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Recent storms ease drought in middle of US, could delay spring planting in muddy fields

Climatologists say recent rain and snowstorms are slowly easing the grip of the worst U.S. drought in decades. But the wet weather also is creating some potential headaches.

Storms have swelled some major inland rivers to near flood stage, while soaking some farmland so much that fast-approaching spring planting could be slowed.

But scientists caution the abundance of moisture doesn't signal the end of the drought still gripping more than half the continental U.S. after a bone-dry 2012 across the Corn Belt.

The National Climatic Data Center's Mike Brewer says what happens in coming weeks could be more telling. That'll be the time when the ground thaws and takes in whatever moisture hasn't already run off into the Mississippi or Missouri rivers and their tributaries.