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Sandy snows may help spring with moisture
Kentucky Correspondent

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The effects of one of the worst storms to devastate the East Coast were felt through most of the eastern half of the country last week, including Kentucky.

It wasn’t strong storms with heavy rains that blanketed the Appalachian section of the state from Hurricane Sandy, but snow – and lots of it – in the higher elevations. Snow fell by the foot in some sections of Kentucky, with heavier amounts in West Virginia and Maryland.

In fact, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin asked for a federal disaster declaration on Nov. 1 because of the extensive snow and loss of electricity in that state.

The unusual event was created when moisture from the hurricane crashed into cold air coming through the mountains. Tom Priddy, a meteorologist at the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Agriculture, said it’s not unusual to see the remnants of a tropical storm make it to the state by way of the Mississippi Valley or from the East Coast, but this time a cold air mass from Canada just happened to be coming through at the same time.

“The timing was such that one system got behind the other and, especially in the higher elevations, caused quite a bit of snowfall – anywhere from 18 to 24 inches in some locations,” he said. “The tremendous amount of precipitation that occurred in general wreaked havoc and is still continuing to have a huge impact in many locations in the Northeast.”

For Kentucky, the impact was much less but snow this early in the season is highly unusual, as the state has experienced lower-than-normal temperatures of late. Still, Priddy said the state may have dodged a bullet when it came to Hurricane Sandy. Those cooler temperatures have been nearly 10 degrees off the usual mark.
But the forecast for the next two weeks is calling for a return to more normal temperatures, with near normal precipitation – something farmers welcome, with the state’s tobacco crop needing a little warmth as it cures and as some corn and soybeans remain in the field.

The last report from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service noted 96 percent of the corn had been harvested, along with 75 percent of soybeans. Chad Lee, a UK grain crop specialist, said while crops remained in the field during the storm, it is unlikely any damage occurred.

“The weather has been so cool that most of these crops had stopped growing anyhow. If we had any freezing temperatures, if may have officially stopped growth but growth has really been stopped for some time now,” he said.

Lee added he heard no reports of corn being blow over by high winds, since the corn ears were so small.

Weather-wise, despite the storm, Priddy said the state as a whole is a bit below normal at this point when it comes to moisture. That comes as no surprise considering how dry it was through most of the summer. Any moisture the state receives through this winter, be it rain or snow, will be a plus for producers next spring, said Priddy, since subsoils were so dry this year.

“Hopefully, over the winter we will continue to get some at least near-normal precipitation,” he said.

Right now, weather models indicate the possibility of having near-normal temperatures and moisture this winter, through March. Priddy said after such a warm winter in 2012, he knew the weather would “come back to haunt us.” So, a little cold weather this winter will be welcome.

“While (the warm winter) was good on home heating, we’d like a little bit of cold weather this winter,” he said.