updated 2/23/2007 11:43:19 AM ET 2007-02-23T16:43:19

Just as a winter storm was poised to hit Minnesota, promising more snow, the state's drought task force met Thursday to discuss the possible consequences of a lack of precipitation across the state.

"It's extraordinary, the lack of snow right now in Minnesota," state climatologist Greg Spoden said. "It's been, perhaps, 20 years since it's been like this and in some places there has never been this little snow on the ground at this time of the year."

Spoden said Lake Superior is at its lowest midwinter level since 1926.

The task force includes experts in agriculture, forestry, public water use, emergency response and other fields.

Doug Miedtke, a fire management specialist for the Department of Natural Resources, said the spring fire season could begin earlier and fires could be more intense if the dryness continues.

So far, snowfall in the Twin Cities this winter is among the lowest on record. Other areas around the state also have received well below normal snowfall, according to the National Weather Service.

The National Drought Mitigation Center ranks the northeastern third of Minnesota in "extreme" drought, as it has for much of the past eight months, with almost all of the rest of the state in severe or moderate drought, or "abnormally dry." In a Feb. 15 update, the agency said the drought was likely to persist at least through May.

The storm, expected to begin Friday afternoon, was expected to drop more than a foot of snow in parts of eastern Minnesota. The Twin Cities could get between 3 and 7 inches, the weather service said.

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