By Julie Ingwersen
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The season's first big winter storm in the U.S. Farm Belt brought blizzard conditions to parts of the Plains on Wednesday and took aim at the Midwest, with wind gusts of 50 miles per hour, meteorologists said.
The storm produced 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15 cm) of snow in parts of eastern Colorado, western Nebraska and western Kansas and brought about an inch of rain to eastern Nebraska.
"There are some pretty good thunder showers popping. They definitely need the rain and they may get upwards of an inch, but it's not widespread," said Don Keeney, meteorologist with MDA Weather Services.
The storm was forecast to push into Iowa, northern Illinois and Wisconsin late on Wednesday, generating winds of 30 to 35 mph. The National Weather Service's Chicago office predicted wind gusts of 50 mph or more.
The storm could complicate the movement of livestock for a day or two but should not have much impact on crops, forecasters said, noting that the U.S. corn harvest was 93 percent complete as of Sunday. [US/COR]
"Straight-line winds could be strong enough to flatten some corn, but there is not a whole lot left to harvest," said Andy Karst of World Weather Inc.
The storm will provide a bit of beneficial moisture for recently planted winter wheat in the Plains.
Another storm expected by the middle of next week should bring heavier rains, although forecasting models disagreed on that system's likely path.
"It looks quite a bit wetter next week in eastern Kansas and eastern Nebraska, (and) all of the western Midwest," Keeney said, adding that next week's storm could bring 1.5 inches of rain to eastern Kansas, and 2 to 3 inches to Missouri and southern Illinois.
Karst said he thought next week's storm would focus rains farther east, in the Mississippi River Delta and into the eastern Corn Belt. However, "The (forecasting) models have been all over the place," he said.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)