Atlas Surged: Snow Slams the Great Plains

October 8, 2013 04:07 AM
Atlas Surged: Snow Slams the Great Plains

It’s early October, and farmers are beginning to brace themselves for the first killing frost of the fall. But Wyoming and the western sections of North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska were blitzed with a blizzard that featured wind gusts as high as 71 mph and snowfall accumulation that exceeded a foot in much of the region affected. Deadwood, S.D., led the pack with 48 inches of snow, and Rapid City, S.D., recorded the second highest snowfall on record, with 23.1 inches.

Farm losses varied. Row crop farmers must deal with the ensuing harvest delays, while some livestock operations are dealing with dead or missing cattle – the snow blew over multiple pasture fences, allowing for easy escapes.

"We have been wet for almost a month now," notes one Montana farmer on AgWeb’s Crop Comments website. "From hail storms to snow now. The corn crop will be end-of-month, and sugarbeets are just getting started. We need some sun and wind to dry things out."

Snowfall wasn’t the only hindering weather event over the past week. Large swaths of the Midwest received 1 to 3 inches of rain. Farmer chatter on Twitter would indicate they’re not panicked just yet, but they are starting to get anxious. Still, the 2013 crop is far from being in the bins. As of Sept. 30 (the last report available until the government shutdown resolves), corn was 12% harvested and soybeans were 11% harvested.

And whether you’re worried about snow or a killing frost, each type of weather brings its own special challenges, says Laura Edwards, an Extension climate field specialist with South Dakota State University.

"Snow would halt combines for a while, but help soil moist long-term," she says. "Freeze would halt moisture loss. Pick your poison."

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