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Midwest, Plains brace for deep freeze next week

The U.S. heartland has been bracing for more subzero temperatures next week which will add stress to the dormant wheat crop and limit grain movement, a forecaster said on Friday.
/ Source: Reuters

The U.S. heartland has been bracing for more subzero temperatures next week which will add stress to the dormant wheat crop and limit grain movement, a forecaster said on Friday.

This will be the second round of frigid temperatures in less than a week for the southern Plains and Midwest. The arctic blast followed Tuesday's blizzard that dumped about 8 to 15 inches of snow in a band stretching from southern Plains to the eastern Midwest. Up to 20 inches fell in northern Illinois.

"The deep freeze next week will create major icing on the rivers and we are keeping an eye on the possibility of a big storm forecast for the South that could edge its way into the Midwest," said Mike Palmerino, forecaster with Telvent DTN weather service.

This week's blizzard made travel treacherous across the Midwest and southern Plains, forcing meat processing plants, grain elevators, river terminals to close. Heavy snows and icing on Midwest rivers continues to slow the loading of barges which move grain to export terminals at the Gulf.

Friday morning lows were zero to the teens Fahrenheit (-17 to -9 Celsius), versus below zero on Thursday. While temperatures will be near normal on Friday and Saturday, a blast of arctic air moves in Sunday.

Lows early next week will dip to -20 F, west of the Mississippi River. The eastern Corn Belt will see morning lows on Tuesday to Thursday -5 to -15.

The Plains hard red winter wheat crop is vulnerable to more damage on Wednesday when lows slip to zero to -10 F.

"Weather conditions that caused the deterioration in the crop ratings during January continue in February. We would assume crop conditions will continue to deteriorate due to the dryness and periods of very cold weather with little protective snow cover," Palmerino said.

There is a chance of snow next week for the Plains but the amounts would be light -- a dusting to a couple inches.

Melted precipitation will be under 0.10 inch, providing little relief to the drought-stressed crop, Palmerino said.

In contrast, light to moderate snow of 2 to 6 inches heads to the Midwest for Sunday-Monday. Additionally, there is a chance of a major storm hitting the Midwest on Tuesday or Wednesday with a system brewing in the south could move north, Palmerino said.

The six to 10-day Plains outlook, Wednesday to Sunday, called for below to much-below normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation.

The extended Midwest forecast was below to much-below normal temperatures and near to below-normal precipitation.