gathered on Saturday, February 25, in the desert three miles east of Ocotillo; they expressed their concerns about a proposed windmill farm on Bureau of Land Management range surrounding their town. The ...

International Space Station to Be Clocked at 17,500 MPH

A special guest will be arriving at 8:43 on July 4 to help San Diegans celebrate the holiday. The International Space Station will make a fly-over in an orbit almost 200 miles above the Earth ...

Brush Fire Snuffed Near San Vicente Reservoir

As I was flying at 4000 feet from Hemet to Gillespie Field at 11:30 a.m. on May 26, I spotted a column of smoke from the San Vicente Reservoir area. This was not good news, ...

Hugo Otto Marcks Memorial to Remain in Lakeside

In 1938, a monument in front of Lakeside Grammar School on Woodside Avenue was dedicated to the memory of Hugo “Otto” Marcks. Marcks was a longtime resident of Lakeside and operated one of the only ...

Top View of Imperial Valley Geothermal Plant

I flew over the Hudson Ranch geothermal project (just southeast of the shore of the Salton Sea) on April 23. Richard Bailey, grandson of the founder of Julian, took this photo at 800 feet above ...

Lake Cuyamaca After the Snow

A photo of Lake Cuyamaca, taken February 28 from a private aircraft at 1500 feet.

View of Waterfall That Feeds El Capitan Reservoir

Snow covered East County on Saturday night, February 26. At 8:30 on Sunday morning, there was a light dusting of snow beginning at El Cajon Mountain and Ramona and continuing through the Cuyamaca Mountain range ...

Water for El Capitan Reservoir

The pictured waterfall is runoff from recent rains feeding the El Capitan Reservoir. It is located two miles north of the reservoir, between Santa Ysabel and Lakeside. The photo was taken from a private aircraft ...

Delta II Rocket Soars by San Diego

A Delta II rocket carried the Thales Alenia Space-Italia COSMO-SkyMed Satellite southbound over the Pacific, past San Diego, at 7:20 p.m. on November 5. The rocket, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base (north of Santa ...

Gillespie, I Have to Return

I had just finished the engine run-up and instrument check in a Cessna 172 and pulled up to the hold line for Gillespie Field's runway 27R at about 10:30 this morning, June 2. I switched ...

Weak Fitty

At noon on September 17, a customer attempted to purchase two packages of cigarettes at the Circle K store on Mast Boulevard. The customer's 50-dollar bill was tested for counterfeit three different ways by the ...

Snuffed in a Jiff

An incredible example of the sheriffs’ firefighting capability took place Friday afternoon, August 21, when a lightning strike ignited a wildfire on the hill just north of Magnolia Avenue. Within minutes after the fire was ...

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