A big change in weather: Back to the realities of late-winter for the Heartland

Across the Corn Belt, the recent spell of record-setting warmth has ended.  In the eastern Corn Belt, strong thunderstorms preceded the blast of colder weather, with high winds, large hail, and isolated tornadoes reported Tuesday night into early Wednesday in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.  Wednesday’s high temperatures will remain below 32°F in much of the upper Midwest, with gusty winds leading to wind-chill concerns.  In North Dakota, where calving and lambing were 12 and 24% complete, respectively, on February 25, this morning’s temperatures fell below 0°F.  

On the Plains, a brief round of cold weather follows the recent warm spell.  Wednesday morning’s low temperatures fell below 10°F from Nebraska northward, with readings below 0°F broadly noted in the Dakotas and northern Nebraska.  Gusty winds are easing in the northern half of the region but continue across the southern Plains.  Although only 12% of the U.S. winter wheat production area is currently experiencing drought, according to U.S. Drought Monitor-derived statistics, short-term dryness in some areas has reduced topsoil moisture.  On February 25, topsoil moisture was rated 52% very short to short in Montana, along with 50% in North Dakota, 37% in Nebraska, 32% in Texas, and 30% in Kansas. 

In the South, briefly heavy showers and locally severe thunderstorms are racing across the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys early Wednesday.  The thunderstorms are associated with a strong cold front that is introducing sharply colder, windy weather in its wake.  However, lingering warmth in the eastern Gulf Coast region and the southern Atlantic States will result in Wednesday’s high temperatures reaching 70°F or higher as far north as Virginia. 

In the West, a new round of Pacific storminess is pushing inland across the Northwest.  Snow in northern sections of the Cascades and Rockies is helping to improve below-average snowpack.  Across the remainder of the West, cool, dry weather prevails, although the Sierra Nevada is bracing for the likelihood of blizzard conditions, starting Thursday. 

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