Heavy Snow Welcome Moisture in Drought-Parched Kansas

Kansas Viewpoint

Slow-melting snowfall just what the doctor ordered for winter wheat crop which has suffered during prolonged fall and winter drought

Published on: February 21, 2013

You’ve heard of the million dollar rain.

South Central Kansas may have just gotten the million dollar snowstorm. Maybe even the multi-million dollar snowstorm.

The storm, which dumped anywhere from 9 to 18 inches of snow across a wide swath of the state, is welcome moisture to a region parched by more than two years of drought and made drier still by warm, windy winter weather.

At least for now, that picture has changed. Highs are forecast to be in the 20s and 30s for the next several days with overnight lows bitterly cold and wind chills expected to dip below zero.

In the western part of the state, parts of I-70 were closed because of blowing and drifting snow and whiteout conditions that cut visibility to less than a quarter-mile.  A winter storm warning was in effect all day Wednesday, Wednesday night, Thursday and Thursday night.

MILLION DOLLAR SNOWFALL: That precipitation held up in those snowflakes is sure to make farmers happy.
MILLION DOLLAR SNOWFALL: That precipitation held up in those snowflakes is sure to make farmers happy.

Forecasters warned that another storm system could bring  more snow by Sunday afternoon and Sunday night.

I’m not exactly thrilled to have to navigate seriously bad parking lot, sidewalk and road conditions, but there is no doubt that this storm is just what the winter wheat crops needs. A heavy snow that melts slowly and refills the soil moisture profile couldn’t come at a better time. With a moisture equivalent of an inch to an inch and half of rain, it will go a long way when the crop breaks dormancy and begins to grow in another month or so.

And while it isn't even close to enough moisture to break the drought, it will be enough to make the difference between having a wheat harvest or losing a wheat harvest.

In many areas, it has been too dry this winter for the wheat crop to emerge and the snow should bring moisture to get it up and growing when temperatures warm up in the spring.

The snowfall is not likely to be that much help to the drought-depleted reservoirs of the eastern part of the state because cold temperatures will mean a slow melt, which is unlikely to produce runoff in sufficient quantities to replenish stored water.