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.

Much of the Northwest’s high country is still deep in good snowpack but short on rain this spring. That has dryland wheat farmers and cattle ranchers fretting. Cold, wind and dust are even wreaking havoc with produce farmers in the region.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are opening a two-day mass vaccination event to any resident age 16 and above who resides in the 11 counties that span the tribes’ ceded territory. The offer is open to anyone, not just tribal members. 

The 11 counties include: Benton, Walla Walla, Columbia and Garfield counties in Washington and Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Grant, Baker and Malheur counties in Oregon. 

Washington apple growers are shipping about 20 percent less fruit abroad now compared with this time last year.

The result is a drop to export levels not seen since 2003-2004, according to Washington Apple Commission president Todd Fryhover.  

Updated April 1, 2021, 5:50 p.m. PT:

Washington rancher Cody Easterday pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal district court to defrauding Tyson Foods Inc. and another company out of more than $244 million. Easterday admitted charging the companies for the costs of purchasing and feeding hundreds of thousands of fictitious cattle.

What’s the background on all this Easterday – Tyson “Cattlegate” stuff? See previous coverage from Anna King here.

The Northwest farmers who grow potatoes for your French fries are themselves plenty fried.

The three massive agribusiness companies that make much of the world’s frozen fries, tots and hashbrowns are going to pay Northwest potato farmers less this year. 

“It really is a punch in the gut,” says Adam Weber, a 27-year-old, third-generation grower in Quincy in Washington’s Columbia Basin.

Cattle rustling is as old as the West. And a recent $225 million alleged cattle heist involving Easterday Ranches and Tyson Fresh Meats in Washington is one of the largest cases in U.S. history.               

And that case, like others nowadays, happened on paper, not on the range.

Just how do you miss 200,000 phantom cattle over several years? That’s what some people in the Columbia Basin cattle-feeding industry are wondering in an ongoing saga between Tyson Fresh Meats and Easterday Ranches.

“It’s hard to believe,” says Mike DeTray, who runs a 4,000-head operation outside of George, Wash. 

In southeast Washington, the welfare of more than 50,000 head of cattle is worrying Tyson Fresh Meats

Can the herd continue to be fed and cared for while the company set up to guard over them, Easterday Ranches, files for federal bankruptcy?

The case of so-called modern-day cattle rustling in southeastern Washington is getting more complex by the day. 

Now, Easterday Ranches has filed for bankruptcy in federal court. 

In a deepening cattle war, Easterday Ranches, Inc. has sold its so-called “North Lot” property in Franklin County, Washington, to a beef competitor of Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.

It’s a modern-day rustling case. 

A major Washington state cattle operator allegedly “fed” more than 200,000 head of cattle that didn’t exist for years. Now Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc is suing. 

Tyson says in a lawsuit filed in Franklin County Superior Court this week that its losses are more than $225 million. The losses are from false cattle sales and feed costs.  

It was kind of like the fair — only not. 

On Monday the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, Wash., were full of port-a-potties, event tents, people in bright vests directing traffic and hundreds of cars. But it’s bitter winter, not summer. There’s no cotton candy. And the smiles of patrons are briefer, with a solemn edge.

A potato processing plant in the central Washington town of Warden burned down in a dramatic overnight fire Thursday. 

By early Friday morning, emergency responders had evacuated nearly a third of the homes near the plant. Flames were licking a large tank of ammonia, and firefighters feared it might explode. 

“This was a very large fire,” Kyle Foreman with the Grant County Sheriff’s Department said. “Certainly one of the top 10 in my career.”

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.  

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