Weather report: Cold air covers much of the Plains, Corn Belt

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In the West, isolated showers are confined to the northern half of the region, despite an increase in cloudiness across the Southwest. Warmth is expanding from the Pacific Coast States into the Southwest, but chilly conditions persist in the Rockies.

On the Plains, unusually cold conditions persist. Freeze warnings are in effect this morning in parts of Oklahoma and Texas, where the cold weather poses a threat to winter wheat. In Oklahoma, where 41% of the winter wheat was jointing by March 24, today’s lows generally ranged from 10 to 25°F. In addition, the Plains’ winter wheat crop continues to struggle due to ongoing drought. On March 24, the portion of the wheat rated very poor to poor included 71% in South Dakota, 61% in Nebraska, and 47% in Colorado and Texas.

In the Corn Belt, cold, breezy weather prevails. A few snow showers linger across the eastern Corn Belt. This morning’s temperatures fell below 0°F in parts of the far upper Midwest, including much of North Dakota. Current snow depths include 10 inches in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and 6 inches in Indianapolis, Indiana.

In the South, freeze warnings are in effect this morning from central and eastern Texas to Georgia. The ongoing cold weather poses a potential threat to em erging summer crops and blooming fruit crops. For example, Georgia’s peaches were 74% in bloom by March 24, while 20% of Louisiana’s corn had emerged.

Outlook: Fairly tranquil weather will prevail nearly nati onwide until late in the week, when precipitation will develop across the nation’s mid-section and gradually spread into the East. Five-day precipitation totals could reach 1 to 2 inches across the southeastern Plains and the Mid-South, as well as the Pacific Northwest. Meanwhile, dry weather will prevail in the Southwest. Elsewhere, warmth will continue to expand across the West, reaching the High Plains late in the week. During the weekend, however, a new surge of cold air will arrive across the northern Plains and upper Midwest. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for March 31 – April 4 calls for near- to above-normal temperatures in the West and South, while colder-than-normal conditions w ill prevail across the majority of the Plains, Midwest, and Northeast. Meanwhile, below-normal precipitation in the Northwest will contrast with wetter- than-normal weather in most other areas of the country.

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