No Snow Days

Show-Me Life

Dry weather creates havoc for farmers and school kids.

Published on: January 18, 2013

I cannot recall the last year that our daughters went through winter without at least one day off school due to snow or ice. However, as I look out at the brown grass in my front yard, I fear this may be one of those years where there are no snow days.

While living in Minnesota for 10 years, I recognized that it wasn't a matter of if there would be snow, it was a matter of when, how much and for how long. I recall one year hiding Easter eggs in snow banks!

But after moving home to Missouri, I was once again reminded that snow is not a "given."

According to Missouri State Climatologist Pat Guinan, December turned out to be the 19th warmest on record since 2006. Precipitation for the month was for the most part below normal across the state. The statewide average was 1.85 inches, more than .5 inches below normal. This is not good news for a state already suffering from the drought.

While precipitation in the form of snow is a perk for school kids, it is necessary for farmers and ranchers. This white winter mix helps to replenish both above and below ground water supplies. But this year, the warm weather and lack of precipitation is already affecting livestock water supplies, and soon spring planting conditions.

There were areas of Missouri that received measureable amounts of snow last month; mine was not one of them. At our farm in southern Warren County, just a couple of inches fell at Christmas. Then it quickly disappeared, thankfully into the ground.

Traveling in northwest Missouri this week, I was surprised to see snow still on the ground. That area received up to 5 inches of snow in places from December 25-26. With the temperatures colder in northern Missouri than central or southern portions of the state, the snow remained for weeks. I admit I was a little envious. My four-wheeler and sled are still in the garage.

Unfortunately, the snow, no matter how long it stays on the ground, will not be enough to make up for the moisture deficit facing most of the Show-Me state.

"The highest likelihood for hydrological drought to persist through the rest of winter is across northwestern Missouri, which typically receives 2-3 inches of precipitation between January and February-not nearly enough to make up for a year-end precipitation deficit of more than a foot," Guinan says. "Winter is typically the dry season in Missouri and it is unlikely water supplies, above and below the ground, will fully recover for the start of next year's growing season. Significant long-term precipitation deficits remain and little to no recovery of surface water supplies was noted in many locations at the end of the year."

However, Guinan points out a few positives from the mild winter including a reduction in heating demand for housing, businesses and farm facilities and better conditions for livestock exposed to the elements.

The 30-day outlook for precipitation across the state looks a little promising with the climate prediction center calling for near normal precipitation ranging from 0.50-1.50 inches in the northwestern third of the state to 1.50-2.50 inches in the northeastern, central and southwestern sections of the state. Those in the southeast will see the largest amount of precipitation, anywhere from 2.5-4.0 inches.

The downside—above normal temperatures.

So now, I have to break the news to my daughter that unless the school takes off for excessive winter heat or rain, this year there may be no snow days.