CHICAGO (Reuters) - A storm crossing the U.S. Plains early next week should bring heavy snow that will help insulate the region's winter wheat from a cold spell that will follow, agricultural meteorologists said on Friday.
"A pretty potent storm should develop across central Plains by Monday. Then it really pushes into the Midwest Tuesday and Wednesday," said Don Keeney, a meteorologist with MDA Weather Services.
The storm should bring 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25 cm) of snow with locally heavier amounts across eastern Colorado, western Kansas and eastern Nebraska, along with parts of Iowa, southern Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The storm could cause near-blizzard conditions and stress the region's livestock, said meteorologist Andy Karst of World Weather Inc.
Areas to the south, including Illinois and the central and southern Midwest, could get thunderstorms and an inch (2.5 cm) of rain.
Temperatures are expected to drop in the wake of the storm, with low readings near zero degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 Celsius) late next week in parts of Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. But dormant winter wheat in the coldest areas should be protected by snowfall.
"As long as the snow happens as forecast, then (wheat) should be well protected. I don't see any winterkill threats at this point," Keeney said.
The cold spell should linger in the Farm Belt for the next week, with some models predicting another shot of Arctic air the following week, around Feb. 8 and beyond.
(Reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by James Dalgleish)