Long range forecast not good for snow lovers, agriculture

We are gearing up for near-record high temperatures today. Should we get to 58 degrees, we will tie a record high set in 2002. The forecast right now is for 57 degrees. The trade-off for the warmth will be the strong winds developing.

Gusts could exceed 40 mph out of the south. That means east-to-west and west-to-east commutes will be most problematic for the afternoon. A few isolated showers are possible as we head into the evening hours ahead of a cold front. But that cold front is not expected to bring much widespread rainfall.

That's problematic because we're in an increasing drought. And even though we are at least three months from the beginning of the official growing season, it's important to look at. If you're a snow lover, we would need a healthy six-inch snow to get us back near normal for the season. But with respect to precipitation of both types, rain and snow? We need almost two and half inches of liquid to get us back to par.

Conditions are expected to remain dry, thanks to a persistant La NiƱa weather pattern. According to DeAnne Bloomberg of the Rock Island County Farm Bureau, it's too early to really be concerned. However, she says a big barometer in the drought outlook will be the USDA Ag Outlook which is expected in late February. Nationally, as drought conditions expand in the west, hay is becoming more expensive. And if we still have drought conditions come April and May, there will be local agricultural impacts here.

But in the short-term, there is some good news for a late-Winter drought. That's because it lowers our risk of river flooding.

-Meteorologist Eric Sorensen