Snow Aids Northern Panhandle; Other Areas Still Dry
April 3, 2009
More Storms Protected
On April 3-5 yet another powerful storm system hit the central Plains, bringing blizzard conditions to the northern half of Nebraska. This was the fifth blizzard to hit the western Plains since the beginning of March.
Snow in excess of three inches was reported north of a line from Imperial to Broken Bow to West Point. Snow totals exceeded 10 inches across the western half of the Sandhills, northern Panhandle, and northeastern corner of Nebraska. Wind gusts of 40-50 mph were common across northern Nebraska, with 50-60 mph gusts common across the southern half.
Unfortunately, most locations south of I-80 received liquid equivalent moisture of less than 0.25 inch, with the heaviest totals reported in south central Nebraska. One confirmed tornado touchdown was reported west of Fairfield, but caused little significant damage. This marks the seventh confirmed tornado touchdown of this young severe weather season in Nebraska.
Some Areas Now "Abnormally Dry"
Based on the lack of significant moisture since March 1, the U.S. Drought Monitor is classifying several Nebraska areas as abnormally dry, including the southern half of Dundy, Hitchcock and Red Willow counties in southwest Nebraska and eastern Jefferson and southern Gage counties in southeast Nebraska. Deficits since October 1, 2008 are in the 2-3 inch range for Fairbury (Jefferson County) and Beatrice (Gage County). Most moisture deficits in southwest Nebraska can be linked to below normal moisture last October.
Weather models continue to exhibit a tendency toward active weather during the next few weeks, with storm systems crossing the central U.S. every three to four days. A powerful system should bring significant moisture to Nebraska around April 12-13, with accumulating snowfall possible across the northwestern third of the state. Another system is projected to move into the region around April 17, with the possibility of a widespread severe weather outbreak.
The Climate Prediction Center projects that most of the U.S. will experience above normal moisture through April 20. In addition, they have revised their April forecast to include eastern Nebraska and western Iowa in an area of above normal moisture extending southeast toward western Georgia.
Effect on Crop Production
With moistened soils from recent storm activity, central and eastern Corn Belt producers will likely experience planting delays through late April, especially given that at least four more storms are projected to impact this region in the next two weeks. Reports from Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio indicate that soil temperatures at the 4-inch depth remain below 40°F and recent moisture has brought tillage and nitrogen applications to a halt.
Weather models indicate that there will be periods of above normal temperatures during the next two weeks prior to the arrival of individual storm systems. If these storms continue to miss southern sections of the state, tillage and planting activities should increase south of I-80. Activity north of I-80 will depend on moisture patterns, as these areas have received generous moisture from the last two storms.
Extension State Climatologist