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February 5, 2023

Glass repair and kitten rescue couple reflect on natural disaster life ahead of personal milestone

Santa Cruz Mountains storms remind locals of 2005 Hurricane Katrina experience

Jeannette Kornher, owner of Kitten Kornher Rescue in Boulder Creek, carted her cats from home—like Hootenanny—to shelter at her storefront along Highway 9 with the others—such as Grayson the shop cat. 

“I just brought them up here to keep them safe,” Kornher said Jan. 12, adding that she doesn’t want shifting earth or fallen trees to prevent her from providing for her animals. “It’s been crazy, that’s for sure. Who knows what’s gonna happen.” 

Many of her recent feline charges have already found forever homes in recent weeks, but some aren’t ready to be adopted out quite yet. 

“It’s just hectic,” she said. “I will say, to just go with the flow makes things easier.” 

Thankfully, downtown Boulder Creek was one of the first places to have power restored, she notes. 

“You can’t control Mother Nature,” she said. “You can’t control the mudslides; you can’t control the trees down.” 

It’s been nice to see PG&E working so hard to repair their infrastructure, she adds. 

“They charge too much, but they’re out here doing their job,” she said. “I have never seen a winter like this one.”

Jeannette Kornher, owner of Kitten Kornher Rescue in Boulder Creek, holds Qbert while Grayson, her shop cat, is enamored by a piece of string. She has four baby cats that will be ready for adoption by the end of the month. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

Kornher has been rescuing kittens for nine years now. She finally got set up as a business in July. 

“It has really taken off,” she said, as her husband milled about outside the front door. 

There are four baby cats that will be ready for adoption by the end of the month. For the most part, the animals have weathered the storm admirably, she boasts. 

“They’ve actually been pretty good,” Kornher said. “The only thing they’ve had an issue with is the wind. They get spooked. They hang out in the cubbies.” 

But with the break in the storm, Tarzan—her very first rescue (and one of the visitors from her home up Bear Creek Road)—was out in the open, chowing down.

Her husband John, in his thick overcoat and heavy beard, meandered into the shop. Together they own Boulder Creek Glass. Engage him in a conversation and he’ll go on about his work the way an artisan would describe their craft. 

While window installation is out of the question, for now, John has had his hands full with a side hustle. 

“My husband was helping people with generators,” Jeannette said, when asked about the mechanical parts in the room next to the kitten section. 

John says, while he’s passionate about alternative energy, he understands how critical generators have become for mountain folk. 

“I’ll fix ‘em up for you,” he said. “I got a guy next door that, through the years, has accumulated a lot of generators.” 

There are so many things that can go wrong with the self-contained power machines, after all.

“This one here had bad gas in it,” he said of a Champion Global Power Equipment model. 

The ethanol tends to condensate, he continues. 

“If the gas sits there long enough, it turns to jelly,” he said. “The best thing for people to do—when the power comes off, instead of turning the button off, turn the fuel off. Let it run out of fuel. So, now you have a dry carburetor…BLUB, BLUB, BLUB, BLUB all the gas out of the lines.”

John Kornher has been repairing generators for locals. He says he’ll accept trades for his labor, similar to what he saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

John jokes that the storms have been so crazy he’s losing his mind. 

“No, I’m doin’ alright,” he continued. “I lived in Mississippi when (Hurricane) Katrina went over my house.” 

According to him, you can learn a lot about the fabric of the place you live during a natural disaster. 

“What I found out in Mississippi is, the community comes together,” he said, emphasizing that’s exactly what he’s seen in Boulder Creek, too. “This community is awesome.” 

That’s why he’s so happy to help with generator repairs—and says he’ll even operate on a work-trade basis. 

“That’s what we did in Mississippi,” he said, recalling how people relied on a barter economy as authorities struggled to render aid. 

Money essentially became useless as that George W. Bush-era tragedy unfolded in 2005. 

“I had $30,000 in my pocket,” he said. “You’re on your own.” 

It wasn’t too different the way locals got together on New Year’s Eve, when a delivery to Joe’s Bar couldn’t be completed that night. 

“I’ll buy this; you buy this,” said John, recalling how Plan B for the party came together at the last minute, as community members found a fitting way to ring in 2023 nevertheless. “We had a feast.”

That was during the first wave. Now, as the third or fourth atmospheric river approached (depending on how you count it) there was another milestone worthy of celebration on tap—the Kornhers’ 11th anniversary.

Anyone having generator problems and would like John Kornher to have a peek can contact Boulder Creek Glass at 831-338-3601.

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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