3.12.19

Page 4

NEWS

A4 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

M 1 • TUeSDAy • 03.12.2019

U.S. winter was the wettest on record BY JASON SAMENOW Washington Post

Boosted by February’s relentless low-elevation rains and blockbuster mountain snows, the United States notched its wettest winter on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The average precipitation, including rain and melted snow, was 9.01 inches during meteorological winter, which spans December, January and February. That amount was 2.22 inches above normal and broke the record of 8.99 inches set during the winter of 1997-98. Both the winters of 1997-98 and the present featured El Niño

events, which tend to increase the flow of Pacific moisture into the Lower 48 states. Of the three winter months this year, the finale was particularly soggy, ranking second-wettest on record. Nineteen states posted one of their 10 wettest Februaries. Tennessee registered its wettest February, while the month ranked second-wettest in Kentucky and Wisconsin. Missouri had the 12th wettest February since 1895, with 3.61 inches of precipitation. The record for the month, 4.89 inches, was set in 2018. Illinois had the 15th wettest February since 1895, with 3.15 inches of precipitation. The record for the month in Illinois,

4.88 inches, was also set last year. Melissa Byrd, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said there was 3.56 inches of liquid precipitation at St. LouisLambert International Airport in February. There was 2.4 inches of snowfall at Lambert in February. As for the three months of winter, Illinois had its sixth wettest with 9.67 inches of precipitation. The record, set in 194950, was 14.86 inches. Missouri had its fifth wettest winter with 10.35 inches of precipitation. The record, set in 1949-50, was 11.09 inches. February deluges in the Tennessee Valley spurred flooding along the Mississippi River

and mudslides in Tennessee and North Carolina. From the mid-South to the Tennessee Valley, record February rainfall was logged in numerous population centers, including Knoxville, Tenn. (13.08 inches); Nashville, Tenn. (13.47 inches); and Tupelo, Miss. (15.61 inches). That area is still struggling, with officials preparing for more rainfall this week that could add water to overflowing rivers. River levels remain high in parts of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, with more rain expected Friday and Saturday. Heavy precipitation has visited the northern tier, as well.

One MLS expansion slot is up for grabs

The zone from the Pacific Northwest to the Great Lakes was hit repeatedly by winter storms that unloaded historic amounts of snow. Record February snowfall was observed in Seattle (20.2 inches); Pendleton, Ore. (32.5 inches); Great Falls, Mont. (31.3 inches); Rochester, Minn. (40.0 inches); Minneapolis (39.0 inches); and Eau Claire, Wis. (53.7 inches). In addition, numerous California ski areas in the Sierra Nevada witnessed record snowfall in February. Mammoth Mountain and Squaw Valley reported record snowfall over 200 inches. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Crash in Ethiopia is second in 5 months for Boeing jetliner BOEING • FROM A1

DAVID CARSON • dcarson@post-dispatch.com

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber stands next to Carolyn Kindle Betz, of the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, who is part of the ownership group seeking to bring an MLS team to St. Louis. Garber had lunch at the Four Seasons on Monday with four Taylor family members. MLS league owners will meet in April and could make a decision on which city gets a soccer team. SOCCER • FROM A1

with four of the Taylors on Monday morning before lunch at the Four Seasons — signals a deepening interest in St. Louis as the league looks to pick its next expansion city. The league owners meet in April in Los Angeles for their spring meeting, and could make a decision that soon. Both sides see some urgency: Garber’s visit suggests concerns that the St. Louis owners haven’t announced the big-dollar deals. And Carolyn Kindle Betz, one of Jack Taylor’s granddaughters and a face of the local effort, said outright on Monday that, if this effort failed, her family would not try again. “We’re going to do it now,” Kindle Betz said. “We will probably not be here in a year.” The league is looking to expand to 28 teams from 24 this year. Three of the slots are taken: New teams are set to kick off in Miami and Nashville, Tenn., in 2020 and in Austin, Texas, in 2021. At least eight cities — Charlotte, N.C.; Detroit; Las Vegas; Phoenix; Raleigh, N.C.; Sacramento, Calif.; San Diego; and St. Louis — have expressed interest in the last spot. Sacramento has recently emerged as St. Louis’ biggest threat. In January, Beverly Hills billionaire Ron Burkle

bought into the city’s bid. League officials called Sacramento “a strong expansion candidate.” And, as with the addition of the Taylors to St. Louis’ bid, Burkle’s associates said that the billionaire grocerystore magnate wouldn’t have gotten involved if the Sacramento effort was speculation. Garber called the competition good for the league. “Life is good when you have options,” he said. “I believe that there are many cities in our country today that can support an MLS team. We’ve got to get this last one over the finish line and then sit down and figure out what happens to those cities that were not part of the 28 that we set out to finalize a couple of years ago.” This is the third time Garber has visited St. Louis in connection with an expansion bid. The first came as the region fought to keep the National Football League’s Rams in St. Louis. The effort failed, but the idea to build a stadium that could be used by a soccer team started the conversation with MLS. Almost two years ago, a second attempt, headed by Kavanaugh and current Schnuck Markets President Dave Peacock, skidded to a stop when St. Louis city voters turned down a request for $60 million in public stadium financing. Garber said on Monday that he does

not feel burned by any of the past attempts. Instead, he said he believed they set the groundwork for this one. “We were missing a handful of things that have really changed in the last year or so,” Garber said on Monday, Kindle Betz sitting to his left. “The first is the involvement of the Taylor family. The second was a real confirmation on the stadium project.” The league is confident that fans here will support a team. And the corporate showing at Monday’s lunch impressed him, Garber said. It included executives from the natural gas company Spire, electrical supplier Graybar, shoe company Caleres, financial powerhouses Edward Jones, Wells Fargo Advisors and Stifel Financial Corp., plus some of the region’s largest employers, such as BJC Healthcare and SSM Health. But the last leg of the stool — corporate dollars — is key, Garber said. “That’s why I’m here today,” he said. “We very much need to see the corporate community get behind this team and show their financial support.” Kindle Betz said the league has not asked her team to present at the April meetings. But she said they’re ready. David Hunn • 314-340-8121 @davidhunn on Twitter dhunn@post-dispatch.com

Cannabis trade show at Union Station draws hundreds SHOW • FROM A1

Anheuser-Busch executive. “We’re excited for the opportunity to bring jobs to the area,” he said. Near the Canna Park booth was Hummert International, a familyowned business in Earth City that designs and equips greenhouses. The company started designing medical marijuana facilities in other states about six years ago. It regularly costs more than $1 million to build and fully equip a greenhouse, but the company will also work with businesses with smaller budgets, said Jason Hummert, director of marketing and a fourth-generation family member in the business. “It’s great to see it come back to our home state,” Hummert said. “We view it as a crop. And as a medicine.” On display at the booth were different irrigation tools, fans, trays for growing plants and LED lighting fixtures. A medical marijuana growing facility needs a quality system to control temperature, humidity and other variables, Hummert said. “You don’t want to take short cuts because the crop is just too valuable,” he said. Arnold City Councilman Jason Fulbright was at the conference as an elected official and as a businessman. Fulbright and his team hope to open a

marijuana vertical with a growing facility, manufacturing facility and three dispensaries spread across Jefferson County. His group, Bright Green Pharms, paid about $30,000 to prefile paperwork for license applications. “I’m kind of wearing two hats today,” said Fulbright, a Realtor and property manager. He said he was also learning how local governments can better plan and regulate local cannabis facilities. “The people voted for this, and we just have to do our due diligence to make sure it’s done the right way.” Fulbright and his brother, a licensed medical marijuana caregiver in Portland, Ore., since 2013, had been talking about forming a medical marijuana business for years. Their father was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and had to undergo more than 100 chemotherapy treatments. “Watching him go through that was frustrating knowing that there was something out there that could help,” he said. “I was on the phone with my brother the night of the election and I told him, ‘It’s going to happen this time. If (medical marijuana) helps and doesn’t harm, I don’t see why we can’t do it.’” Access to the hall of exhibitions costs $199; full access to the conference, $399. Most of the attendees were business people from Missouri or other states that have legalized medical or

recreational marijuana. Exhibitors also included advocacy groups that helped push for legalization, or Minorities for Medical Marijuana, which helped lead a panel on racial equity in the cannabis industry, or Ayden’s Alliance, a nonprofit group based in Springfield, Mo., pushing for greater access to medical cannabis for children with serious or chronic illnesses. The group is named after Ashley Markum’s 6-year-old son, who was diagnosed with intractable epilepsy. He went through countless seizure treatments and medications that failed to control his condition. The family applied for and won a hemp card four years ago, which allowed them to buy CBD-infused products from the two dispensaries in St. Louis. “It definitely helped, but it’s not enough,” Markum said. The group is selling T-shirts to fund patient cards for other families. Many doctors and clinics will not prescribe CBD or medical marijuana for children, she said. “We know several children in legal states who are alive because of THC,” she said. “Their quality of life matters right now. We can’t wait. If THC will help him enjoy life, why stand in the way?” Nassim Benchaabane • 314-340-8167 @NassimBnchabane on Twitter nbenchaabane@post-dispatch.com

Boeing’s single-aisle airliner, which was first introduced in 1967 and has become the world’s most common passenger jet. Safety experts cautioned against drawing too many comparisons between the two crashes until more is known. The Federal Aviation Administration said it expects Boeing will soon complete improvements to an automated anti-stall system that is suspected of contributing to the Lion Air crash in October. The FAA said Monday that Boeing will also update training requirements and flight crew manuals related to the system. The system automatically points the plane’s nose down if sensors indicate the plane could be in danger of losing lift, or stalling. Sensors on the plane operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air gave out faulty readings on its last four flights. On the fatal October flight, pilots apparently struggled in vain to fight against the automated nose-down commands. “External reports are drawing similarities between (the Ethiopian) accident and the Lion Air Flight 610 accident,” the FAA said. “However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions.” Besides the groundings by airlines in Ethiopia, China and Indonesia, Aeromexico, Caribbean carrier Cayman Airways, Comair in South Africa and Royal Air Maroc in Morocco temporarily grounded their Max 8s. Ethiopian Airlines decided to ground its remaining four 737 Max 8s until further notice as “an extra safety precaution,” spokesman Asrat Begashaw said. The carrier had been using five of the planes and awaiting delivery of 25 more. But Chicago-based Boeing said it did not intend to issue any new recommendations about the aircraft to its customers. It plans to send a technical team to the crash site to help investigators and issued a statement saying it was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew” on the jetliner. Among the airlines still using the plane are Southwest, American and Air Canada. In Washington, Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said passenger safety was the first priority for the administration. “I want travelers to be assured and that we are taking this seriously and monitoring latest developments,” she said. It’s unusual for authorities to take the step of grounding planes, and it’s up to each country to set standards on which planes can fly and how those planes are maintained, said Todd Curtis, an aviation safety analyst who directs the Airsafe.com Foundation. “If there is a suspicion ... that there’s not only something inherently wrong with 737 Max 8 aircraft, but there are no procedures in place to cure the problem, then yes, they should either ground the plane, or there are several levels of things they could do,” Curtis said. “Safety is our No. 1 priority and we are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved,” Boeing said in a statement. Boeing’s stock fell 7 percent to $391.80 in afternoon trading. People from 35 countries died in the crash six minutes after takeoff from Ethiopia’s capital for Nairobi. Ethiopian Airlines said the senior pilot issued a distress call and was told to return but all contact was lost shortly afterward. The plane plowed into the ground at Hejere near Bishoftu, scattering debris. Kenya lost 32 people, more than any country. Relatives of 25 of the victims had been contacted, Transport Minister James Macharia said, and taking care of their welfare was of utmost importance. “Some of them, as you know, they are very distressed,” he said. “They are in shock like we are. They are grieving.” In Addis Ababa, members of an association of Ethiopian airline pilots wept uncontrollably for their dead colleagues. Framed photos of seven crew members sat in chairs at the front of a crowded room. The flight’s main pilot, Yared Getachew, issued a distress call shortly after takeoff and was told to return, but all contact was lost. Canada, Ethiopia, the U.S., China, Italy, France, Britain, Egypt, Germany, India and Slovakia all lost four or more citizens. At least 21 staff members from the United Nations were killed in the crash, said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who led a moment of silence at a meeting where he said “a global tragedy has hit close to home.” Both Addis Ababa and Nairobi are major hubs for humanitarian workers, and some had been on their way to a large U.N. environmental conference set to begin Monday in Nairobi. The U.N. flag at the event flew at half-staff.