Drought concerns rising on the southern Plains

Across the Corn Belt, light snow is overspreading the far upper Midwest in conjunction with an approaching storm. In contrast, the southern Corn Belt is experiencing a brief period of mild weather.

On the Plains, much cooler air is arriving in the wake of a cold front’s passage, while snow is falling in western Nebraska and environs. Windy weather continues to raise dust across portions of the southern Plains, where worsening drought is adversely affecting rangeland, pastures, and winter wheat. On March 16, more than half of Texas’ winter wheat (52%) and rangeland/pastures (53%) were rated in very poor to poor condition.

In the South, chilly conditions—accompanied by some rain and freezing rain—linger east of the Appalachians, but mild weather is returning farther west. Overnight ice accumulations occurred in parts of North Carolina and Virginia.

In the West, precipitation is largely confined to the Pacific Northwest and the eastern slopes of the northern Rockies. Cooler weather prevails, except for lingering warmth in California, where the average water content of the high-elevation Sierra Nevada snowpack remains at 8 inches, just 28% of the mid-March average.

Freezing rain will end later Tuesday morning in the southern Mid-Atlantic region, while rain showers will gradually diminish across Florida. Meanwhile, a late-season winter storm will track from the central Plains into eastern Canada. Along and north of the storm’s path, primarily from Wyoming to northern New England, significant snow will fall. Meanwhile, a few rain showers will occur along the storm’s trailing cold front as far south as the Ohio Valley and the Mid-Atlantic States. Elsewhere, a few showers will affect the Northwest, while dry weather will persist from California to the southern Plains.

Looking ahead, the 6- to 10-day outlook calls for below-normal temperatures from the Plains to the East Coast, while warmer-than-normal weather will prevail in the West. Meanwhile, near- to above-normal precipitation across the majority of the U.S. will contrast with drier-than-normal conditions from southern California to the southern High Plains.

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