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Is Another Dust Bowl In The Offing?

The extended dry conditions in the South can be compared to 1930's Dust Bowl conditions, while yearly flooding plaques northern beef cattle ranchers.

The growing drought in Texas and Oklahoma, while not exactly the “Dirty ’30s,” is reminiscent of the Dust Bowl, according to Jed Lafferty with Planalytics, a firm that provides weather and agricultural outlook consulting.

Its forecast for late spring-early summer calls for continued droughty and dry conditions for Texas northward through Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, spreading into western portions of Iowa and Missouri. The Texas-Oklahoma winter wheat area has suffered from drought already, and Lafferty says it will only continue to intensify.

And when the region does get precipitation, it may come in a less-than-welcome form, says Fred Gesser, senior ag meteorologist. He forecasts that Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Eastern Nebraska, Western Missouri and Western Iowa – parts of the region regarded as “tornado alley” – have a high risk of hail in their severe weather mix this spring.

On the other hand, parts of the Northern Plains and the Pacific Northwest will remain wet, with serious floods possible in the Red River Valley. This will be the third year in a row that the Red River Valley has experienced severe flooding, Lafferty says. “When people talk of 500-year floods, it’s time to change the average. We’ve now had three of them in three consecutive years.”

The Ohio and Tennessee Valleys will also see wetter-than-normal conditions. Cooler-than-normal temperatures will continue in the Great Lakes states south into the Ohio Valley. These conditions could lead to later-than-normal plantings in the affected regions.

“And finally, the dryness across the Deep South is expected to remain through May,” he says. That may tempt producers to get out early for fieldwork. However, Planalytics is projecting that the last freeze date could be anywhere from 10-14 days later than normal.