November 10, 2014 / 10:10 PM / 5 years ago

Winter storm hits U.S. Plains, upper Midwest; cold to follow

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The first big winter storm of the season dropped up to 8 inches of snow in South Dakota by Monday afternoon and was heading for the upper Great Lakes region but is not seen as a significant threat to crops or livestock, forecasters said.

The storm was expected to bring 1 to 5 inches (2.5 to 12.7 cm) of snow to Minnesota and 1 to 3 inches to northeast Iowa through Tuesday with some areas seeing heavier amounts, said Paul Markert, a meteorologist with MDA Weather Services.

The snowfall is likely to stall just the last of the autumn harvest in those areas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the corn harvest was 82 percent complete in Iowa as of Sunday and 90 percent complete in Minnesota. The soybean harvest was nearly wrapped up in both states.

Unseasonably cold weather is expected after the storm, pushing winter wheat crops into dormancy. Readings could fall to minus 6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 21 Celsius) in the western Dakotas, with lows in the teens (minus 7-11 C) through eastern Iowa and western Illinois.

The chill could also slow barge loadings on the Mississippi River, a concern that has prompted barge operators to push to move corn and soybean shipments this week, a barge source said.

In early October of last year, 22,000 cattle in South Dakota died after a freak early-winter blizzard swept into the region. Many of the cattle succumbed to hypothermia following freezing rain, heavy snow and winds reaching 70 mph at a time when the animals had not grown their protective winter coats.

“Last year’s storm occurred 35 days earlier,” said Mendel Miller, assistant state veterinarian. “We are now into November, and we are in South Dakota, where we expect cold and snow this time of year.”

The heaviest snows this week were expected in northern portions of Wisconsin and Michigan, north of core crop and livestock areas.

Reporting by Julie Ingwersen and Theopolis Waters; Editing by James Dalgleish

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