CHICAGO Jan 7 The U.S. Midwest and Plains
remain in a deep freeze on Tuesday morning, with sub zero
temperatures at record or near-record lows, raising the risk of
winter-kill damage to dormant wheat along the Ohio River valley,
Overnight lows fell to -5 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to
-23 Celsius) across southern Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and
northern Kentucky - big soft red winter wheat country, where
much of the area was unprotected by snow cover.
"It was cold enough to put about 5 percent of the soft wheat
crop at risk," Joel Widenor, an agricultural meteorologist with
Commodity Weather Group, told Reuters.
Snow cover protects dormant wheat when temperatures dip
below zero and persist for four hours or more. Without
sufficient snow cover, damage to exposed wheat can prevent the
crop from reaching its full yield potential next summer.
The central Plains hard red winter country was warmer early
Tuesday, with lows in the single digits up to the 20s F, a big
contrast from the -10 to -20 F readings on Monday, when up to 30
percent of the Plains wheat belt was at risk of winter kill,
agricultural meteorologists said.
The frigid temperatures and weekend snows also slowed
livestock and grain shipments through the heartland and curbed
meat production and several packing plants.
The Illinois River, a major artery to ship grain, was open
to barge traffic on Monday but ice buildup created bottlenecks
along a slow-moving stretch of the river near Peoria.
The upper Midwest remained in a deep freeze early Tuesday,
with temperatures falling to the minus teens F and wind chills
of -35 to -40 F.
But temperatures will warm into the 20s to 30s F later this
week, with some southern Midwest locations possibly seeing highs
in the 40s F, according to forecasters.
"Most of the snow came to an end yesterday, so
transportation should be improving," said meteorologist Andy
Karst with World Weather in Kansas City.
"Another storm is headed to parts of the Midwest Wednesday
into Thursday and again on Friday into Saturday - it's not going
to be a big deal."
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)