Highland County marijuana growers sentenced
A pair of men, previously convicted of operating one of the largest marijuana grow operations encountered in our area, were recently sentenced in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville. The two men, both Mexican citizens had been living locally in Harrisonburg, and were convicted on four counts related to a conspiracy to grow marijuana within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Highland County. One man was sentenced to 134 months of federal incarceration and the second man was sentenced to 120 months. According to the evidence presented at the trial, the men conspired to grow at least 4,571 marijuana plants on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests until they were caught in July of 2013. This successful cooperative law enforcement effort included Highland County, Virginia State Police, and Forest Service law enforcement officers.
There is quite a contrast in conditions across the states with respect to rainfall. There is a very distinct transition that takes place north of Lexington, Virginia, with areas north of Interstate 64 missing out on the most significant wetting rain episodes. This sets the stage for a potentially active fall fire season in our part of West Virginia and Virginia. The weather pattern for October, and forecasted for November, had frontal passages about every 7 days. These fronts come from the northwest so rainfall will be limited to half an inch or less per episode. Typically in October we depend on the tropics to bring higher rainfall amounts. Given the lack of tropical activity this season, rainfall is markedly down. The weather predictions for November and December are for much colder than normal temperatures and below normal amounts of precipitation. On top of an already dry fall, conditions appear to be poised for a busy fall wildfire season. We identify two fire seasons in the Appalachians. In general, the fall fire season starts with leaf off, which accelerates the drying of fuels in the forest if conditions are right. In the spring, dry conditions leading up to the return of leaves, mark the early fire season, although wildfires have occurred in every month of the year. Last November, the 1900 acre Smoke Hole Fire on the Monongahela National Forest in Pendleton County burned for ten days through snow storms and freezing weather before being contained by firefighters. So, anything can happen.