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Snow storm makes small dent in drought-stricken crop region

Snow blows across US Highway 218 as near whiteout conditions begin in Waterloo, Iowa, December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Matthew Putney/The Waterloo
Snow blows across US Highway 218 as near whiteout conditions begin in Waterloo, Iowa, December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Matthew Putney/The Waterloo

By Sam Nelson

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The first major snow storm of winter did little to ease the worst drought in more than 50 years in the crop growing Central Plains and Midwest, while snarling traffic and hampering feeding and transportation of livestock.

MDA EarthSat Weather meteorologist Kyle Tapley said six to 12 inches or more snow fell from Nebraska into Wisconsin during the past two days, the equivalent of about 0.50 inch to 1.00 inch of rain, that will help ease but not eliminate drought worries.

Tapley said roughly 10 inches of moisture or rainfall would be needed in a large portion of the Plains and Midwest to break the drought of 2012 that trimmed crop production and sapped soil moisture reserves.

"The snow put a small dent in the drought and I don't see any moisture for next week," Tapley said.

Commodity Weather Group (CWG) said the snow favored Wisconsin, far eastern Iowa, far northwestern Illinois and west-central Michigan on Thursday with better than a foot of snow in Wisconsin.

"Another storm over the weekend into early next week will bring rain to the Delta and Southeast and a chance for snow near the Ohio River Valley," said CWG meteorologist Joel Widenor.

Widenor said prospects for more rain or snow in the southern Plains hard red winter wheat producing states were more limited on Friday.

But there could be some light rain or snow in the area on Tuesday but "this would provide only limited additional drought relief," Widenor said.

Winterkill threats for wheat and frost threats for Florida citrus are still limited, despite cooling the next two weeks, according to CWG's advisory on Friday.

(Reporting By Sam Nelson; Editing by Grant McCool)

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