Another Storm for Upper Midwest Next Week

Spring Blizzard Brad Rippey 041119
Flooding along the Missouri River impacted the downstream towns of Wellington, Mo. and Lexington, Mo. ( Sonja Begemann )

As another winter storm rolls across the northern plains, USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey says the impacts for agriculture are once again significant. 

"It's amazing that we're talking four weeks ago we had almost a carbon copy storm moving across the same region," says Rippey. 

In the blizzard affected areas states like Colorado, nearly 30% of the herd is still calving. Winter wheat is also at risk of freeze damage with areas of western Oklahoma and northern Texas well ahead in maturity.  Oklahoma wheat according to the latest numbers from USDA is 56% jointed. In Texas, the wheat is already 15% headed. 

However, it's the northern states that will feel the brunt of a second bomb cyclone in a month's time.

"Last time we had frozen soils and we had snowpack in place so all of the moisture just flashed right off of the soil into the waterways," says Rippey. "This time we at least have soils that are not frozen, however, they are saturated."

He says we will still see runoff and some renewed flooding with this storm. 

"Some of the Northern watershed areas that have been experiencing moderate to major snowmelt and flooding such as the James River, the Big Sioux River, and the upper Mississippi," says Rippey. "This is going to be a blow to that region because we're going to be putting a lot of moisture back into those basins as the snow begins to melt."

Beyond flooding, there continues to be a chance for severe weather with the storm and Rippey says another system is likely to move through the southern states this weekend bringing heavy rains. All of this moisture is likely to slow an already sputtering start to planting season. 

"We are behind where we were this time last year in terms of starting any fieldwork in the western Corn Belt," says Rippey. "Looking ahead it appears like a pretty active storm track will continue."

Rippey says that includes the potential for another fairly significant storm in the upper Midwest as soon as next week. 

"That, of course, will be another setback to starting field work," says Rippey. "The big question at this point-does El Nino stick with us through the summer months and into the next fall?"

He says from a meteorological perspective there's a lot of uncertainty about that right now.  Forecasters plan to watch climate trends coming out of the Pacific over the next few weeks looking for clues. 

"El Nino, if it were to stick around through the summer months, that tends to be a rainmaker," says Rippey.  "We would expect an active pattern to continue if that does happen."