By Christine Stebbins
CHICAGO Jan 7 The U.S. Midwest and Plains
remained in a deep freeze on Tuesday with sub zero temperatures
at record or near-record lows, raising the risk of winter-kill
damage to dormant wheat along the Ohio River valley,
Overnight lows fell to -5 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to
-23 Celsius) across southern Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and
northern Kentucky - big soft red winter wheat country, where
much of the area was unprotected by snow cover.
"It was cold enough to put about 5 percent of the soft wheat
crop at risk," Joel Widenor, an agricultural meteorologist with
Commodity Weather Group, told Reuters.
Snow cover protects dormant wheat when temperatures dip
below zero and persist for four hours or more. Without
sufficient snow cover, damage to exposed wheat can prevent the
crop from reaching its full yield potential next summer.
The central Plains hard red winter country was warmer early
Tuesday, with lows in the single digits up to the 20s F, a big
contrast from the -10 to -20 F readings on Monday, when up to 30
percent of the Plains wheat belt was at risk of winter kill,
agricultural meteorologists said.
The frigid temperatures and weekend snows also slowed
livestock and grain shipments through the heartland and curbed
meat production at several packing plants.
Indiana Packers Corp in Delphi, Indiana, said in a statement
that plant operations remained suspended Tuesday due to
hazardous roads and brutally cold temperatures, but the facility
was expected to resume full production on Wednesday.
Two Cargill Inc beef and pork plants were running
at reduced levels because of road conditions that slowed the
transport of hogs and cattle, said Cargill spokesman Mike
Several flour mills in New York and Ohio were closed Tuesday
as poor weather slowed rail and truck movement of grain, cash
grain traders said.
The Illinois River, a major artery to ship grain, remained
open to barge traffic on Tuesday, but traffic was restricted to
one-way only along a 10-mile stretch near Peoria, Illinois, due
to ice buildup, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Barge shippers were breaking up surface ice to keep the
navigation channel open, Coast Guard Lieutenant Colin Fogarty
said. However, ice floes were stacking up at locks and dams and
freezing together in much larger blocks, known in river parlance
as gorging, and that can make lock and dam gates difficult to
open and close.
Cash basis bids for soybeans shipped by barge to Gulf Coast
export elevators jumped to the highest in four months, in part
because of ice-slowed shipments from the Illinois and traffic
backups on the Mississippi River around St. Louis due to low
Temperatures in the upper Midwest fell to the minus teens F
and wind chills of -35 to -40 F.
But temperatures were forecast to rise into the 20s to 30s F
later this week, with some southern Midwest locations possibly
seeing highs in the 40s F, according to forecasters.
"Most of the snow came to an end yesterday, so
transportation should be improving," said meteorologist Andy
Karst with World Weather in Kansas City.
"Another storm is headed to parts of the Midwest Wednesday
into Thursday and again on Friday into Saturday - it's not going
to be a big deal."