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Snow's on its way...but how much?

Jeff Caldwell 02/19/2013 @ 9:01am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Speculation about just how much snow will fall has run rampant ahead of the winter blast that's making its way from the Bering Sea to the central U.S. later this week. One thing that's certain is there will be precipitation and a large portion of the Plains and western Corn Belt will see numbing temperatures well below normal, at least according to expectations as of Tuesday.

"The National Weather Service has stated there is a 100% chance of precipitation across western and central Iowa on Thursday already! The storm center is forecast to rapidly intensify tonight into Thursday morning over the Texas Panhandle and then to gradually weaken as it swings northeastward from there up over western or central Iowa by Friday morning," says Freese-Notis Weather, Inc. senior ag meteorologist Harvey Freese. "Heavy showers and thunderstorms are also forecast south and east of this low-pressure center overspreading a large part of Oklahoma and northern Texas and the Southern states."

The epicenter of the system will ultimately settle in over northern Kansas, southern Nebraska, and east to western Iowa. That's true for the first round of winter weather. A second blast on its heels will move the most frigid temperatures and heaviest snow to the west, Freese says.

"A second storm is forecast to develop out over the Panhandle again on Sunday and follow nearly the same path as this week's storm, potentially bringing more significant moisture to the same areas. Colder than normal weather will occur this week as the storm will help to pull cold air south behind the low-pressure track," he says. "On Friday, early morning temperatures could be subzero over the new snowfields of Nebraska and northwestern Kansas. Next week, the center of the cold may be farther west over the northern Plains, the Rockies, and the Great Basin areas with moderating temperatures again for the eastern Corn Belt."

It all leads to the biggest question: How much snow will fall? Though it's difficult to forecast exactly this far out, MDA Weather Services senior ag meteorologist Kyle Tapley says snowfall totals will generally stay at 1 foot or lower despite earlier expectations for as much as 2 feet earlier this week.

"The best guess at this point would be a general 6 to 12 inches across northern Kansas, central and eastern Nebraska, southeastern South Dakota, and western Iowa. Amounts should be a bit lighter across eastern Iowa, northwest Illinois, Wisconsin, and southern Minnesota, generally 4 to 8 inches," Tapley says. "The storm is still a few days away, so things could change, especially the exact placement of the heaviest amounts."

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