Forecaster: Winter 'not over by a long shot'

You probably wouldn't guess it based on diminished snowfall counts across the state, but for the second straight year, drought conditions aren't likely to dampen the spirits of Nebraska farmers as they look ahead to this year's early growing season.

Thanks largely to a pair of fall rainstorms in October and November 2013, Nebraska's soil recharge shows a healthy surplus of moisture in dryland regions east of York, the Panhandle and north central Nebraska, said Al Dutcher, state climatologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

What's more: The abundant snowpack in the Central Rocky Mountains in northern Colorado and south central Wyoming — feeder sources for the South and North Platte rivers — are 135 and 120 percent above normal, respectively.

Locally, temperatures have been running below normal since October 2013, said Mike Reed, hydrometeorological technician at the National Weather Service north of Hastings. Through mid-February, moisture was down on the year, though only slightly: .66 of an inch compared to a .90 average.

Even so, Dutcher believes the statewide numbers point to another bounce-back year in Nebraska from the challenging drought conditions that dried up crops in 2012. And while such unpredictable factors as El Niño storm systems still could figure into the growing equation later in the season, Dutcher believes moisture conditions should be favorable in the early months of the 2014 growing season.

"The two biggest snow months of the year on average — March and April — are still coming," Dutcher said.

To read more, see Friday's Hastings Tribune or the Tribune e-edition.>>

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