An early Christmas present for farmers

It was August when the Kansas State Research Center in Garden City last recorded a monthly precipitation total of more than an inch. (Eric Durban/Harvest Public Media)

A sizable winter storm rolled through drought-stricken western Kansas this week, dumping up to 15 inches of snow in some places. Despite the headaches the white stuff can bring, farmers were smiling.

“This one came with several advantages to it,” irrigation engineer Norman Klocke said of the snow. “First of all, we had some rain ahead of it, and the soil wasn’t frozen yet so now when it melts it’ll go directly into the soil.”

At the Kansas State Extension Southwest Research Center in Garden City, Kan., Klocke said they recorded 1.2 inches in total precipitation from the snow (8 in.) and rain. He said converting snow into rain totals often varies depending on the wetness of the snow.

“Oftentimes the late spring snow storms are high in water content, where as the middle of the winter snows where it’s cold can be pretty dry,” Klocke said. “This is a great snow for us because it gave the wheat some surface moisture to work with.”

It was not only an advantageous storm, but also substantial. The 1.2 inches of total precipitation recorded at the research center is three times the average precipitation for the entire month of December.