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Lincoln saw a lot of weather extremes in 2018

If you needed one word to describe the weather in 2018, "extremes" would probably be a good choice.

Lincoln set several daily temperature and precipitation records during the year, as well as hitting a number of top-10 marks for monthly and seasonal temperature and precipitation totals.

The year started off colder and drier than normal, with both January and February having lower-than-average temperatures and precipitation. March was slightly warmer and wetter than normal.

Then the real fun started in April. The average overall temperature of 44.4 degrees for the month was 7.2 degrees below normal, making it the third-coldest April in recorded history.

After three-colder-than-normal months and one of the coldest Aprils ever, no one could have predicted the sharp turn in May, which had 21 days with a high of 80 degrees or above, including seven with a high of at least 90 and one 100-degree day.

That led to the fourth-warmest May in 131 years of record-keeping and the third-most 90-degree days ever for the month. It also was just the fourth time ever that a top-10 coldest month was followed immediately by a top-10 warmest month.

By the end of May, it looked as if it could be a dry year, with total precipitation by that point about 3.5 inches below normal.

But then the skies opened up, with 8.83 inches of rain in June, tied for eighth-most in history. Lincoln set a daily record of 2.33 inches on June 19, which was eclipsed by 2.34 inches on June 25, although that was not a record for the date.

July and August were both fairly uneventful, although the city did set a rainfall record of 1.88 inches on Aug. 19.

But that relative calm ended the minute the calendar turned to September. Storms on Sept. 1 led to the cancellation of Nebraska's football game against Akron, and the rain just kept coming. Over the first four days of the month, Lincoln received 6.2 inches of rain, setting daily records on Sept. 2 and 4.

The city got less than an inch of rain over the last 26 days of the month, but it still ranked as the sixth-wettest September ever.

October was notable not for rain but for snow: one of the earliest ever. Lincoln got 3.5 inches of snow on Oct. 14, which was the fifth-earliest snowfall in the city's recorded history.

The snow came just 11 days after a 94-degree day, marking only the fourth time in history that October had seen both snow and a 90-degree high.

November continued the trend of noteworthy weather. The month was the eighth-coldest ever, and the 7.2 inches of snow that fell was the ninth-most for the month.

December was warmer and also wetter. The average temperature was 3.5 degrees above normal, helped out by a 17-day stretch from Dec. 11-27 when the daily high was above 40 degrees.

The month was book-ended by storms that brought mostly rain, setting daily precipitation records on Dec. 1 and Dec. 26.

Overall, the 3.32 inches of precipitation made it the fourth-wettest December on record.

For the year, the 35.64 inches of precipitation was more than 6.5 inches above normal and ranks 18th all-time.

It was the fourth year of the last five that Lincoln had more than 30 inches of rain. The annual average is just less than 29 inches.

FRANCIS GARDLER, Journal Star file photo 

Storms on Sept. 1 led to the cancellation of Nebraska's football game against Akron, and the rain just kept coming. Daily records were set on Sept. 2 and 4.

Garbage, feces take toll on national parks

WASHINGTON — Human feces, overflowing garbage, illegal off-roading and other damaging behavior in fragile areas were beginning to overwhelm some of the West's iconic national parks, as a partial government shutdown left the areas open to visitors but with little staff on duty.

"It's a free-for-all," Dakota Snider, 24, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley, said by telephone Monday, as Yosemite National Park officials announced closings of some minimally supervised campgrounds and public areas within the park that are overwhelmed.

"It's so heartbreaking. There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rules than I've seen in my four years living here," Snider said.

The partial federal government shutdown, now into its second week, has forced furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal government employees. This has left many parks without most of the rangers and others who staff campgrounds and otherwise keep parks running.

Unlike shutdowns in some previous administrations, the Trump administration was leaving parks open to visitors despite the staff furloughs, said John Garder, senior budget director of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association.

"We're afraid that we're going to start seeing significant damage to the natural resources in parks and potentially to historic and other cultural artifacts," Garder said. "We're concerned there'll be impacts to visitors' safety."

"It's really a nightmare scenario," Garder said.

Under the park service's shutdown plan, authorities have to close any area where garbage or other problems become threats to health and safety or to wildlife, spokesman Jeremy Barnum said in an email Monday.

"At the superintendent's discretion, parks may close grounds/areas with sensitive natural, cultural, historic, or archaeological resources vulnerable to destruction, looting, or other damage that cannot be adequately protected by the excepted law enforcement staff that remain on duty," Barnum said.

In the southern Sierra Nevada in Central California, some areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks were closed Monday evening. In Sequoia, home to immense and ancient giant sequoias, General Highway was closed because overflowing trash bins were spreading litter and posed a threat to wildlife, and the icy, jammed roadway was seeing up to three-hour delays, according to the National Park Service.

Also closed was the Grant Tree Trail, a popular hiking spot, because the government shutdown halted maintenance and left the path dangerously slick from ice and snow, with at least one injury reported, the park service said.

Campers at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California's deserts were reporting squabbles as different families laid claims to sites, with no rangers on hand to adjudicate, said Ethan Feltges, who operates the Coyote Corner gift shop outside Joshua Tree.

Feltges and other business owners around Joshua Tree had stepped into the gap as much as possible, hauling trailers into the park to empty overflowing trash bins and sweeping and stocking restrooms that were still open, Feltges said.

Feltges himself had set up a portable toilet at his store to help the visitors still streaming in and out of the park. He was spending his days standing outside his store, offering tips about the park in place of the rangers who normally would be present.

"The whole community has come together," Feltges said, also by phone. "Everyone loves the park. And there's a lot of businesses that actually need the park."

Some visitors have strung Christmas lights in the twisting Joshua trees, many of which are hundreds of years old, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Most visitors were being respectful of the desert wilderness and park facilities, Joshua Tree's superintendent, David Smith, said in a statement.

But some are seizing on the shortage of park staffers to off-road illegally and otherwise damage the park, as well as relieving themselves in the open, a park statement said. Joshua Tree said it would begin closing some campgrounds for all but day use.

At Yosemite, Snider, the local resident, said crowds of visitors were driving into the park to take advantage of free admission, with only a few park rangers working and a limited number of restrooms open.

Visitors were allowing their dogs to run off-leash in an area rich with bears and other wildlife, and scattering bags of garbage along the roads, Snider said.

"You're looking at Yosemite Falls and in front of you is plastic bottles and trash bags," he said.

Officials at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado said Monday they were closing restrooms and locking up trash bins in many locations.

KAYLA WOLF, Journal Star 

Leocadia Haleliman holds daughter Vivian on Tuesday at Bryan East Campus. Vivian was Lincoln's first baby of the year, born at 3:55 a.m.

Man arrested in woman's stabbing death on New Year's Eve

Police arrested a Lincoln man Tuesday morning in the death of a woman found lying in a north Lincoln driveway Monday with multiple stab wounds. 

At 8:09 a.m., police arrested Neland Tevionn Gray Jr., 21, for first-degree murder and use of a weapon to commit a felony, after investigators worked through the night to identify the victim.

Police are continuing to investigate the homicide, said Lincoln Police Capt. Danny Reitan. An autopsy on the woman was performed Tuesday morning and police are conducting interviews, and analyzing forensic and digital evidence.

Officers responded Monday at 7:09 p.m. to a report in the 1900 block of Montclair Drive, north of Cornhusker Highway. A passer-by had found an unconscious woman lying in a driveway with stab wounds. She was transported by Lincoln Fire and Rescue to Bryan West Campus, where she died a half-hour later.

The scene was just a block from the house where Jessica Brandon, 36, was fatally shot during a home invasion in July. 

Gray was released from jail Oct. 2 after serving 119 days in a case where he was charged with attempted terroristic threats, resisting arrest, domestic assault and disturbing the peace, according to court records.

Lincoln police said he hit a 20-year-old woman Dec. 2, 2017, then threatened another man with a knife in the 3400 block of Portia Street.

After his release, he was on post-release supervision until October 2019.

Additional details, including the name of the victim, will be released Wednesday morning, Reitan said. 

The killing was the fourth homicide reported in Lincoln in 2018. 

In addition to Brandon, Edgar Union Jr., 22, was shot and killed March 26. Stacy Talbot, 42, was shoved out of a car while dying of gunshot wounds on Oct. 18. Charges have been filed in all three previous cases.