OMAHA (DTN) -- When DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Joel Burgio first looked at the wind speed for Hurricane Patricia early Friday morning, he thought it was a mistake. It wasn't.
"It's very powerful," Burgio said. With maximum sustained winds at 200 miles per hour and even higher gusts, it was setting a record for being the strongest-ever hurricane in the Western Hemisphere. The National Weather Service by early Friday afternoon called the category 5 hurricane "potentially catastrophic" and "extremely dangerous" as it prepared to slam into the southwest coast of Mexico.
Meanwhile, U.S. ag producers waited to see what impact the hurricane will have after it makes landfall and churns its way northeast across Mexico toward Texas.
Burgio said the tropical system will need to go over steep mountains in Mexico, which should reduce the strong winds, but southern and eastern Texas will still have wind issues and very heavy to torrential rains during the weekend or early next week.
"I think it will be south of the winter wheat area," he said. "Most of the heavy rain will stay south."
The rainmaker is expected to continue toward the Delta and Ohio River Valley areas. Burgio emphasized the heaviest rains should be in a narrow band and may cause some harvest delays, but at this point, most of the crops are harvested and it shouldn't be a big factor.
The U.S. commodity and energy markets also didn't see the hurricane as an issue.
"There has not been much reaction in markets Friday to Hurricane Patricia," DTN Market Analyst Todd Hultman said. "Wheat was up a couple of cents early, possibly due to concerns about heavy rain amounts in Texas this weekend and early next week.
"However, the gain in wheat disappeared on news of a rate cut from China that strengthened the U.S. dollar once again. Crude oil prices have been steady to lower most of the day with no harm anticipated to oil rigs on the Gulf side of Mexico," Hultman said.
RAINY WEEK IN TEXAS
DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Michael Palmerino noted the hurricane is heading to an area with severe drought concerns.
"I would say overall it's going to be a positive impact, because it looks like the frontal boundary that is producing the rain right now across the Plains and the Western Corn Belt is ultimately going to pick up the hurricane and drive a lot of that moisture into Texas, especially central, eastern and south Texas.
"Those areas, it's probably going to be too much of a good thing, but if you look at some of the soil moisture profiles there, some of these areas in central Texas, as of last week, were running near 100% short on the topsoil, so we're going to recharge the topsoil," Palmerino said.
"I think it's still going to be a real boom to the pasture land; for producers still trying to harvest there, there could be some issues of flooding."
FLOODING IN TEXAS
Even prior to Hurricane Patricia reaching Texas, there already have been flooding issues and flash flood threats in some areas, with some places expected to get almost a foot of rain.
Rains were especially welcome in the winter wheat belt.
Palmerino said that by Friday morning, in general, the winter wheat areas received about 3/4 to 2 1/2 inches of rain, with some locally heavier amounts, including good moisture for the far southwestern Plains. Some areas in the Oklahoma Panhandle got more than 3 inches of rain.
"Just an outstanding rain event. You know, these areas really aren't particularly wet, most areas were running about 50% short of topsoil moisture going into this event, and this is just incredibly timely and beneficial.
"I think it's going to have a very positive impact ... we've been sort of waiting for the rains to get underway there based on one of the strongest El Ninos in the last 60 years, so we're cautiously optimistic going forward that the moisture is going to remain active ... well into the fall."
He added that there also appears to be good chances for "a little more rain back into the hard red winter wheat belt towards the end of next week."
Burgio said the rain from Patricia as it moves northeastward will also help the soft red winter wheat areas, even if it causes some delay for harvesting other crops.
Elaine Shein can be reached at email@example.com
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