Farmers, flooding and spring impacted by May weather

SOUTHERN MINNESOTA While the unusual snowfall in April and at the start of May quickly came and melted away, this month’s unusual weather will likely have a longer lasting impact on farmers, Minnesota’s flood outlook and all kind of other spring related areas.

On Thursday, May 2, southern Minnesota had 15 inches of snow dropped over its length, according to the National Weather Service. The sudden nature of the snow caused countless vehicles to slip off roads, school delays, addition snow removal costs for cities and but, barely two weeks later, southern Minnesota faced boiling hot temperatures that got up to 98 degrees in New Ulm.

On the most basic level, the recent weather was a hindrance to regional farmers who were preparing to start work or even planting on their fields. Even the days following the snows melt, there were more rainy or less than ideal temperature days for farmers to work with outside. Luckily, the heat wave the kicked in at the start of last week brought temperature high enough to allow most regional farmers to start planting.

In a related way, the random bouts of cold weather have also impacted farming by hindering the elimination of the long running drought over the region. While the water from the snow will help, the cold prevented the frost in the deeper soil from continuing to thaw. The amount of rain and snow in recent months has also not been in quantities enough to make up for the moisture deficit caused by the drought. The region needs 7 inches of precipitation above and beyond the normal seasonal rainfall amounts to make up for the last year of drought, according to NWS officials. The continuation of drought conditions results in lower, poorer yields for farmers, so the recent weather’s impact may carry months into future when it turns into harvest time.

On a smaller level, it impacted spring related blooming and new plants, whether in gardens or in the woods.

The influx of water from the melting snow created by the strange weather coupled with already high amounts of spring rain has also increased flooding chances for Minnesota. The regions further north that regularly battle severe flooding problems saw raging river waters and had to take some minor actions.

New Ulm itself is largely insulated from most of the flood risks due to the newly built flood levee along the Minnesota River. It officially neutralizes the Minnesota River flood probably, which would have gained the most water runoff from the melting snow. The Cottonwood River, which is easier to flood, still has the possibility of minor flood due the abundance of water created in the area. But, since there is less water this year from melting snow that occurred in the winter, it will take a significant amount of rainfall to push the water over the river banks.

Finally, the impacts of the usual cold weather on spring blooming and the increased water in the rivers converge to increase our chance of a buggy summer, especially with the blood sucking or biting variety of insects. However, the verdict is still out on the final strength of the bug population this year counteracting factors also taking place this year.

The bug population is likely to be strong due to the mild nature of this last winter, according to University of Minnesota extension entomologist officer in Lamberton. Similarly, the insects more commonly consider pests, like gnats and mosquitos, need moving water to lay their eggs. The increased water in the rivers will boost this egg production, though it is nowhere near as bad as the 2011 flooding that caused a bug population explosion and a shortage of bug repellants.

The counteracting factor is insect are unable to handle widely varying temperatures, especially suddenly cold temperatures that can kill off large numbers of the early hatching offspring. If a sizable population was caught in the open during the May snowfall, it may be enough to counteract the existing condition product to the bug population. Unfortunately, the vary weather may instead have simply delayed the hatching times for the insects, meaning the bug population is just waiting until June or July to fully hatch. The deciding factor will likely be the weather through the rest of May and June.

(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at

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