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Hot Weather Threatens Crops in Midwest, Tropical Storm Heads For Gulf Coast

Temperatures Topping 100˚F. Expected in Six- to 10-Day Forecast.

Farmers in the U.S. are keeping an eye on hot weather in the Midwest and a potential hurricane along the Gulf Coast, both of which could impact crops, meteorologists said.

“It’s definitely going to be dry in west-central portions of the Midwest,” said Donald Keeney, a senior agricultural meteorologist at Maxar in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

That includes the southern half of Iowa, a “good portion” of Missouri, southern Nebraska, Kansas, and parts of Oklahoma, he said.

Counties in several states in the Southern Plains including Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas and the Midwest such as Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana have been under heat advisories in recent days as temperatures sit in the 90s and indexes top 100˚F., according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures in the next five days likely will be around normal for this time of year, but are expected to rise into the upper 90s in the six- to 10-day outlook, Keeney said. They likely will break 100˚F. in parts of Kansas and Oklahoma, he said.

“With the root system being so shallow this year, that’s going to certainly stress the crops,” he said. “Even if they get rainfall, high temperatures are going to stress the crops.”

In south-central Nebraska, meanwhile, flooding has been a major issue after as much as 1 foot of rain fell, causing rivers and tributaries to overflow their banks.

The Platte River near Grand Island was at 7.4 feet on Thursday, topping flood stage of 6.5 feet at the location. The river is expected to rise to almost 8 feet before falling below flood stage on Sunday, the NWS said.

The good news for the area is that the hot, dry weather that’s hurting some areas will help dry down fields and abate flooding, Keeney said.

Those living along the Gulf Coast are watching to see if Tropical Storm Barry picks up speed and attains hurricane status. While the area may not be the biggest producer of row crops, some 59% of U.S. corn and 60% of soybeans are exported from ports along the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Soy Transportation Coalition.

The NWS has issued storm surge and tropical storm warnings stretching from about the Texas-Louisiana border east to the Florida panhandle, along with more localized flood warnings, hurricane watches, and high surf advisories.

Waves are forecast from 5' to 8' high starting Thursday, and a “significant” run-up that could cause coastal flooding is forecast along with “frequent life-threatening rip currents.”

Tropical Storm Barry likely will exacerbate what’s already been a season of bad weather.

“The historically high water levels throughout the inland waterway system, including in the lower Mississippi River near the Gulf of Mexico, have been a consistent struggle for barge transportation feeding into the lower Mississippi River and have impeded the ability to load ocean vessels to their normal capacity,” the Ankeny, Iowa-based Soy Transportation Coalition said. “Given these high water levels, many have been concerned that a tropical storm or, even worse, a major hurricane could significantly inundate this critical area of the country with significant flooding.”

Bar pilots – those navigating vessels in and out of the lower Mississippi – suspended operations along the lower Mississippi River ahead of the tropical storm, the group said.

The storm surge, once it hits land, likely will push through the Delta into southern Illinois, Kentucky, and southern Ohio.

While the weather isn’t looking good in the southern two thirds of the Midwest, the Northern Plains received some timely rainfall in the past few days that may give spring wheat a boost.

“It had been really dry in North Dakota and Minnesota, but that’s where the rainfall has been, so that’s improved conditions there,” Keeney said. “Next week, they’ll get some scattered showers. I don’t think it’ll be anything significant, but it will hold off any significant stress.”

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