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News, factoids, and insights from KUOW's newsroom. And maybe some peeks behind the scenes. Check back daily for updates. And read the Today So Far newsletter here.

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  • Pierce, Thurston counties in running for new NW airport

    KUOW Blog
    caption: The Seattle Port Commission oversees a vast transportation empire, which includes Sea-Tac airport and the working waterfront.
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    The Seattle Port Commission oversees a vast transportation empire, which includes Sea-Tac airport and the working waterfront.
    Credit: Port of Seattle

    A state commission Friday narrowed its list of sites for a new two-runway airport to three locations in rural Thurston and Pierce counties.

    All three sites under consideration would require major new highway expansions – or mass transit lines – to reach population centers.

    A representative from Futurewise expressed concern over the carbon emissions such expansions could create.

    But WSDOT Aviation Planner Robert Hodgman said his team is already thinking about ways to mediate the potential environmental impact.

    "We've talked with our colleagues in the rail and freight and port's division about how we could accommodate rail and eliminate a lot of those vehicle miles traveled," Hodgman said.

    The three potential airport sites are well outside the urban growth boundary that constrains urban sprawl to protect farms, forests and the health of Puget Sound.

    (Update: A WSDOT spokesperson says Thurston County’s site could potentially fall partly in Lacey’s urban growth area).

    The rural nature of the Pierce County locations raised alarm bells for Pierce County Councilmember Amy Cruver, who attended Friday's virtual meeting.

    "The environmental impact – it is very wet out there – and my constituents who've become aware of this – no one wants it in their district," Cruver said.

    The commission eliminated proposed sites for the new airport in Skagit, Snohomish and King counties. The commission expects to narrow its recommendation to a single airport site by June 2023.

    In addition to the new airport, the commission also recommended expanding Paine Field near Everett.

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  • Seattle is ... thirsty? Yep, I said it.

    KUOW Blog
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    The word "thirsty" generally means "feeling thirst" or being "deficient in moisture," like "parched." As in "Seattle is very thirsty right now," which is headline I wrote about how the Seattle-Tacoma area just experienced the driest summer on record. But it can also mean other things.

    The New York Times states that thirsty means a "graceless need for approval, affection or attention, one so raw that it creeps people out." But to online communities, or the Urban Dictionary, it basically means desperate for sex. No matter the decade, up-and-coming generations are usually just different versions of Joey Tribbiani, making generic concepts dirty. Therefore, when I wrote that Seattle is "thirsty," there were some giggles.

    I'm ashamed. I knew the double thirsty meaning. I'm the immature friend who makes poorly punned jokes about this kind of stuff. So when KUOW's Digital Community Outreach Coordinator Alex Rochester pointed out that "thirsty" has multiple meanings in our modern parlance ... I was so disappointed I didn't realize it sooner.

    But you know what? I stand by it! Seattle is thirsty — for rain and for dates. I've dated in this region. I have horror stories.

    The local dating scene has always had a bit of a negative reputation, whether it's women drink because Seattle men are boring or Amazon is killing sex lives.

    More recently, my favorite pop study producers, WalletHub, ranked Seattle as the second best city for singles. I'm going to flip that to mean that Seattle has a lot of singles. Whether or not it's considered "best" is relative. Part of WalletHub's analysis was mobile dating opportunities, aka smartphones and dating apps. I admit, I used a few them, like one app called Happn that put you in touch with singles you may have crossed paths with. That one quickly went from, "Hey, I think we saw each other at the grocery store," to "Hey ... I think I know where you live?" Full disclosure: I met my wife on Bumble.

    Porch ranked Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue as 14th best for single Millennials, considering percentage of singles, income levels, and entertainment options. And Seattle Met recently boiled down Seattle's dating personas to nine options (I was probably number five). And personally, none of these options seem worthy of swiping right on.

    So Seattle perpetually has a lot of singles around. Add a multi-year, socially isolating pandemic on top of all of this, along with the driest summer on record ... yeah, Seattle is probably pretty thirsty.

    This Did You Know segment originally appeared as part of KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for Sept. 23, 2022.

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  • The 'soft cop' argument in Seattle: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
    Seattle city hall
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    Credit: Flickr Photo/Daniel X. O'Neil (CC-BY-NC-ND)/
    • Activists groups behind police defunding in Seattle are speaking up about new budget proposals and they don't want any soft cops.
    • Sea-Tac Airport adapts after weekend of long lines.
    • Fourth man pleads guilty for 2018 racist assault at a Lynnwood bar.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for September 23, 2022.

    No "soft cops." That's the message from the Solidarity Budget coalition to Seattle officials crafting the city's budget, which has a proposal to hire more park rangers to enforce city park rules.

    You may recall the Solidarity Budget coalition from the 2020 effort to cut funding for Seattle police. They are continuing that effort by supporting a series of issues and policies, and opposing others. Currently, they are asking for more safe lots for people living in vehicles, and are demanding more safe bike lanes in Seattle. They oppose more funding for police, or park rangers in this case.

    Another voice in this opposition is Decriminalize Seattle, which is arguing the real public safety problems in Seattle stem from its jail. It argues that while park rangers aren't armed, they "will also act to funnel people into jail or into other coercive settings." Read the the full story here.

    In somewhat related news, Seattle is moving forward with a new 911 response unit. This new unit is apart from police and medical responders. It will be aimed at wellness checks or mental health crises. Seattle is currently looking to upgrade its 911 software to accommodate the new unit, which will form over this fall.

    If you're aiming to travel through Sea-Tac Airport this weekend, it's best to be there extra early to make sure you get through the checkpoints. The airport was so busy last weekend that lines extended out the door and into the parking lot. People waited hours and some missed flights.

    The extreme lines prompted the Port of Seattle to look into things. It reports that there has been a shift in traveler trends. Summer airport volumes usually end after Labor Day, but that didn't happen this year. The airport had already sent home extra staff brought in for the summer season, however, the travelers kept coming. On top of that, construction put a couple checkpoints out of service. Sea-Tac says it has changed course and has brought back additional staff. Read more here.

    An Idaho man has pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge stemming from a 2018 assault at a Lynnwood Bar. Jason Stanley, 46, was part of a group that attacked a Black DJ at the bar on Dec. 8, 2018. Four men have now pleaded guilty to the violent hate crime (they have also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI after they were arrested). Read more here.

    This story has lingered since 2018, but it actually goes back much further in time. I've reported this. Others have reported this. Yet I still find a lot of folks unaware of why those four men, three of whom were from out of state, were in Western Washington on that day (early reports state as many as eight were present at the bar).

    December 8 is a holiday for many white supremacist groups, and it is often celebrated on Whidbey Island (physically on the island, not necessarily by the actual islanders). It was there in 1984 that Robert J. Mathews was killed while facing off with FBI agents. Mathews was major player a white supremacist group that roamed the Northwest in the 1980s. We're not talking about online trolls looking to get folks riled up. This was more antigovernment gangster/terrorist stuff. They plotted murder, set off bombs, committed armed robbery, and got in shoot outs with law enforcement — the sort of things that put police on your trail. It all led to a stand off at a house on Whidbey Island. Mathews was inside the house as it burned down with police outside on December 8, a day that is now known as "Martyrs Day" to certain groups. Such groups have been known to make pilgrimages to the island in December, which is what brought the assailants to the area on that day in 2018.

    This is a corner of Washington history that doesn't often get spoken about. And this hate crime is now a chapter in it.

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  • $6.5 million slated for Seattle Green New Deal

    KUOW Blog
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    The city of Seattle is funding its Green New Deal for the first time.

    On Thursday, Mayor Bruce Harrell signed into law $6.5 million worth of investments that will put the 2019 deal into effect.

    The signing happened in the South Park neighborhood, which has been dealing with industrial traffic and pollution for decades.

    RELATED: Big shippers promise zero carbon by 2040. Too late, say climate activists

    Councilmember Theresa Mosqueda said much of the money will go to help those most affected by climate change.

    "So here we are in a front-line community, standing with front-line workers, who've been on the front line calling for action, and today we follow through with yet another step to address a global crisis by acting locally," Mosqueda said.

    About a third of the new funding will go toward new housing. Another third will help middle and low-income households get rid of oil furnaces and switch to cleaner electric heat pumps.

    The city also committed to getting all city buildings off of fossil fuels by 2035.

    The Mayor's Office says the Green New Deal Opportunity Fund that Harrell signed Thursday will "accelerate the City’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build community resilience to climate change, and increase net zero affordable housing."

    “For the past few days Seattle has been blanketed with smoke-filled skies and choking air quality, with areas of the city like here in the Duwamish Valley, where the life expectancy is eight years shorter than the Seattle average, especially hard hit,” Harrell said in a statement. “During times of increasingly severe climate events like these, it’s critical that everyone have access to clean, filtered air and cooling. I am proud to sign today $6.5 million in the Green New Deal Opportunity Fund and look forward to advancing further action in our 2023 proposed budget.”

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  • Washington State trooper recovering in Seattle after Walla Walla shooting

    KUOW Blog
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    A state trooper from Walla Walla who drove himself to the hospital after he was shot in the face is recovering in Seattle's Harborview Medical Center.

    The Washington State Patrol says someone rammed into Trooper Dean Atkinson's car Thursday, then opened fire. Reports state that the trooper was shot in the face.

    Atkinson was able to drive himself to a local hospital. He was then flown to Seattle. WSP reports he is in stable condition.

    The suspected shooter was later spotted by police in Oregon. WSP says the suspect was pursued back over the state line and was arrested in Washington.

    Following the incident, WSP Chief John R. Batiste issued this statement:

    “This evening we were once again reminded of how dangerous the profession of law enforcement can be when one of our troopers was involved in a critical incident while on duty in Walla Walla. We were also reminded of how strong and resolute our people can be when Trooper Dean Atkinson though seriously injured, found the strength to drive himself to the hospital. Trooper Atkinson is a five year veteran of the Washington State Patrol and I am both relieved and happy to announce he is now in stable condition. Let me say thank you to the outpouring of support from the public. I am sure it is and will be appreciated by Trooper Atkinson and his loved ones and indeed all of the men and women in law enforcement in our state. Though there is certainly danger and cruelty in our world, there is also courage and grace, and for that we are thankful just as we are thankful for this fine young trooper's service and survival.”

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  • WSU research discovers new Covid-like virus in bats

    KUOW Blog
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    Researchers at Washington State University say they've discovered a new Covid-like virus that could be transferred from bats to humans.

    The virus, named Khosta-2, was recently found in a Russian lesser horseshoe bat. Researchers behind a new study say the virus is resistant to current vaccines for Covid. Those who've already had Covid-19 and developed antibodies could be susceptible to it as well.

    Scientists say this discovery highlights the need to develop a universal vaccine that works against these types of viruses. Hundreds of such viruses have recently been discovered in bats in Asia, but weren't capable of infecting humans. These newly discovered viruses however, were able to infect human cells in a lab.

    “Right now, there are groups trying to come up with a vaccine that doesn’t just protect against the next variant of SARS-2 but actually protects us against the sarbecoviruses in general,” said Michael Letko, a WSU virologist. “Unfortunately, many of our current vaccines are designed to specific viruses we know infect human cells or those that seem to pose the biggest risk to infect us. But that is a list that’s ever-changing. We need to broaden the design of these vaccines to protect against all sarbecoviruses.”

    Letko is co-author of a new study on Khosta-2 published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

    The good news, right now, is that the new virus is missing a few traits that help pathogenesis in humans. There is concern that could change, however, if this virus, Khosta-2, combines with a second virus, like SARS-CoV-2.

    “When you see SARS-2 has this ability to spill back from humans and into wildlife, and then there are other viruses like Khosta-2 waiting in those animals with these properties we really don’t want them to have, it sets up this scenario where you keep rolling the dice until they combine to make a potentially riskier virus,” Letko said.

    In addition to Letko, Seifert and Gunn, co-authors on this study include Shuangyi Bai and Stephen Fawcett of WSU as well as Elizabeth Norton, Kevin Zwezdaryk and James Robinson of Tulane University.

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  • Should Seattle Public Library employees carry Narcan?

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: Naloxone can reverse opioid overdose.
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    Naloxone can reverse opioid overdose.
    Credit: Courtesy of Shawna Murphy

    The Seattle Public Library is reviewing its policy on employees carrying and administering Narcan.

    Narcan is a prescription medicine used to treat a known or suspected opioid overdose. It’s also known by the generic name "naloxone."

    Currently, the Seattle Public Library advises employees not to carry or administer Narcan, a nasal spray, on the job. A review of this policy was prompted by an employee.

    "A staff member inquired with their supervisor about potentially bringing Narcan to work and administering it for patrons that might need it," said Rick Sheridan with the Seattle Public Library.

    Sheridan says the existing policy is in place to protect the library and staff from possible liability issues. The King County Library System has a similar policy.

    In the event of a suspected opioid overdose, Seattle Public Library staff are instructed to call 911.

    A spokesperson says they expect to have an update on the review this week.

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  • Idaho man pleads guilty to white supremacist attack at Lynnwood bar

    KUOW Blog
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    A man from Idaho has pleaded guilty to a hate crime committed at a Lynnwood, Washington, bar in 2018.

    Jason Stanley, 46, has pleaded guilty to a violent hate crime, and for making false statements to law enforcement officials, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

    “Mr. Stanley and the other subjects in this case attacked and injured the victim based on his race,” Special Agent in Charge Richard A. Collodi of the FBI Seattle Field Office said in a statement. “Until all citizens in Washington state feel safe from threats and violence based on their race, ethnicity, gender or beliefs, the FBI will continue our commitment to investigating federal hate crimes and protecting civil rights.”

    Stanley is the fourth and final member of the group of attackers to plead guilty to the racist assault. The other three include: Randy Smith, 42, of Oregon; Jason DeSimas, 47, of Tacoma, Wash.; and Daniel Dorson of Corvallis, Ore.

    According to the Department of Justice, Stanley, Smith, DeSimas, and Dorson went to the Rec Room Bar and Grill on Dec. 8, 2018. Early reports on the incident state that the group showed up at the bar displaying white supremacist symbols, made Nazi salutes, and were visibly drunk.

    While there, they began interfering with a DJ's equipment. The DJ, a Black man, objected, and the four men assaulted him. Bystanders came to his defense and were also injured during the attack.

    “The defendant, a known white supremacist, singled out and attacked a Black man because of his race – violent, hate-driven conduct that has no place in our society today,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “The convictions that we have secured in this case make clear that the Department of Justice will continue to use every resource at its disposal to fight white supremacist violence.”

    After his arrest, Stanley told the FBI that he wasn't in Washington state at the time of the assault. This led to a second charge of making a false statement to law enforcement, to which he also pleaded guilty.

    The four men are members of multiple white supremacist groups who came to Western Washington for a meetup.

    A sentencing hearing for Stanley is scheduled for Jan. 6, 2023. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for the hate crime, and a maximum of five years for making a false statement.

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  • Seattle will launch a new unit of crisis responders under revamped 911 system

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: Seattle is updating its 911 dispatch to allow new types of call responses. Firefighter Matthew Jung, left, and caseworker Greg Jensen are members of SFD's existing Health One unit which pursues non-emergency calls.
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    Seattle is updating its 911 dispatch to allow new types of call responses. Firefighter Matthew Jung, left, and caseworker Greg Jensen are members of SFD's existing Health One unit which pursues non-emergency calls.
    Credit: KUOW/Amy Radil

    This fall, the Seattle mayor’s office and city council have agreed to jointly create a new type of crisis response unit to be available when people call 911.

    Right now, 911 calls in Seattle go overwhelmingly to police or the fire department. To offer more options — like in Austin, Texas, for instance, where dispatchers offer “police, fire, medical, or mental health" — Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold said they have to first undertake “back-of-the-house work." That means installing new software that allows for “criteria-based dispatch” at the city’s Community Safety and Communications Center.

    “They’ve identified the vendor, I believe they’re finalizing the contract,” Herbold said. “The new system will have to be installed. They’ll have to get trained on it.”

    Simultaneously, Herbold said, the mayor and council will determine the details of a new crisis response unit that 911 callers can request for non-emergency calls.

    Emergency dispatchers “won’t be able to flip the switch until we have a response to offer, right? But I expect that early next year,” she said.

    Herbold said they haven’t yet decided which agency will house the new unit, but she envisions a unit that could do wellness checks, and other calls that may not require medical aid or law enforcement.

    The Seattle Fire Department currently operates Health One, where teams of firefighters and caseworkers take referrals and check up on people who have had contact with the 911 system. But Herbold said one goal of the new unit would be to ease the staffing shortages for firefighters or police.

    “Sending somebody like a CSO, community service officer, to see first, and then calling in additional help if needed is, I think, a much more effective way to use our very limited public safety resources,” she said. Community service officers are civilians who currently handle outreach and non-criminal calls within the Seattle Police Department.

    Bill Schrier, a strategic advisor to the Seattle Community Safety and Communications Center, further explained how the center is currently operated.

    “All 911 calls are answered first here, at the Seattle Community Safety and Communications Center (CSCC) Department, which we usually just call ‘Seattle 911,’” Schrier said. “Generally, CSCC dispatchers route calls to SPD, SFD, and to the Sobering Unit operated by DESC (Downtown Emergency Service Center). There are no other alternative responders for dispatch of CAD incidents by CSCC at this time.”

    The system is complicated, he added.

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  • Seattle Solidarity Budget coalition opposes funds for what it calls 'soft cops'

    KUOW Newsroom
    caption: A Seattle Police vehicle sits parked at Hing Hay Park in the heart of Seattle's Chinatown-International District Thursday, March 18, 2021.
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    A Seattle Police vehicle sits parked at Hing Hay Park in the heart of Seattle's Chinatown-International District Thursday, March 18, 2021.

    A coalition of progressive groups in Seattle will oppose Mayor Bruce Harrell’s proposal to pay for 26 additional rangers in the city’s parks.

    In a press conference Thursday, the Solidarity Budget coalition, which led the effort to cut Seattle Police Department funding in 2020, highlighted priorities for their members in Seattle's upcoming budget meetings.

    The coalition will urge its supporters to advocate for everything from safe lots for people who are homeless to park their vehicles, to safer bike and pedestrian infrastructure in South Seattle.

    The Solidarity Budget coalition said one of its highest priorities will be to keep people out of King County jail, where four people died by suicide in the past year.

    Angélica Cházaro is with the member group Decriminalize Seattle. She said during the budget process they’ll press for resources for people who are homeless, and for safer streets.

    “There is a public safety crisis in Seattle. But it’s not the one that you’ve been hearing about on the news,” she said. “It’s a crisis of having one of the deadliest jails in the country. It’s a crisis of our unhoused neighbors dying at record rates. Not to mention the unacceptable deaths of pedestrians and cyclists.”

    Cházaro and other coalition members condemned any funding for what they called “soft cops,” including the proposed park rangers in that category.

    “When we say, ‘Defund SPD and fund community needs,’ we do not mean fund responders who may not be armed but who will also act to funnel people into jail or into other coercive settings,” Cházaro said.

    If approved by the city council (acting as the Seattle Park District Board), Harrell’s proposal for the Seattle Park District would nearly double the district’s levy, to between $115 million and $118 million in 2023. In announcing the funding proposal, Harrell said the park rangers would “enhance safety and promote voluntary compliance of park rules.”

    Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold said the council and mayor have also agreed to launch a new crisis response unit in the next several months. She said they haven’t decided which agency would house the unit, but she views SPD’s community service officers as one possible option to perform wellness checks and other non-emergency calls.

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  • Fishing boat lifted out of orca waters after 5 weeks on sea floor

    KUOW Blog
    caption: A Coast Guard member watches the Aleutian Isle being lifted onto a barge off San Juan Island on Sept. 21. 
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    A Coast Guard member watches the Aleutian Isle being lifted onto a barge off San Juan Island on Sept. 21.
    Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

    A salvage team successfully lifted the Aleutian Isle onto a barge Wednesday afternoon, more than five weeks after the fishing boat sank into the depths off San Juan Island.

    Coast Guard officials say some diesel spilled from the boat as a crane lifted it out of the water. They reported “light sheening” on the surface of Haro Strait near San Juan Island’s Mitchell Bay.

    “Some of that sheen did escape beyond the boomed area, but was too light to be recovered,” a Coast Guard Facebook post states.

    The salvage team had to pump out all the seawater from the waterlogged vessel to make it light enough to lift out of the sea without breaking apart.

    Now they plan to remove remaining diesel from the boat before transporting it to a shipyard.

    The boat sank while fishing for sockeye salmon in critical habit for the Northwest’s endangered orcas. All five crew members escaped onto a small skiff, with no injuries reported. A 2-mile sheen of diesel spread across the surface, and San Juan residents reported a strong smell of diesel for hours.

    The cause of the sinking and diesel spill have not been determined. An eyewitness reported watching the Aleutian Isle run aground at the Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes the day before it sank.

    Some dents in the hull, as well as a broken-off top section of the mast, were visible once the boat emerged from the waves, but it is unclear whether that damage occurred before or after the boat sank 240 feet beneath the surface.

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  • Have you ever seen the rain, coming down on a Seattle summer day?: Today So Far

    KUOW Blog
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    • The driest Seattle/Tacoma summer on record.
    • The housing market in the Seattle area is cooling down. What does that mean?
    • Monkeypox is infecting about 20 people each week in Washington state.
    • King County's budget plans for law enforcement.

    This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for September 22, 2022.

    I recently watched Cosmo warily watching the sky outside our home. He was oddly avoiding going outside and had a general vibe of being weirded out. Watching this, my wife Nina paused for a moment before saying, "Has Cosmo ever seen rain?"

    Cosmo is our puppy. He came to us from Texas this summer and is less than a year old. I thought, "Of course he's seen rain. This is the Northwest." Turns out, I'm probably wrong. Summer 2022 is the driest summer on record for the Seattle-Tacoma area. Most of the rain we got over the season came on Sept. 16, probably the day Cosmo was being weird(er than usual).

    Cue that Blind Melon song.

    The National Weather Service reports that we got about half an inch of rain over the summer. That places 2022 at the top of the list of driest summers. Second place goes to 2017 with .52 inches of rain. In 1998 and 1987, we got 1.28 inches and 1.33 inches, respectively. And rounding out the top five, summer 2000 got 1.36 inches.

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