Region reacts to terrorist crisis |

Region reacts to terrorist crisis

Highest level of alert at Beale AFB

MARYSVILLE -Nevada County’s nearest military installation, Beale Air Force Base, was among California’s military bases put on the highest level of alert Tuesday in the wake of the East Coast terrorist attacks using commercial airliners that had been en route to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“Threatcon Delta,” Beale spokeswoman Kate Garcia said, “is the highest of our four categories.”

Three of the base’s five gates were closed – including what’s called the Grass Valley Gate on Smartville Road.

The main entrance and the housing gate remained open, and everyone who entered was required to have U.S. Defense Department identification or be sponsored by someone who did.

About 3,000 active-duty personnel live at the base, with a total of 12,000 residents including family members, according to Garcia.

She disputed a Sacramento radio station’s report that base officials were bracing for an attack Monday night.

“That’s not true,” she said. “We didn’t go into any heightened state of alert until this morning.”

Base officials couldn’t immediately cite the last time the base was on highest alert, but it was the highest state of alert in a decade, since the 1991 Persian Gulf war, spokesmen said.

-Doug Mattson, SNS

Tahoe residents witness Pentagon bombing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – From the fourth floor of the U.S. Capitol building Tuesday morning, Dennis Cocking, public information officer for South Tahoe Public Utility District, said he could see smoke billowing from the Pentagon building.

Cocking, his wife Tami, and Duane Wallace, board president of STPUD, were in the capital waiting to meet with Congressman John Doolittle.

Alarms went off, and the building was immediately evacuated.

“Outside it was something like Tel Aviv,” Wallace said.

The group was in Washington seeking funding for issues pertaining to MTBE. Methyl tertiary butyl ether is an oxygenate used to make fuel combust more efficiently. They arrived Saturday and met with several government officials on the issue Monday, but the meeting with Doolittle never happened.

“There was a panic in the air from the people around us, especially the congressional staffers,” he said.

Wallace said the streets were full of people walking and traffic was gridlocked. Police, U.S. Marshalls toting guns and body armor and what appeared to be Secret Service on rooftops were visible everywhere. Many people were making calls on cell phones, but it was nearly impossible to get a connection.

“Everyone who had a cell phone had it to their ear,” Cocking said.

The group tried to call relatives but were unable to get through until returning to the Washington Renaissance Hotel on Ninth Street.

Cocking said the four of them walked back to their hotel, which was located about 15 blocks away. They tried to avoid potential targets, which seemed to be everywhere and walked out into the open lawn in front of the Capitol. Passing the Pentagon, they saw a plume of smoke and heard an explosion, which they thought was a secondary blast from the initial attack. They heard airplanes flying overhead and were scared that one would fly into another building.

“It was like watching a disaster movie unfold in front of you,” Cocking said.

-Robert Grant, SNS

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