April showers forecast as U.S. begins healing from drought

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Crop-friendly snowfall and some rain moved across much of the U.S. crop belt over the weekend offering slight relief to the drought while a new storm system is expected by late this week, an agricultural meteorologist said on Monday.

"They had a little less than they would have liked in the southwest," said John Dee, a meteorologist for Global Weather Monitoring. "Only 2 inches of snow fell in southwest Kansas and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, but up to a foot of snow fell in northwest Kansas and northeast Colorado."

Dee said 4 inches to 8 inches of snow was received across a broad swath of Missouri and roughly the southern half of the eastern Midwest.

"The southern Plains received about 0.30 inch to 0.80 inch of moisture with isolated heavier amounts," he said. "There is another system for the Plains that may move into the Midwest late this week or by the weekend."

Commodity Weather Group (CWG) said drier weather would return to the Plains and Midwest this week following the weekend storm, but wetter conditions were expected during the first two weeks of April.

"This will continue to aid winter wheat prospects, although the southwestern quarter of the Plains wheat may still be short-changed," said CWG meteorologist Joel Widenor.

Additionally, "the early April rains and cold weather will continue to slow the northward expansion of corn seeding but cool temperatures will begin to moderate," he said.

Light rains have helped reduce severe and extreme drought conditions in portions of the U.S. Plains, but abnormally dry weather lingered in the area that produces most of the country's wheat, according to a weekly report issued on Thursday.

There was little rain in Texas, resulting in an expansion of the state's "exceptional" dryness, the worst conditions as classified by the Drought Monitor report issued by a consortium of state and federal climatologists.

But in the top wheat growing state of Kansas, "extreme" conditions moderated slightly even though the entire state as well as the entire High Plains region, outside of part of North Dakota, remains in a drought, the report stated.

The lack of rainfall and short top soil moisture levels could stress the wheat crop and reduce yields at harvest. The crop is ending its winter dormancy and recent below-normal temperatures may also harm the young plants.

In a separate report on Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast an easing of drought conditions and above-normal temperatures this spring in both the Plains and Midwest regions.

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