Weekend storm won't end drought
ST. PAUL - All of Minnesota is under a winter storm watch tonight through Saturday, while the eastern and southern parts remain vulnerable Sunday, but don't expect the predicted significant snow accumulations to put much of a dent in the state's drought.
And even if next month is snowier than normal - which does not look good now - the drought will continue.
"A couple of March snow storms doesn't make the spring," Steve Baun of the National Weather Service Thursday told a Minnesota drought task force.
Last year's dry weather - which produced what some call a "flash drought" because it came on so suddenly - sucked out much of the soil moisture. Conditions remain especially bad in central and northern Minnesota.
The task force that includes state, federal and local officials -- as well as private businesses -- met Thursday to learn about the current situation and to discuss what needs to be done to prepare for a continued drought. No decisions were made, but task force leader Kent Lokkesmoe of the Department of Natural Resources said it was valuable to update all affected agencies.
Lokkesmoe noted the irony that the task force met at the same time the weather service was issuing this weekend's winter storm watch.
That watch begins tonight statewide, with light snow and freezing rain expected. Snow is expected Saturday, mixed with freezing rain in southern Minnesota. Snow could be heavy over much of the state Saturday night.
Snow could continue Sunday, and maybe Monday, in the south and east.
Much of the state could receive up to 8 inches of snow - and more than a foot is possible in the Twin Cities - with less falling in the west.
Sleet and thick ice also are possible in the south.
Weather experts at Thursday's meeting said even normal precipitation over the next couple of months won't help. And without a break in the drought, farmers face crop problems, ranchers won't have enough grass for cattle to graze and those in the Northland will see early and frequent forest fires, the task force heard.
This year's drought is a continuation of one that affected many in northern Minnesota last year. While farmers ended up with good crop yields, agriculture officials say the soil now is so dry that without abundant precipitation this year's crops will struggle.
"Mother Nature essentially turned off the faucet," Greg Spoden of the Department of Natural Resources said.
North Central Minnesota snow depth is "at or below all-tine record levels," Baun said.
"It would take an extreme event to get us close to even," he added.