Barges operating on the Mississippi River have returned to hauling full loads after a series of winter storms and aggressive rock-clearing efforts helped deepen the channel.
Water levels fell to record lows last summer as the Mississippi succumbed to drought. This winter, barge operators lightened their loads allowing the vessels to sit higher in the water. But many feared if the water level fell much further, all barge traffic could be halted.
The improvement prompted the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard to declare victory this week. However, the massive watershed is still gripped in the worst drought in decades, and officials say the threat to shipping on the vital corridor could return next winter.
This week though, the Grain Belt enjoyed a reprieve from the arid conditions, as yet another major snowstorm roared across the plains.
A late-winter storm socked portions of the Plains, Corn Belt and Great Lakes again this week, delivering much-needed moisture to an area still locked in the worst drought in half-a-century.
Over the weekend snow blanketed Denver, Colorado, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights.
The storm dumped nine inches of snow in the Mile High city, and at least 10 inches in Loveland, Aspen Springs and Littleton.
The National Weather Service said earlier in the day that some areas in the foothills west of Denver received 19 to 21 inches of snow.
The storm then moved east, causing problems in Kanas, as the entire Sunflower State was declared a disaster area.
Gov. Sam Brownback, R - Kansas: 'This one has a potential in a number of areas in our state to be much more severe than even the last one and we don't have the margins we had last time. The ditches are full of snow, so you can't throw it off as quick or as easy.'
This snow depth map from WSI/Intellicast reveals nearly two feet of snow across Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
This week’s Drought Monitor, however, reveals little improvement since the precipitation fell after the data cutoff. According to the survey, almost two-thirds of the country is in some stage of drought.
Portions of North Texas spent part of the week in a blizzard. Amarillo recorded 19 inches of snow, just short of the state record for snowfall in a 24-hour period.
Powerful winds, including gusts of 75-miles-per hour, made conditions downright dangerous.
The National Weather service reported that at one point up to 100 vehicles were stranded on Interstate 27 in Texas.
The snow forced officials in Oklahoma to close all highways in the panhandle. And the storm claimed at least one life in the Sooner State when a roof collapsed.
And portions of Iowa and Nebraska also received significant snowfall for the second consecutive week.