Rain, sunshine alternate as spring progresses

KIMBALL, Neb. – A slow-moving weather system cooled air temperatures and delivered good moisture across the region over the May 1-3 period. Very light snow fell in some areas, but across the Panhandle only Scottsbluff reported measurable snowfall.

As the weather front passed on May 3-4, air temperatures warmed in the presence of abundant sunshine. Soil temperatures warmed as well, and springtime plant growth hit a higher gear. Winter wheat stands gained a lot of growth as did cool-season grasses across pasture and rangelands. Many early-season forbs were flowering as well.

Producers were moving cow-calf pairs to spring grass and the cattle seemed to be quite content with greening forage.

Farming fieldwork was delayed by wet fields, tillage was underway again by Tuesday. Most spring planting has been slightly delayed by wet and cool conditions but producers seemed to be hitting it hard early in the week in order to complete tillage and planting operations before a return of precipitation forecast for the weekend.

Regional Forecast and Conditions

As of Tuesday, the temperature at sunrise was 47 degrees. Sky conditions were clear. A light northwest wind was sustained at 9 mph. The barometer was steady at 30.08 inches of mercury (in/Hg). The day was expected to be warm and sunny with little chance of rain, and winds were expected to be west-northwest at 10-15 mph. Air temperatures were expected to peak at 74 degrees before falling to an overnight low of 42 degrees. Wednesday and Thursday were expected to be similar with an increased chance of afternoon and evening thunderstorms.

Today’s weather (Friday, May 11) is expected to sunny and clear in the morning with increasing clouds and chance of rain after noon. The temperature is expected to peak at 68 before falling off to 41 degrees overnight. Saturday and Sunday are expected to be cooler and overcast with a good chance or rain and thunderstorm activity. Daytime highs should range in the mid-50’s with overnight lows falling into the upper 30’s to low-40’s. As of May 8 a chance of showers was forecast for the Friday-Sunday period, in addition to the usual springtime possibility of afternoon and evening thunderstorms.

Monday through Wednesday are expected to be warmer and mostly sunny, with daytime air temperatures ranging in the 70’s and overnight lows in the 40’s. As of April 17 there was no precipitation forecast for the Monday-Wednesday period, though forecasters predicted a slight chance of afternoon and evening thunderstorms.

Air temperatures warmed again across the region last week. At 13 selected stations across the Panhandle 24-hour temperatures averaged 53.4 degrees. At Kimball the May 1-7 daytime high averaged 66.71 degrees, about 1.5 degrees warmer than the previous week. The weekly high temperature was 81 degrees on May 7. Overnight lows warmed also, averaging 42.14 degrees at Kimball, about 7.8 degrees warmer than the previous week. The weekly low temperature was 37 degrees on May 4. The weekly mean temperature at Kimball was 54.42 degrees, about 4.5 degrees warmer than the previous week, and about one-half degree cooler than the May average of 55.0 degrees. The long term average high and low temperatures at Kimball for May are 69.3 and 40.7, respectively.

All 13 selected Panhandle stations reported rain while Scottsbluff also reported 0.2 inches of snow over the May 1-7 period. Rainfall totals ranged from 1.53 inches at Scottsbluff to 0.20 inches at Chadron. Across the Panhandle snowfall averaged zero inches and rainfall averaged 0.87 inches. Last week’s averages were zero inches and 0.12 inches respectively.

Soil temperatures warmed across the Panhandle over the May 1-7 period: (this week/last week/change): Alliance 54.2/50.1 (+4.1) degrees; Gordon 56.5/49.2 (+7.3) degrees; Mitchell 53.4/50.0 (+3.4) degrees; Scottsbluff 54.8/51.1 (+3.7); and Sidney 55.3/51.0 (+4.2) degrees.

Winds near Kimball averaged west-southwesterly and occasionally brisk over the May 1-7 period. Gusts for the week averaged 25.71 mph. High gust for the week was 36 mph on May 7.

Weather Almanac

Here’s an overview of May 11 temperature and precipitation highs, lows, and averages over the preceding 125 years at Kimball. Data is taken from the High Plains Regional Climate Center (www.hprcc.unl.edu), where you can easily find and track data for your own particular location.

One year ago: Daily high temperature 52 degrees, overnight low 42 degrees, average temperature 47.0 degrees. Precipitation zero inches, snowfall zero inches, snow depth zero inches.

The warmest May 11 on record was 90 degrees in 1962. The coolest May 11 high temperature was 37 degrees in 2015. The coldest May 11 overnight low was 23 degrees in 2008. The warmest May 11 overnight low was 54 degrees in 1991. Over the years since 1893 the high temperature on May 11 has averaged 66 degrees, the overnight low 39 degrees, the daily average 52.7 degrees, precipitation has averaged 0.08 inches, snowfall zero inches, snow depth zero inches.

The highest May 11 precipitation total was 1.03 inches liquid equivalent (rain) in 2014. The greatest snowfall was a trace in 2014 and seven other previous years. Greatest snow depth was zero inches.

Snow has fallen on May 11 at Kimball eight times over the last 125 years, with all quantities reported as a trace.

U.S. Drought Monitor

National Summary: This U.S. Drought Monitor week saw a series of storm systems track across the continental U.S. bringing beneficial rains to portions of the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and South. Out West, the storm systems brought rain and mountain snow to higher elevations as well as cooler temperatures to the northern half of the region coming into the weekend after a period of record-setting warmth across parts of the West last week.

Unfortunately, the storm systems steered north of drought-stricken areas of the Southwest that saw further deterioration in conditions on this week’s map. In the southern Plains, light shower activity provided some minor relief to dry pasture and rangelands as well as helped to reduce wildlife danger. In Texas, some isolated heavy rainfall activity brought relief to the western Panhandle and Trans-Pecos region. Moving eastward, cool temperatures and scattered shower activity helped improve drought-related conditions in parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

High Plains: Areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) expanded in North Dakota including the introduction of Severe Drought (D2) in the northern part of the state in response to reported poor soil moisture conditions and precipitation shortfalls during the past 60 days. According to the April 30 USDA Report, topsoil moisture was reported as 45 percent (short to very short moisture) with subsoil moisture at 50 percent (short to very short). Additionally, hay and roughage supplies were rated 55 percent (short to very short).

In northeastern Montana, improvements were made in areas of Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate Drought (D1), and Severe Drought (D2) in response to overall improvement in conditions (streamflows, soil moisture, lack of drought-related impacts) since last fall.

Since the beginning of the Water Year on Oct. 1, 2017, precipitation across the region has been below normal with the exception of eastern Montana, northwestern Wyoming, and central/north-central Nebraska. During the past week, the region was generally dry and temperatures were generally above normal.

West: A series of storm systems passed through the region beginning late last week, bringing rain and mountain snow as well as cooler temperatures to the northern half of the region. In contrast, most of the drought-stricken Southwest remained warm and dry with areas of southeastern California and southwestern Arizona reaching the low-100’s during the 7-day period.

This continued dry pattern led to expansion of areas of Severe Drought (D2) and Extreme Drought (D3) in the western half of Arizona. In Mohave County, Extension Agents are reporting very poor rangeland conditions with stock ponds going dry and water hauling necessary. Despite record-to-near-record low snowpack conditions across the mountains of Arizona, the Salt River Project is not expecting shortages or restrictions.

In north-central New Mexico and south-central Colorado, an area of Exceptional Drought (D4) was introduced, covering the Sangre de Cristo Range to reflect record-to-near-record snowpack levels since the beginning of the Water Year. According to the May 1 USDA Bulletin, topsoil moisture in New Mexico was rated 90 percent short to very short while subsoil moisture was rated 89 percent short to very short. During the past week, average temperatures were near normal in the Far West and above normal (5-to-15 degrees) across the remainder of the West.

U.S. Conditions
and Weather Report

In early May, a multi-day severe weather outbreak— accompanied by locally heavy rain—struck portions of the Plains, mid-South, and Midwest. Storm-total rainfall locally reached 2 to 4 inches or more from central Texas into the Great Lakes region. Late in the week, rain and gusty winds swept into the Northeast.

Meanwhile, mostly dry weather prevailed in several areas, including much of the Southeast and the drought-stricken southern High Plains. The southern Plains’ gradient between drought and relatively moist conditions remained very sharp across Texas and Oklahoma.

Farther north, warm weather and only light showers across the northern Plains and far upper Midwest allowed fieldwork to proceed, following extensive planting delays earlier in the season.

Warmth covered the central and eastern U.S., boosting weekly temperatures from the central Plains into the Northeast as much as 10 degrees above normal. Prior to the warmth’s arrival, late-April freezes affected areas as far south as the Ohio Valley and the central Appalachians.

Elsewhere, widespread but generally light showers dotted the West, with the most significant precipitation occurring in the northern and central Rockies. Near- or slightly below-normal temperatures covered the West, excluding areas from the Cascades to the northernmost Rockies.  

USDA Weekly Weather
and Crop Reports


Significant moisture received in several counties helped improve range and dryland crop conditions last week.  Fieldwork was delayed in areas due to wet conditions, but picked up as hot and dry weather finished out the week.

Northeastern counties received the most moisture, with upwards of an inch of rain reported in areas.  A reporter noted some cattle already stressed by the recent blizzard were ill due to cool and wet conditions.  Reporters mentioned moisture improved conditions and prospects across the board for rangeland, winter wheat stands, and other crops.

East central counties received moisture as well, but amounts varied.  Reporters noted winter wheat conditions improved from precipitation and minimal wind.

Southwestern counties finally saw significant moisture last week.  Some counties received over half an inch of precipitation, which helped reduce fire danger and improve winter wheat and rangeland conditions.  Reporters noted relief was short-term since drought conditions remained exceptional in areas.

In the San Luis Valley, conditions remained very dry.  Reporters noted fall potato planting progress was excellent last week and that most barley was emerged, although some was replanted.  A reporter also noted much of the alfalfa crop was in poor condition and not coming up as expected.  Several fields were being considered for replacement.  Hay supplies remained short.

Southeastern county reporters noted moisture was minimal and the weather was dry and windy.  Extreme drought conditions continued to persist.

As of May 7, snowpack in Colorado was 56 percent measured as percent of median snowfall. The Southwest and San Luis Valley were 15 and 14 percent, respectively.

Stored feed supplies were rated 4 percent very short, 15 percent short, 80 percent adequate, and 1 percent surplus.

Sheep death loss was 54 percent average and 46 percent light.  Cattle death loss was 78 percent average and 22 percent light.


For the week ending May 6, 2018, there were 4.6 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moisture supplies rated 2 percent very short, 23 short, 73 adequate, and 2 surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies rated 3 percent very short, 27 short, 69 adequate, and 1 surplus.

Corn planted was 42 percent, near 46 both last year and for the five-year average. Corn emerged was 2 percent, behind 9 last year and 10 average.

Soybeans planted was 16 percent, near 12 both last year and average.

Winter wheat condition rated 1 percent very poor, 6 poor, 32 fair, 51 good, and 10 excellent.

Sorghum planted was 3 percent, near 4 last year and 6 average.

Oats planted was 79 percent, behind 93 last year and 92 average. Emerged was 44 percent, well behind 73 last year and 70 average.

Pasture and range conditions rated 2 percent very poor, 10 poor, 40 fair, 46 good, and 2 excellent.


Wyoming experienced above normal temperatures for the week.  Twenty of the 34 reporting stations reported above average temperatures for the week with the high temperature of 82 degrees recorded at Kaycee and a low of 19 degrees at Yellowstone.

Above normal moisture was reported at 18 of the 34 reporting stations with one station (Evanston) reporting no precipitation.  Buford reported the most moisture with 2.28 inches.

A reporter from Northwestern Wyoming indicated that barley planting is well underway, sugarbeet planting is just getting started, and corn planting will begin soon.

A reporter from Western Wyoming stated that by the end of the week most producers were in the field and ranchers were starting to turn their livestock out on to spring rangeland.

A reporter from Southeastern Wyoming reported that April precipitation is less than half of normal, irrigation storage is about half of normal, and range conditions are drying out quickly.

Hay and roughage supplies for Wyoming were rated 15 percent very short, 24 percent short, 46 percent adequate, and 15 percent

Irrigation water supply across Wyoming was rated 2 percent poor, 9 percent fair, and 89 percent good.

Stock water supplies across Wyoming were rated 1 percent very short, 13 percent short, and 86 percent adequate.

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