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Across the Corn Belt, sunny, warm weather favors a rapid pace of crop growth. However, corn and soybean stages of development remain far behind the average pace, owing to a sluggish spring planting pace. In addition, a few areas in the Midwest have not received much rain in recent days, leading to local soil crusting and compaction.

On the Plains, warm, dry weather in most areas is promoting summer crop development and winter wheat maturation and harvesting. Cool weather prevails, however, across the northernmost Plains, accompanied by widely scattered showers.

In the South, most of the thunderstorm activity associated with Tropical Storm Barry remains offshore, although locally heavy showers stretch from the central Gulf Coast to the southern Atlantic states. Early Friday morning, Barry was centered about 95 miles southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving west-northward at 5 mph.

In the West, a few showers developing across the Four Corners states appear to be related to the onset of the Southwestern monsoon (summer rainy season). Cool weather lingers along the Pacific Coast, but hot weather prevails in many inland areas, particularly across the Great Basin and Desert Southwest.

Tropical Storm Barry is forecast to make landfall in southern Louisiana late tonight or early Saturday, pushing a 2- to 6-foot storm surge inland. With the Mississippi River already running high, water levels from Reserve to New Orleans, La., could reach their highest levels since February 1950. In addition, 10- to 25- inch rainfall totals could lead to massive and catastrophic flash flooding in the central Gulf Coast region. By early next week, heavy rain could reach as far north as the lower Ohio Valley. Meanwhile, mostly dry weather will prevail across the central and southern Plains and the Far West, while scattered showers will affect the southern Atlantic states and stretch from the Four Corners region to the northern Plains and upper Midwest. Early next week, heat will slowly begin to build across the central and southern Plains.

Looking ahead, the 6- to 10-day outlook calls for near- or above-normal temperatures nationwide, except for cooler-than-normal conditions in the Northwest. Meanwhile, near- or below-normal rainfall in most areas from California to the central and southern Plains should contrast with wetter-than-normal weather across much of the northern and eastern U.S.

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Greg Soulje, a professional meteorologist since 1985, offers national agricultural weather forecasts via "This Week in Agribusiness."