(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The severe drought of 2012 dried out crops, cracked open the soil, and dried up ponds.
Winter 2012-2013 has seen a few snowstorms have brought some much-needed precipitation for the Midland Empire, but it's not enough to battle the effects left by last year's drought.
"Oh it's not over by a long shot because those snows didn't put a lot of moisture in the ground," said Bob Kelly, an agri-business expert from MU Extension.
Kelly says we need a great bit more precipitation to recover from a deficit in soil moisture.
"Normally we have 10-12 inches of water available in the soil," he said. "We're about 9 inches under there. We're not going to have a lot of water in the soil unless we have some slow timely rains that allow it to soak in."
And new outlooks aren't creating a lot of optimism.
The outlook from the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Association shows much of the Missouri River Basin should experience drier than normal conditions over the next three months.
"We don't really expect a huge amount of improvement in the 'heart' - South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas for that matter in the next three months either. That's not all great news either," explains NOAA Director of Regional Climate Services Doug Kluck. "There's quite a dearth of moisture in the soil. I know this is a big issue with wheat and other things. We do need a lot of precipitation from now and into the spring."
Without that precipitation, snowmelt from the mountain regions creating runoff for the river basin would not be enough to replenish soil moisture in areas not adjacent to the river.
Bob Kelly explains the river bottoms would benefit, but not mainland row crops or livestock ponds.
"This year it doesn't look like we're going to start with anything near a full soil profile, so we don't have that reservoir to draw on late in the season," Kelly said. "If we're looking at another drought, it could be the magnitude of last year. It could be worse, it may not be as bad. It depends on those seasonal rains."
The Army Corps of Engineers and National Weather Service say the forecast could change in the coming months.
But as it stands, America's heartland could be in store for yet another damaging drought.