Another round of rain is on the way for the water-logged Mississippi Valley, after a weekend storm that damaged wheat crops across the upper U.S. Great Plains.
The bulk of the rain will be concentrated from eastern Oklahoma and Kansas stretching east through southern Missouri and Illinois, said Brian Hurley, a senior branch forecaster at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. Rain will start to move into the region Tuesday, with the worst coming on Wednesday, he said.
Snow and high winds on one side of the storm damaged ripening wheat plants across Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska over the weekend, pushing grain prices higher. Early estimates suggest crop losses could exceed 50 million bushels, according to Pira Energy.
Heavy rain fell on the other side and more precipitation could spell even more damage to fields. The one bright spot is there’s no more snow in the forecast.
“We are going to get more rain in the next few days, some of it is going to be pretty heavy,” Hurley said. Farmers are “under the gun with this next system,” he said.
Wheat prices headed for record gains in Chicago on Monday as the U.S. winter crop faced substantial losses after the weekend storm. For hard red winter wheat, a variety of the grain used for bread, futures for July delivery surged as much as 6.7 percent to $4.6675 a bushel, a record increase. July futures for soft red winter wheat, which is used to make cookies and cake, jumped as much as 5.6 percent, also a record, while corn prices also climbed.
The excess moisture also means some corn and soybean fields will probably have to be replanted, and low temperatures and soggy fields will blunt seeding progress. More than 80 percent of the Midwest got more than 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of rain and 40 percent saw more than 3 inches, according to David Streit, the senior lead forecaster at Bethesda, Maryland-based Commodity Weather Group LLC.
Flood warnings now stretch from Oklahoma to Indiana, and many rivers will swell from their banks. Across the region, 28 river gauges are predicting major flooding and 55 moderate conditions.
The Mississippi flood, which could take until the end of the month to reach its mouth in Louisiana, won’t be enough to push the Army Corps of Engineers into a major action, said Jeff Graschel, service coordination hydrologist with the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell, Louisiana. In 2011, a massive flood along the lower Mississippi required opening spillways in Louisiana, choked off barge traffic in the main channel and inundated thousands of acres of adjacent farmland.
Smaller rivers across the region, such as the Black, White and St. Francis rivers in Missouri and Arkansas, could still force evacuations and swamp cropland, he said by telephone.
“It is certainly significant from an agricultural standpoint, it will have significant impacts,” Graschel said. “But it’s not unheard of for this time of year.”
The Mississippi at Cape Girardeau, Missouri, will crest just under record levels, while the river will reach major flood stage at East St. Louis, the weather service said. Across Missouri, the Moreau River will also flirt with a record flood, while the Meramec and Gasconade will set new all-time highs.