USDA's Joint Ag Weather Facility says on the Plains, bitterly cold, breezy weather is returning to the northern half of the region, accompanied by some snow in parts of Montana and the Dakotas. Farther south, unusual warmth lingers for a final day across the southern Plains. Drought continues to adversely affect rangeland and winter wheat in western Texas, USDA notes.
In the West, precipitation associated with a developing storm is heaviest across the Intermountain region, particularly in northern Utah, USDA states. Drought remains a substantial concern in California, where the 154 intrastate reservoirs collectively held just 74% of their normal water volume at the end of last month -- down from 125% on Nov. 30, 2009, USDA observes.
In the Corn Belt, cold weather is returning to the upper Midwest, ending a brief respite. Sub-zero temperatures were mostly confined to the nation's northern tier, including North Dakota and northern Minnesota, USDA states.
In the South, warm, dry weather is promoting late-season fieldwork, including the final stages of winter wheat planting and cotton and soybean harvesting, says USDA.
In its outlook, USDA says during the next two days, most locations in the West will experience some precipitation, with the highest totals (locally two inches or more) expected in the Pacific Northwest, Utah's Wasatch Range, and a few locations near the Mexican border. By week's end, heavy precipitation will erupt from the southern Plains into the Ohio Valley, with storm totals of two to five inches possible from the southern Plains to northern New England. In addition, notes USDA, wintry precipitation (snow, sleet, and freezing rain) will affect several areas as the storm unfolds, first across the nation's northern tier, followed by portions of the central Plains and the middle Mississippi Valley. A surge of cold air will trail the storm, particularly across the Plains and upper Midwest. Late-week temperatures could plunge below 0°F as far south as Nebraska, while pre-storm temperatures should exceed 70°F as far north as the Mid-Atlantic States, USDA says.