* More valuable moisture for drought-stricken soils
* Snow and rain mixed with snow for the next week
* Plains rains seen for weekend
By Sam Nelson
CHICAGO, March 5 Snow and sleet mixed with snow
were moving into northern Illinois early on Tuesday, and the
snowstorm will bring more valuable moisture to dry areas of the
U.S. Midwest, including Minnesota, eastern Iowa, northern
Illinois into Indiana and Ohio, an agricultural meteorologist
"It's a pretty big storm and will bring 4 to 8 inches of
snow, up to maybe a foot in some areas," said Andy Karst,
meteorologist for World Weather Inc.
Karst said warmer temperatures this week in the Plains and
western Midwest would melt much of the snowcover that stemmed
from a pair of big blizzards in late February, adding
crop-friendly moisture to the drought-stricken hard red winter
wheat region and the western corn and soybean belt.
"There is a weaker storm for the Plains by this weekend,
leaving 0.05 to 0.30 inch of rain, with heavier amounts in north
central Kansas and eastern Nebraska," he said.
Commodity Weather Group (CWG) meteorologist Joel Widenor
said snowfall totals so far on Tuesday were from 3 to 6 inches,
with up to a foot received in North Dakota. Another storm is
expected in the Plains by the weekend.
"The weekend storm will bring significant moisture of a half
inch up to 1.50 inches in the central and southeastern Plains
and much of the Midwest," Widenor said.
However, lighter amounts of rain are expected from
southwestern Kansas into West Texas, he said.
Winter wheat conditions improved across much of the U.S.
Plains last week following heavy snow that provided a
much-needed boost to soil moisture in areas that have been
suffering from drought, according to the U.S. Agriculture
Department's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
Meteorologists said the significant winter rainfall and snow
had so far eliminated the drought, the worst in 50 years in the
United States, in an area roughly from Illinois eastward.
But more moisture will be needed in April and May to nurse
the winter wheat crop to maturity and to aid the
soon-to-be-seeded corn and soybean crops, meteorologists and
crop experts have said.
Don Keeney, meteorologist for MDA Earthsat Weather, said
that as of early February, roughly 4 inches (10 cm) to 6 inches
(15 cm) of rain were needed in Kansas, the top producer of hard
red winter wheat, to bring the state out of drought status.
Up to 8 inches (20 cm) were needed in a pocket of severe
dryness in northeastern Kansas, a big corn- and grain
sorghum-growing area. Similar amounts were needed in Nebraska,
Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa and Missouri and northern Illinois and
(Reporting by Sam Nelson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)