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Memorial Day travel to increase this year

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Even though regular gasoline is running at close to $4 per gallon, the Automobile Club of Southern California is projecting a new all-time record number of local Memorial Day travelers for the second year in a row, asserting that 3.35 million Southern California residents will travel at least 50 miles to mark Memorial Day — a 4.3 percent increase over last year on the eighth consecutive year that travel for this holiday has increased.

Among Southern California travelers, 2.78 million — or 83 percent of all travelers — are expected to travel by car, a 4.1 percent increase from last year, the AAA said in a statement. Another 340,000 residents are expected to go by plane, which is a 5.3 percent increase over the 2018 holiday. And about 227,000 local travelers will take a cruise, bus, train, or other mode of trip this weekend — a 6 percent increase from last year.

Statewide, about 4.5 million travelers are expected to go by car, a 4.1 percent increase from 2018. About 550,000 statewide are projected to fly, a 5.3 percent increase from last year, and 368,000 will go by other means, a 6 percent increase from 2018.

The Auto Club defines a holiday trip as one at least 50 miles away from home, and the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27.

“Southern California gas prices are at their highest levels in three years, but consumer confidence and economic growth leading into this holiday are still positive, prompting more people to plan trips,” said Jeffrey Spring, Auto Club spokesperson. “And the good news for holiday travelers is that gas prices are dropping, and most drivers should be able to find prices of $3.75 a gallon or lower for regular unleaded by using virtual shopping tools such as the free AAA Mobile app.”

Nationally, 42.8 million Americans are expected to take Memorial Day weekend trips — a 3.6 percent increase over last year. Car travel is expected to rise by 3.5 percent to 37.6 million, while air travel is expected to rise 4.8 percent this year to 3.25 million, and other modes of travel will increase by 3.8 percent to 1.9 million.

Anaheim will be the fifth most popular destination for Americans this holiday, according to advance bookings from AAA Travel. The top destinations nationally in order are Orlando, New York, Las Vegas, Honolulu and Anaheim.

Locally, the top five Memorial Day destinations for Southern California travelers, according to a survey of AAA Travel agents, are Las Vegas, San Diego, Grand Canyon, San Francisco and Anaheim.

This year’s holiday weekend travelers are paying slightly lower hotel rates on average ($183 a night on average for AAA Three Diamond hotels) compared to last year’s holiday, while airfares are holding steady at about $171 on average and car rental rates are about 7 percent lower than in 2018 at $55 per day on average, according to the AAA Leisure Travel Index.

In partnership with the traffic forecasting firm INRIX, AAA is projecting that the worst time to leave for the long weekend in the Los Angeles metropolitan area will be during the afternoon and evening hours on Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24. The most impacted freeway segment is expected to be southbound Interstate 5 between Burbank and just past Interstate 605, where travel times are expected to nearly double during the pre-holiday rush. Other outbound freeway routes are also expected to see increased traffic.

AAA expects to rescue more than 353,000 motorists at the roadside this Memorial Day weekend. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts will be the leading reasons AAA members will experience car trouble. AAA strongly recommends visiting a trusted mechanic before a long road trip to check fluid levels, belts and hoses and tires.

The Auto Club reminded drivers this holiday weekend not to drink or operate electronic devices while driving.

Armed intruder seen on security video inside school in Pasadena

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PASADENA (CNS) – An armed intruder broke into a school in Pasadena and spent about 15 minutes on campus before leaving when an alarm sounded, it was reported today.

The suspect broke into the school by picking the lock of a girls’ restroom with a knife or other tool about 6 a.m. Thursday, according to an email from Jennifer Ramirez, Principal of St. Phillip the Apostle School, that was obtained by ABC7.

An alarm sounded after the intruder spent about 15 minutes roaming the campus, and the suspect fled but left a large kitchen knife in the restroom that was later found by children, the e-mail said.

Pasadena police said it is too early in the investigation to release the security video of the incident or a description of the suspect.

In the email, Ramirez said students were never in danger.

A second email from Ramirez stated the suspect was not hiding in the girl’s bathroom and no students or staff were on campus at the time of the incident.

Amgen Tour of California to close roads in Pasadena and Santa Clarita this weekend

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California’s largest multi-stage bicycling event returned to Southern California this week, with the Amgen Tour of California making its way from Ontario to Mount Baldy Friday, and from Santa Clarita to Pasadena the next day. Angelenos will likely face road closures on Saturday, as bicyclists make the 78-mile journey on Saturday.

“Residents planning to travel on race day are advised to plan ahead by reviewing the closures,” Santa Clarita officials said in a news release earlier this month.

The following Santa Clarita streets will be closed on May 18:

Closed from 8 to 11:30 a.m.

  • Northbound McBean Parkway, from Valencia Boulevard to Copper Hill Drive
  • Eastbound Copper Hill Drive, from McBean Parkway to Seco Canyon Road

Closed from 8:30 a.m. to noon

  • East and westbound Copper Hill Drive, from Seco Canyon Road to David Way
  • North and southbound Bouquet Canyon Road, from Plum Canyon Road to Vasquez Canyon Road

Closed from 8:50 a.m. to noon

  • East and westbound Vasquez Canyon Road, from Bouquet Canyon Road to Sierra Highway
  • North and southbound Sierra Highway, from Vasquez Canyon Road and Sand Canyon Road

Closed from 9 a.m. to noon

  • North and southbound Sand Canyon Road, from Sierra highway to Soledad Canyon Road
  • Eastbound Soledad Canyon Road, from Sand Canyon Road to Mammoth Lane

Following their course through Santa Clarita, bicyclists will make their way through the communities of Forest Park, Ravenna and Acton before cutting through the Angeles National Forest and emerging in La Canada-Flintridge and arriving in Pasadena. These closures will affect Pasadena:

Closed from 11:30 am to 1:45 pm

  • Area North of the 210 Fwy, East of Hahamongna, West of Lincoln
  • Area South of the 210 fwy, East of Rosemont, West of Lincoln, and North of Orange Grove
  • Brookside Park/Lot I Users (Parkland south of the Rose Bowl)
  • Area South of the 210 fwy, West of the Rose Bowl/Linda Vista and North of the 134 fwy

Additionally, West Drive between Salvia Canyon and Seco Street will be closed starting at 8 p.m. on Friday, through 9 p.m. Saturday.

Santa Clarita and Pasadena both released guides to the closures, but Pasadena officials recommended that drivers take Lincoln Avenue to the East, Linda Vista to the West, Woodbury or the 210 freeway to the North, and Colorado or the 134 Freeway to the South. Residents and visitors alike are also encouraged to take public transit.

Anaheim aims to have near 60 percent electric bus fleet by 2020

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Ambitious zero-emissions goals are nothing new in Southern California, but one of the region’s largest bus systems announced Wednesday their goal of achieving a 57 percent zero-emission bus fleet by 2020.

The Anaheim Transportation Network, used by more than 9.5 million residents, visitors and employees each year, plans to buy 40 battery-electric buses from Chinese automaker BYD. The buses will range in size from the 30-foot BYD K7M to the articulated 60-foot K11M.

“We’ve been operating four of BYD’s 40-foot K9Ms on our routes over the past two years,” Anaheim Transportation Network Executive Director Diana Kotler said. “We are confident in BYD’s quality product and their support of our efforts to electrify our fleet.”

The Anaheim Transportation Network was created to develop and operate the Anaheim Resort Transit (ART) for the Anaheim Resort District, as well as surrounding areas. The Anaheim Transportation Network was one of 28 California projects selected in 2018 to receive a grant from the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), which provides awards from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to help finance transformative, reduction-of-emission capital improvements.

In addition to grants from TIRCP, funding for the new buses will come from HVIP vouchers from Sacramento, and money from the City of Norwalk.

Four described as gang members arrested for alleged witness intimidation

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SAN GABRIEL (CNS) – Four people were in custody today after being arrested for alleged witness intimidation in a case involving a San Gabriel Valley street gang, police said today.

One suspect, identified as Anthony “Knuckles” Pelliccino, 29 allegedly scrawled gang graffiti at a San Gabriel car wash and was arrested after the vandalism was reported by a witness, according to San Gabriel Police Department spokesman Jonathan Fu.

“Days later, Pelliccino approached the witness and threatened the individual by claiming the area belonged to the Sangra gang and that the gang was going to resolve the matter,” Fu said.

Pelliccino was arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation and while in jail, allegedly hatched a plan with 31-year-old Jennifer Duran of San Gabriel to solicit two other suspected Sangra gang members — 30-year-old Franklin “Machete” Orellana of Alhambra and 39-year-old Sergio “Yogi” Diaz of San Gabriel — to dissuade the witness from testifying, Fu said.

San Gabriel detectives learned of the alleged conspiracy and, working with prosecutors from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, were able to obtain arrest warrants for Duran, Orellana and Diaz, Fu said.

Duran and Diaz were being held in lieu of $1 million bail while Pelliccino and Orellana were being held in lieu of $200,000, Fu said.

“We take the safety of our community seriously,” said San Gabriel Police Department Police Chief Gene Harris. “The department will make every attempt to protect community members, businesses and those reporting criminal activity.

“We will be relentless in our pursuit of mitigating crime in San Gabriel. This case exemplifies the great working relationship the San Gabriel Police Department has with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.”

Pedestrian bridge demolition underway at LAX

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Construction crews at Los Angeles International Airport today began demolishing the pedestrian bridge connecting Terminal 6 to Parking Structure 6.

Today’s construction work was set for 2 to 3:30 a.m., but airport officials announced about 3:30 a.m. work on the project would be extended until 4:30 a.m.

“Guests coming to LAX this morning are advised to allow additional time to reach their terminals,” LAX tweeted this morning.

Vehicles on the Upper/Departures Level will be detoured through Parking Structure 4 to the Lower/Arrivals Level. All vehicles will then use Center Way to exit the airport.

The demolition work was also scheduled between 2 to 3:30 a.m. on Friday morning, requiring another closure of the airport loop road.

The project, which will begin a new phase of the multibillion-dollar transformation of LAX, will necessitate a full closure of World Way South on both levels during the early morning hours.

The bridge must be demolished so construction can begin on a new terminal core, which will contain the elevators and escalators needed to reach the walkway to a planned Automated People Mover.

Deborah Flint, CEO of Los Angeles World Airports, said: “The overnight removal of a main pedestrian bridge is a milestone in our LAX transformation that takes us one step closer to realizing the vision of a world-class airport in Los Angeles. Engineering a demolition of this magnitude while still keeping the airport open for business demonstrates our team’s commitment to innovative construction approaches that maintain the highest levels of safety and minimize the impact on our guests.”

Additional closures will be associated with the construction, and more information is available at www.flyLAX.com.

Late comedian Tim Conway remembered by horse-racing world

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Comedian and horse-racing fan Tim Conway died Tuesday at 85 after a long illness. Although widely known for his long career in Hollywood, San Gabriel Valley locals may also remember Conway as an icon at Santa Anita Racetrack, in Arcadia.

“He was as classy a gentleman as he was funny,” Hall of Fame jockey and Santa Anita legend Chris McCarron said Tuesday. “He was generous with heart, spirit, generous with his time and he was just a class act through and through. He could not have been more generous, especially with his time.”

His long comedic career notwithstanding, Conway’s original life goal was to become a jockey. However, weight prohibited him from following that dream. Still, he maintained lifelong relationships with jockeys across the country, even performing a comedic sketch during the 1987 Breeders’ Cup telecast on NBC from Hollywood Park.

Conway was more than an ordinary funnyman, though. He and his wife Charlene were tireless in their efforts to raise money for disabled riders through the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, which was co-founded with McCarron. The fund has assisted more than 2,000 jockeys over a 25-year run.

During his entertainment career, Conway won six Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe trophy, along with wide acclaim for playing the character of a hapless jockey named Lyle Dorf in appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

“He was a wonderful human being and I feel a terrible sense of loss for Charlene and all the kids,” McCarron said.

Driver crashes into building in Norwalk and is hospitalized

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NORWALK (CNS) – The driver of a vehicle that crashed into a dental office in Norwalk was hospitalized this morning.

The crash occurred about 2 a.m. on Studebaker Road, at the end of the Century (105) Freeway, according to Deputy Tony Moore of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The driver was taken to a hospital with minor injuries, Moore said.

It was unclear if alcohol or drugs were factors in the crash.

The cause of the crash was under investigation.

Angelenos should expect rainy commute, National Weather Service says

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Widespread rainfall is expected late tonight or after midnight, and there’s a slight chance of thunderstorms Thursday morning accompanied by brief and heavy downpours and possibly small hail, forecasters said today.

Between a quarter-inch and three quarters of an inch is expected along the coast and in the valleys, and an inch is expected in the mountains, according to the National Weather Service.

The snow level in the San Gabriel mountains will drop to 6,000 feet, the NWS said, adding winter driving conditions — meaning highly challenging — will prevail in the mountains.

The weather service said rain is likely after midnight tonight, followed by rain and a slight chance of thunderstorms Thursday morning, showers in the afternoon and the evening, and sunny conditions Friday. Many rainfall records may be set tomorrow, according to the NWS, and the morning commute could be rough.

Also expected are stiff winds — around 15 miles per hour today and tonight in Los Angeles, and up to 40 mph Thursday in the San Gabriels.

The NWS forecast mostly cloudy skies today and highs of 58 degrees on Mount Wilson; 65 in Avalon; 68 at LAX; 70 in Long Beach; 72 in Saugus, Burbank and Downtown L.A.; 73 in Pasadena, San Gabriel and Burbank; 74 in Woodland Hills; and 75 in Palmdale and Lancaster. Thursday’s highs will be a few degrees lower — up to 12 degrees in Lancaster — but under rain this time.

Partly cloudy skies are forecast in Orange County, along with highs of 58 on Santiago Peak; 64 on Ortega Highway at 2,600 feet and in San Clemente; 66 in Newport Beach; 67 in Laguna Beach; 70 in Fremont Canyon and Trabuco Canyon; 71 in Yorba Linda and Mission Viejo; 72 in Anaheim and Irvine; and 73 in Fullerton. Showers and lower temperatures are forecast Thursday.

School shooting threat leads to overhaul of Los Angeles gun storage laws

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Firearm ownership in Los Angeles could soon be even more tightly restricted. Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian proposed Tuesday a plan to expand the city’s safe storage ordinance to include all firearms, not just handguns.

Currently, rifles and other long guns are not subject to any storage requirements. Handguns, on the other hand, must be safely stored in a locked container or disabled with a trigger lock.

Krekorian said at a news conference last month the ordinance was for an update after a Pacoima father was caught keeping unsecured weapons. Two handguns and a rifle were recovered from Albert Sanchez’ home last November, after his ninth grade son, a student at Cesar Chavez Academy in San Fernando, threatened to bring a gun to school and shoot a classmate.

Sanchez faces up to one year in jail and $2,000 in fines if convicted for the unsecured handguns, but Krekorian said the City Attorney was unable to press charges for the unsecured rifle because the city’s ordinance is specific to handguns.

“We need to do everything in our power to raise awareness about the law requiring gun owners to safely store firearms in their home,” Krekorian said at the news conference. “We must also ensure that the law applies to all firearms so that our city and law enforcement partners have the tools they need to hold gun owners accountable and stop these types of incidents that could cause irreversible tragedy.”

Krekorian isn’t the only one reacting to the Sanchez case. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board Member Scott Schmerleson also unveiled the district’s response, which involves informing parents of their legal obligation to safely store firearms, and have parents acknowledge they understand their responsibilities.

“If we can save even one child from injury or death, our efforts will be well worth the commitment we are making today,” Schmerleson said.