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Kansas City, St. Louis hit by fast-moving snowstorm (+video)

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Despite hazardous road travel and standstill conditions, farmers and ranchers in scorched plains states are welcoming the storm, saying it will help mitigate an extended dry season that has plagued the region.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln reported Thursday that over half the US (56 percent) is experiencing drought; hardest hit is the high plains region – Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado – where 82 percent of the area is suffering from severe drought conditions. The US Drought Monitor reported this week that 100 percent of Kansas is engulfed in severe drought or worse.

Kansas wheat farmer Scott Van Allen, who has about 2,300 acres planted to winter wheat in south-central Kansas, told Reuters Thursday he feels “a lot better this morning.”

“It snowed all night on us,” he said. “I was getting very concerned with the lack of moisture we've had.”

However, experts say the snowstorm is not enough to reverse drought conditions and that a foot of snow on the ground only translates to about an inch of water for the soil. They say several more storms of the current magnitude – an accumulation of about 10 feet of snow – are needed this winter to make a significant dent.

“It looks like an active storm pattern for the next week, but it won’t extend into the spring and upcoming summer months,” says Jim Keeney, a meteorologist for the central region office of the National Weather Service in Kansas City, Mo. “Although the precipitation is much welcome, it’s not going to do much to ease drought conditions across the Midwest. The ground is frozen and when this does melt off, it won’t soak into the ground and help subsoil and water table levels.”

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