Snowstorm, high winds, targets northern U.S. Plains, may stall spring planting

By Julie Ingwersen

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A blizzard is expected to bring high winds and 12 inches (30 cm) of snow or more to parts of South Dakota and Nebraska on Friday and Saturday, an agricultural meteorologist said on Thursday.

The snowfall, along with cold temperatures in the wake of the storm, could delay the planting of corn and spring wheat in the Dakotas and Minnesota into May.

Nebraska and Minnesota were the No. 3 and 4 corn producers last year in the United States, the world’s top supplier of the feed grain, and South Dakota was No. 6. For spring wheat, North Dakota and Minnesota are the top two U.S. growers.

“In addition to adding on to the snow pack in the northern Plains, it’s also a persistently cold pattern going forward,” said Joel Widenor, meteorologist with the Commodity Weather Group, adding, “It’s going to make it tough to dry out the soil.”

The storm should dump 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of snow across parts of South Dakota, Widenor said. The National Weather Service projected 12 to 18 inches across northern Nebraska and posted blizzard warnings for both states.

“At this point, it seems like it’s going to be out into May before we get our first chance at some warming,” Widenor said.

He noted that in a typical year, farmers in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Nebraska by mid-May are at least halfway finished with seeding corn and spring wheat.


Forecasting models indicated that another storm late next week could bring much-needed rain to the southern U.S. Plains winter wheat belt, although meteorologists were skeptical.

“The models definitely shifted wetter today versus where they have been the last couple days. But we are still very low confidence on that,” Widenor said.

The region’s hard red winter wheat has struggled with months of drought. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Monday rated 30 percent of the overall U.S. winter wheat crop in good to excellent condition, compared with 32 percent the previous week and 53 percent a year ago.

Widenor said his firm’s current forecast called for about half of the Plains hard red winter wheat belt to receive 0.25 to 1 inch of rain from the storm arriving April 20, with the other half, including west Texas, western Oklahoma and southwest Kansas, missing out.

(Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Groundhog Phil predicts more cold weather, Chuck says spring is coming

Groundhog co-handler A.J. Derume holds Punxsutawney Phil at Gobbler's Knob on the 132nd Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, U.S. February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Alan Free

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – Punxsutawney Phil, the weather-forecasting groundhog, emerged from his burrow in Pennsylvania on Friday, saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter, despite his rival Staten Island Chuck in New York predicting an early spring.

Phil’s prognostication, which was delivered at about 7:20 am EST, was met with a mix of cheers and groans from thousands of revelers on Friday who gathered in the town of Punxsutawney about 80 miles (120 km) northeast of Pittsburgh.

Even though they have endured record-breaking freezing temperatures and an unusually powerful winter storm known as a “bomb cyclone,” North Americans should expect winter to stretch on, according to the furry Pennsylvania critter.

But another celebrated groundhog, Chuck in the New York City borough of Staten Island, did not see his shadow on Friday and instead predicted an early spring. Chuck is known for biting then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the ceremony in 2009.

According to legend, if the groundhog emerges from his dwelling and sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter should be expected. But if there is no shadow, spring will make an early arrival.

Groundhogs, portly animals belonging to the squirrel family, have been offering weather predictions in Punxsutawney, which has a population of about 6,000 people, since 1887.

The town’s annual Groundhog Day event, made more popular by the 1993 comedy film “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray, draws people from as far away as Australia and Russia. This year was the 132nd ceremony.

Canada has its own share of weather-forecasting mascots, including Wiarton Willie, an albino groundhog who is also due to make his spring prediction on Friday in southern Ontario.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Sandra Maler and Bill Trott)

After weird winter, U.S. forecasters see warm, wet spring

A couple embraces in front of an ice-covered fountain in Bryant Park in New York City, U.S.

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – If you liked the balmy weather that dominated on the U.S. East Coast and much of the South this winter, you will probably enjoy the spring of 2017, too.

The new season, which officially begins on Monday, should bring more of the same in both regions, forecasters say, though for the East, a final twist of winter weirdness will have to play out before the region basks in the warmth again.

Spring, which starts with the vernal equinox at 6:28 a.m. EDT on Monday, will begin warmly but Wednesday’s temperatures are predicted to plunge into the 20s (-1 to -6 Celsius) and teens in the U.S. Northeast, with a snowstorm possible in the Midwest, according to

After the warmest February on record in New York City and other parts of the Northeast, winter returned with a vengeance last week with a paralyzing snowstorm and sustained stretch of sub-freezing temperatures.

“That was our three days of winter,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In New York, where pedestrians are still navigating deep piles of snow and ice, the mercury was expected to dip below the freezing mark overnight and then climb to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) on the first day of spring.

“Hang tight, bear with it, because our forecast for spring is above-average temperatures,” Gottschalck said.

That may come as cold comfort for the nation’s capital. Last week’s cold snap annihilated half of the pink-and-white cherry blossoms that typically draw 1.5 million tourists to Washington in early April. Lured to an early bloom by historic warmth, they were dangerously exposed, said National Park Service officials, who soldiered on with a festival celebrating survivors expected to reach peak bloom around March 25.

While the East Coast luxuriated in the mild temperatures, and Texas and Louisiana had the warmest winter in more than a century, the West Coast enjoyed a welcome stretch of wet weather after years of drought.

Nevada and Wyoming set records for precipitation, while California had the second wettest winter in the 123 years of record-keeping, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.

Temperatures for April, May and June were expected to be above normal in the Southern Plains, lower Mississippi Valley and the East Coast, said NOAA meteorologist Dan Petersen. For the West Coast, the long-range forecast was still unclear.

But NOAA is calling for a wetter-than-normal spring on the Gulf Coast and in the Northern Plains, where above-average snowfall in North Dakota and Idaho could trigger flooding.

On the final day of winter, almost 110,000 animal lovers worldwide remained glued to a YouTube streaming video of a pregnant giraffe named “April,” who is overdue to give birth at Animal Adventure Park in upstate New York.

Much more of a wait may mean a spring birth amid winter temperatures.

(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Frank McGurty and Sandra Maler)

Punxsutawney Phil sees shadow, foresees long North American winter

Groundhog Club President Bill Deeley listens to Punxsutawney Phil for his forecast while handler Ron Ploucha holds him at Gobbler's Knob on the 131st Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, U.S. February 2, 2017.

By Laila Kearney

(Reuters) – Punxsutawney Phil, the famous Pennsylvania groundhog that can supposedly forecast when the North American winter will end, dashed hopes for an early spring on Thursday when he emerged from his tree stump and saw his squirmy shadow.

Each year on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, thousands of revelers gather in the town of Punxsutawney, about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, to witness a groundhog that has been designated as “Phil” make his prediction.

As legend has it, if the little rodent sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, frigid and blustery weather will continue for six weeks. If it is cloudy and no shadow appears, the onset of spring is near.

“It don’t look good guys,” Bill Deeley, president of The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, told the crowd early on Thursday after pulling Phil from his lair at Gobbler’s Knob. “Ladies and gentlemen, he has made his prediction.”

The portly animal squirmed and bared his tiny teeth as his audience cheered. One woman shouted, “We love you, Phil!”

As Phil appeared to gnaw on the glove of his handler, a presenter wearing a top-hat and red bow tie read the weather outlook: “My faithful followers, I clearly see, a perfect clear shadow of me. Six more weeks of winter it shall be.”

Groundhogs have been offering weather predictions in the tiny Punxsutawney since 1887.

The annual Groundhog Day event, made more popular by the 1993 comedy film “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray, draws faithful followers from as far away as Australia and Russia.

(Editing by Frances Kerry)

Winter Weather overtakes Spring

A pedestrian with a red umbrella waits in the snow during a spring snow storm

By Scott Malone and Valerie Vande Panne

BOSTON (Reuters) – Massachusetts, New Hampshire and upstate New York braced for up to 6 inches (15 cm) of snow on Monday as forecasters warned that winter weather would overtake the area even as spring entered its second week.

Police warned motorists to slow down and some schools opened late in the area as the storm blew in during the morning commute and threatened to linger through the evening rush hour, with temperatures holding around 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-3.9°C).

Some harried travelers said they were ready for the climate to catch up with the calendar.

“It’s freezing. I’m tired. It’s April,” Carolyn Thomson, 45, said as she rushed to her job at a downtown Boston financial firm. “It should be over by now. I’m worried about getting my son to school on time. I’m late for work.”

While National Weather Service forecasters said the snow would continue to accumulate through the day, forecasts called for a return to warmer weather by Wednesday, suggesting the white coating would be short-lived.

Following an unusually mild winter, which followed Boston’s record-setting 9 feet (2.74 m) of snow during the winter of 2014-15, one man who makes his living cleaning up after storms said he liked the late storm.

“It’s New England. I’m very happy. It’s overtime,” Pablo Guerrero, a 44-year-old maintenance worker, said as he shoveled a downtown sidewalk. “Last year it was better.”

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Bill Trott)