Frigid temperatures likely caused spotty freeze damage to winter wheat in parts of the U.S. Plains early on Friday but two storms next week should bring beneficial moisture, an agricultural meteorologist said.
Temperatures fell as low as minus 7 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 22 Celsius) in parts of south-central Nebraska and north-central Kansas, said Andy Karst of World Weather Inc. Most of those areas lacked a protective layer of snow cover.
"It's been cold for a while, and the crop should be hardened where it can withstand this. But some of those temperatures probably did cause some damage," Karst said.
Lows in the Midwest fell below zero F in northwestern Missouri, threatening crops in a minor wheat-producing area. Elsewhere in the Midwest, snow cover protected most wheat areas.
Farmers in the Midwest grow soft red winter wheat, used for snacks and pastries, while growers in the Plains grow hard red winter wheat, used for bread. Freeze damage is difficult to assess until the crop resumes growth in the spring.
Temperatures were forecast to warm up early next week, following a weekend storm that should produce 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 cm) of snow from the central Plains into Ohio. Some local amounts could be higher.
A second storm Monday and Tuesday should start out as rain and could cause flooding in snow-covered areas of the eastern Midwest, particularly the Ohio River Valley.
"There is quite a bit of snow on the ground, so we will probably see some flooding from that," Karst said.
Some updated forecasting models indicated the storm could cause a blizzard on Tuesday in Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan, but Karst was skeptical of those outlooks.
Temperatures are forecast to turn cold again on Tuesday before warming to above-normal levels by the end of the week.