* U.S. cold snap may hit natural gas production
* Most of Florida citrus escape freeze damage
* Storm developing in U.S. Delta could head to Midwest
(Combines weather conditions in Europe, Canada, U.S.; impact
on markets, crops, adds bylines)
By Michael Hirtzer and Meredith Davis
CHICAGO/HAMBURG, Jan 7 Blasts of Arctic winds
and drifting snow gripped much of the northern United States
and Canada on Thursday, slowing business in the agricultural
sector and threatening to disrupt natural gas production.
In Europe, heavy snowfall protected the wheat crop in the
continent's western region from being damaged by frosts.
Frigid temperatures in the United States continued to
support crude oil futures CLc1, which have risen the previous
10 sessions as the weather boosted demand for heating fuel.
Most of Florida's citrus crop escaped damage from freezing
temperatures this week, but growers are bracing for a renewed
freeze threat this weekend. [ID:nN07189729]
Energy research company Tudor Pickering Holt & Co in
Houston said natural gas production might be disrupted if cold
weather causes oil well heads to freeze in key producing states
like Texas and Louisiana. [ID:nN07261872]
Treacherous road conditions amid the snow and ice was
slowing the pace of business in the agricultural sector,
especially in the movement of grains and livestock.
"It's been a brutal start to 2010 and we are witnessing a
cold snap we haven't seen in a decade," said Missouri state
climatologist Pat Guinan. "Temperatures are cold enough that
salt (used to melt snow on roads) is not effective."
As much as 30 inches of snow was on the ground in Spencer,
Iowa, late Wednesday with another 5-6 inches falling overnight.
Heavy drifting pushed officials to close roads in the western
part of the largest corn and soybean producing state.
"(The snow) is not sitting still. It's blowing across the
countryside and it makes it a challenge to keep roadways open,"
said Iowa state climatologist Harry Hillaker.
Hillaker said cattle were at risk of suffocation as snow
accumulates and the animals crowd around each other to stay
warm and avoid the winds. Dehydration was also a risk.
"Very cold air is also very dry. It can be very challenging
with the temperature falling well below-zero to keep all the
water lines open," he said.
FREEZE IN CANADA
In Alberta, Canada, freezing temperatures have not had any
significant effect on cattle movement, said Ken Ziegler, a beef
specialist with the provincial government.
Some ranchers may wait to deliver cattle until temperatures
warm up, but the deep freeze isn't expected to last long enough
to have any major impact, he said.
Temperatures in the Texas Panhandle were forecast to dip to
the lowest level since 2002 but, with weather there expected to
remain dry, livestock were not seen at risk.
"I haven't seen any disruption. Cold and dry is not a
problem," said Mike Heard who runs a 45,000-head feedlot in
In Florida, some of the coldest air of the season was
expected to hit orange groves over the weekend, possibly
damaging citrus groves. [ID:nN07193484]
Concerns over freeze damage this week pushed up frozen
concentrated orange juice futures in New York, which on
Wednesday hit their highest level since January 2008.
Another storm system, currently developing over the U.S.
Delta, could head into the Midwest next week, but it's too
early to tell, said Mike Palmerino, meteorologist at DTN
"It is possible some of the storminess is going to move up
into the Midwest during the latter part of next week,"
Palmerino said. "The U.S. model is a little more interested in
bringing the storm up (toward the Midwest), while the European
model is not."
SNOW BLANKETS WHEAT FIELDS IN EUROPE
Arctic-like weather also swept across European key wheat
producers France, Germany and Britain.
But recently planted grains are thought to have built up
enough resistance to withstand the freezing temperatures, while
the snow cover is expected to protect the grain from freeze
"There is no doubt we had a narrow escape," one German
grains analyst said. "A lot of snow fell over the new year
holiday period which is providing good protection from the
(Additional reporting by Rod Nickel, Ed Stoddard, Anna Driver,
Rene Pastor, Michael Hogan, Valerie Parent, Nigel Hunt and
Catherine Hornby; editing by Jim Marshall)