December 24, 2009 / 4:38 PM / 9 years ago

Blizzard warnings for central U.S. before Christmas

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A wide-reaching winter storm with heavy snow and strong winds blasted the central United States for a second day on Thursday, leading weather officials to issue blizzard warnings a day before Christmas.

The storm helped to support corn prices by further delaying the Midwest harvest, while providing protection to the dormant winter wheat crop in the U.S. Plains against any freeze.

Blizzard warnings have been issued in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Minnesota, while Kansas, Iowa, and other centrally located states have been placed on winter storm warning lists by the National Weather Service.

“The big blizzard is lending support to corn (futures) — but at the same time, it brings moisture into portions of the Plains, which in the long run is presumably positive for wheat production, and price negative,” said Bill Nelson with Doane Advisory Services in St. Louis.

In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, 1 to 3 inches of snow was forecast on Thursday, said Tom Bradshaw, a meteorologist at the Southern Region Headquarters of the National Weather Service.

At midday, the area was seeing flurries and falling temperatures while heavy snow had already been dumped on parts of Oklahoma and parts of north Texas to the west of Dallas.

Texas Governor Rick Perry activated state vehicles, including some Texas military personnel, to assist residents affected by the winter storm.

The effected areas of Texas and Oklahoma could begin digging out on Friday or Saturday as the weekend is expected to be dry with fair skies, said Joel Burgio, a forecaster at DTN Meteorlogix.

Additionally winds will strengthen across northern and central portions of the Plains this evening into the overnight hours, said in a report.

Wichita, Kansas; Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas City, Missouri; Sioux Falls, South Dakota and St. Cloud, Minnesota, will see the worst of the storm on Thursday and into Friday as the areas are expected to get 1 to 2 feet of snow. Snow drifts and freezing rain will stall traffic in several areas of Kansas.

The extreme wintry weather will stress livestock, but the worst of the storm should miss the biggest feedlots, said Burgio, a forecaster at DTN Meteorlogix.

Temperatures will range between the teens and low 20s Fahrenheit (minus 13 to minus 5 Celsius) in the north and central areas of the U.S. Plains. While temperatures in the south and southwestern areas of the Plains will see highs in the mid-20s F, Burgio said.

In the Midwest, a mixture of snow and freezing is expected to continue until Saturday.

“The eastern Midwest will get the back end of the snowstorm,” Burgio said. While the precipitation is expected to be mostly freezing rain, some areas will see snow on Saturday, he added.

Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard in Dallas and Julie Ingwersen in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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