Anna King

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.

The South Sound was her girlhood backyard and she knows its rocky beaches, mountain trails and cities well. She left the west side to attend Washington State University and went abroad to study language and culture in Italy.

While not on the job, Anna enjoys trail running, clam digging, hiking and wine tasting with friends. She's most at peace on top a Northwest mountain with her husband Andy Plymale and their muddy Aussie-dog Poa.

In 2016 Washington State University named Anna Woman of the Year, and the Society of Professional Journalists Western Washington Pro Chapter named her Journalist of the Year. Her many journalism awards include two Gracies, a Sigma Delta Chi medal and the David Douglas Award from the Washington State Historical Society.

The U.S. House voted 232 to 197 Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time.

A central Washington sheriff’s deputy has died of COVID-19,  according to the Grant County Coroner's office. 

Jon Melvin, 60, was found Dec. 11, 2020, in bed at his home in Desert Aire, in southwestern Grant County. Fellow deputies were checking on his welfare after family members were unable to reach him.

“He had pneumonia due to COVID-19,” Jerry Jasman, chief investigator with the Grant County Coroner's office, said Monday.

The first time it happened, it was a squeezing feeling. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My heart raced. At the hospital, I got an EKG and took a blood test. It wasn’t a heart attack. Just felt like one. Then, it happened again. And again. 

At the Hanford site in southeastern Washington, along the Columbia River, stew millions of gallons of radioactive sludge cradled in aging underground tanks. Nearly 2,000 capsules filled with cesium and strontium rest unquietly in an old, glowing-blue pool of water. Two more reactors along the Columbia still need to be sealed up and cocooned.

Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea says that this year, the “capital of Christmas” isn't doing any of the usual characters, festivals, open fire pits or even the famous tree lighting

“The only thing left that basically says we’re a Christmas town is that the trees in our park are still lit up with lights,” he says. 

Debbie Roberts wishes her step-brother had just slid away from his advanced Parkinson’s disease.

He died November 29, just one person among many who died in an outbreak of COVID-19 at North Valley Extended Care in the Okanogan County town of Tonasket — population about 1,000. So far, at least 16 people at the facility have died since Thanksgiving.

Lauri Jones has been working in public health in Washington’s Okanogan County for 17 years.

But after repeated threats to her safety, she recently got a new security system for her home.

“I still find myself sometimes looking over my shoulder,” Jones says. “Especially if I walk out of the building and it’s getting obviously dark earlier.”

She’s not leaving her post as the community health director. But her colleague Dr. John McCarthy is in December. He says the workload has become too heavy.

In the weeks leading up to the election, residents in five smaller areas around eastern Washington and Oregon spoke about how they were feeling.

Now, as people are awaiting results, I checked in with a few.

Anxious raking

Since Tuesday, Cynthia Hurlbutt has raked about an acre of walnut leaves on her property near Walla Walla, Washington.

The Columbia River isn’t ready when cold snaps suddenly.

The water body that defines and geographically splits Washington and Oregon throws up billows of milky steam.

As I drive south from the Tri-Cities toward Oregon, there’s fog so thick I can hardly see ahead of me. My heart pounds for a few moments wondering what’s just ahead. Then, I break clear again, and the sunrise roars through in bright red and gold.  

Ardel McPhail says it’s foggy now most mornings on her family’s cranberry bogs just north of IIwaco, Washington, near the Pacific Coast. 

She and her husband own the largest bogs in Washington —  more than 100 acres. 

Washington grows about 148,000 100-pound barrels of cranberries and Oregon grows about 558,000 barrels each year. 

Dusty pumpkins slap between rough hands as workers throw them into a tractor’s trailer. 

It’s a rhythmic, full sound, like a child testing a drum. 

This third-generation farm supplies more than 600,000 pumpkins to Walmarts, Wincos, Yokes and Home Depots in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. But here in southeast Washington near the Tri-Cities, the farm’s future is at stake.

There’s a fight over a proposed reservoir that pits these third-generation pumpkin farmers against thousands of potential water users.  

Correction, Sept. 18, 2020: A word to describe the amount of apples brought by Gov. Jay Inslee has been changed in this story to better reflect the amount of apples. The word "box" is now used instead of "bin." A "bin" of apples is a more technical industry term that is much larger than the actual number of apples in question.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s well-intentioned gesture of western Washington apples sent a detective hunting down the fruit in three counties this week.

With at least two dozen Oregon dairies threatened by raging wildfires, farmers are grappling with the delicate task of moving them to safer ground — or staying put.  

Willamette Valley dairyman Brandon Hazenberg of St. Paul, Oregon, has been hauling feed and bedding, and offering up his dairy as a landing pad for those in need. 

The federal government has designated the Royal Slope as Washington state’s newest American Viticultural Area, or AVA.

To qualify as an AVA, a wine grape-growing region must set itself apart with climate, soil, elevation and physical features. A new one doesn’t come around very often.

A lot of freshly harvested wheat bound for Portland, Oregon, could stack up on the Columbia River system soon because an old guy wire has snapped on the Snake River’s Lower Monumental Dam.  

Many Northwest wine tastings for groups are done over Zoom nowadays. 

Here at Fidélitas in southeast Washington, winemaker and owner Charlie Hoppes explains some of his favorite flavors in a video for wine club members with his son: 

“We always seem to get that little bit of dustiness in this wine, that we talk about from Red Mountain,” Hoppes says.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story below includes a description and image of dead cattle that some people may find disturbing

Two more cattle have been mysteriously killed in rural eastern Oregon. 

A black-coated cow was found dead in July outside of Fossil, found sitting with her legs tucked under her body with her head off the ground. Pictures show her eyes bulging out with flies around the body. The cow’s tongue and genitals were removed. 

NOTE: Anna King is based in Washington’s Tri-Cities. On Wednesday morning, June 3, she felt fine. Then, fever came on like a train — 104 degrees. She feared she had COVID-19. Early that Saturday, she headed to the emergency room. Here’s part of Anna’s seven-week diary. Listen to it above.

Body aches, nausea. Things are a blur. It’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to think. 

When Marcus Aaron Luke runs fast, everything feels slow. 

“You feel every small step,” he says. “You feel every small detail.”

But in the pandemic year of 2020, he’s missed a lot of important details of his last year of high school.

Luke was a leader on his varsity track team, and also as a senior at Pendleton High School in northeastern Oregon. He missed his much-anticipated senior track season. Now bigger and stronger, he was ready to push his times down even more. 

He’s missed more than two months of classes.  

Just as a farmer’s fruit should be turning juicy and sweet, an old foe called “little cherry disease” robs the harvest. 

From The Dalles, Oregon to Brewster, Washington, Northwest cherry growers are checking their orchards now, just before harvest. Infected trees have to be cut down. And the disease can spread like wildfire from tree to tree until an entire orchard is just stumps. 

Small, pale, bland and bitter

Mother’s Day at Palouse Falls State Park in southeastern Washington looked like a scene out of the movie Mad Max

Massive RVs sped down the gravel washboard of Palouse Falls Road. They kicked up drifts of dust. In all, Palouse Falls, with its modest parking lot and viewing area saw hundreds and hundreds of visitors last Saturday and Sunday. 

With spring warming up, Northwest asparagus spears have started to breach the sandy earth at a swift clip.

For the last decade, the Northwest asparagus industry has been challenged by lower-cost imports, labor shortages and increased farming costs. But this year, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the foreign asparagus supply,  increasing sales for the Northwest’s crop. 

It really frustrates Mark Anderson when he sends a truck to a Northwest port hauling a container of alfalfa or timothy hay and the truck rolls back without an empty shipping container to refill.

Anderson’s hay feeds everything from bunnies to camels to top race horses in 30 different countries.

He puts his compressed hay in containers to protect it. Once at port, the containers are loaded on and off container ships like large blocks of colorful legos. 

Updated April 30, 2020, 10:40 p.m. PT:

Blaine Vandehey spends his summers rappelling from helicopters into active wildfires. 

This is his 12th year in the U.S. Forest Service. And he’s worried about going to fire camp this summer with the menace of COVID-19.

Cattle brandings in the Northwest are usually dusty group affairs. 

Cowboys yell and call to each other. Horses work into a hot lather, helping their riders chase and rope the calves. Nervous mother cows bawl to try and find their babes. A smoky fire heats the irons. Children clad in Carhartt coats and cowboy hats watch from nearby pickups. You have to stay alert to not be trampled by horses or cloven hooves.

In recent weeks, Armand Minthorn led two traditional Washut religious services for elders at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation longhouse. Washut is the traditional religion of many Northwest Native Americans.

But now, everything is different.

“We’re all in a sense warriors,” Minthorn says. “We’re at war. There’s people — sad to say — there’s people dying all around us.”

The coronavirus pandemic continues to make its presence known in all facets of daily life, including agriculture. That extends to some supply and demand economics lessons for Northwest apple and potato growers.

Potato Cuts  

Some of the largest potato processors in the world are dramatically cutting back their contracted acres with farmers this spring. 

That’s largely because the global pandemic has closed restaurants, and therefore demand for frozen french fries. 

It’s springtime in the Northwest: birds sing, emerald shoots are pushing up from the earth and the irrigation sprinklers tick, tick like clocks — same as always. 

But so much else has changed. 

Still, spring work starts up, ready or not. And Northwest growers are scrambling to figure out how to work around the global coronavirus pandemic and still bring in the coming harvest. 

Farmers wonder: Can they get it done safely?

First Up: Asparagus

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