Washington snowpack

Low temperatures, snow and wind have wheat farmers keeping a close eye on their crops in Eastern Washington.

Washington wheat growers will be monitoring their crops closely following a mid-February cold snap that brought low temperatures, wind and snow to the eastern portion of the state.

Some winter damage is possible, said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission.

“I think we’re fortunate that for the most part this snow cover started coming about the right time to give some protection,” Squires said.

“It was a pretty mild winter, really, until we got that cold snap from the arctic (air mass) that came down,” said Steven Van Horn, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Spokane.

Temperatures dipped across the region Feb. 11-13. A low of 9 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded Feb. 12 at Spokane International Airport.

Snow arrived Feb. 14, resulting in roughly 5 inches in a three-day span.

The snow will provide some needed moisture, Squires said. He’d heard concerns from the commission board and the Washington Association of Wheat Growers leadership prior to the change in weather.

“People weren’t freaking out but we did have a little less moisture,” he said. “This snow is helpful because it also brings moisture.”

The combination of cold and wind caused some concern about crop damage, Squires said.

“Obviously (we’ll have to) wait for some time to see if there was some damage,” he said.

In January, winds reached 70 mph, Van Horn said.

More snow fell the evening of Feb. 18, 1 to 2 inches around Spokane and more to the southeast, Van Horn said. Roughly half an inch to 1 inch fell Feb. 19.

Temperatures rose into the 40s over the weekend and into the week of Feb. 22.

Van Horn also expected wind gusts of 35 to 40 mph.

“The snow that we have is going to melt — whether we melt all of it, I’m not quite sure,” he said. “But we will melt quite a bit of it, because it’s going to be quite windy.”

The wind won’t cause “a whole lot of damage,” he said.

March predictions favor below-normal temperatures and normal precipitation. More snow is possible, but won’t likely stick around, Van Horn said.

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