On the same day that Hurricane Michael destroyed parts of the Florida Panhandle, Old Man Winter hit early in the Northern Plains, blanketing fields with snow in eastern North Dakota.
It started as rain shortly before midnight on October 10, but within a few hours the wet stuff changed to the white stuff and fell much of the day. This is according to Dan Riddle, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Grand Forks.
Riddle tells FreightWaves that, on average, a trace of snow might fall on any given day in early October, but a record 5.7 inches fell at his office just west of downtown last Wednesday. This beat the old record of 3.0 inches from October 10, 1921. A whopping storm total of 17.4 inches was measured at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, and several other reporting sites received anywhere from 10 to 15 inches.
The snow was a concern for farmers after days of periodic rain had already slowed down picking. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), at the end of the week prior to the snow only eight percent of the state’s corn had been harvested and 34 percent of soybeans. Forty-five percent of the state’s sugar beets had been harvested.
Riddle isn’t a farmer, but he has talked to many of them during his 24-year career at the NWS. He says, thankfully, he hasn’t heard about any significant damage to any of these crops, but the rain and snow will probably further delay harvesting. Sugar beets are typically pulled around October 1. They grow underground like potatoes, so they can’t be wet and muddy when trucks come to take them to processing plants or other drop off locations. Riddle says corn might be delayed, but only a little. It’s usually harvested last and can handle cold snaps and freezes. He couldn’t comment on the soybean crops.
Dan Wogsland, Executive Director of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, also tells FreightWaves that he hasn’t received reports of significant damage and that “combines are running again”.
The USDA report from the end of last week, after the snow had fallen, shows only small gains in harvesting for the three crops. However, 46 percent of the state’s corn was in good condition with 15 percent rated excellent, and 41 percent of soybeans were rated in good condition with six percent as excellent. Movement of these goods should pick up soon as a string of dry days lets farmers do a lot of picking and make up some lost time. Riddle says there’s little precipitation in the forecast for at least a week, and the harvest will probably be delayed by about two weeks.