Unseasonably mild to warm across the Heartland; rains expanding into parts of the Corn Belt

Across the Corn Belt, mild weather accompanies a gradual increase in cloudiness and shower activity.  Early Friday, rain showers are occurring in the middle Mississippi Valley and environs.  Later Friday, high temperatures should exceed 55°F in the southwestern Corn Belt, with all areas of the Midwest rising above 32°F.  Snow covers just 13% of the continental U.S. on December 22, lowest coverage on that date in more than two decades.   

On the Plains, rain showers are ending across eastern sections of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.  The remainder of the region continues to experience unusually warm weather, with Friday’s maximum temperatures again expected to reach 55°F as far north as central Montana and top 60°F on the central High Plains.  Except in drought-affected areas, overwintering wheat continues to fare well; on December 19, just under one-third (32%) of the U.S. winter wheat production area was experiencing drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. 

In the South, lingering cool weather is confined to the lower Southeast.  Meanwhile, a few showers are developing from the western Gulf Coast region into the mid-South.  However, for much of the region, mild, dry weather favors any remaining fieldwork, as well as off-season farm maintenance. 

In the West, locally heavy showers are starting to spread eastward from southern California.  Nevertheless, a flash-flood threat persists in southern California.  The soggy weather is hampering fieldwork, including late-season cotton harvesting, in the Desert Southwest.  Meanwhile, cool conditions in southern California and the Desert Southwest contrast with mild, dry weather across much of the remainder of the region, aside from a few showers arriving in the Pacific Northwest.   

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