Wheat fields ruined by freezing temperatures, snowed-out baseball games in Cleveland and Chicago, and shivering vacationers have made this spring one to forget across much of the United States.

After the warmest winter ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere and much talk of global warming, weather watchers say occasional snowstorms in the Midwest and Northeast, and unseasonable cold gripping much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation, is rare though not unprecedented.

"It's pretty unusual," said University of Wisconsin-Madison atmospheric scientist Jonathan Martin.

"Once every 10 years or so we have a snow 5 inches event or greater (in Wisconsin) in the first half of April. It hasn't happened for about 12 years but it certainly happened on Wednesday for us" when more than 5 inches fell, he said.

"Such an event is probably a once every 10- or 20-year event for the Great Lakes region. Since this has been so widespread and so extreme for these last seven or eight days -- that might put it in the once-every-30-years category," he added.

As much as one-quarter of the nation's hard red winter wheat and nearly half of its soft red winter wheat has been damaged by the sub-freezing temperatures, leaving farmers scrambling to replant ruined fields with scarce corn seeds or soybeans, agriculture experts said.

Resulting price jumps for wheat could affect the cost of producing staples such as bread and crackers.

The cold, wet spring has also kept Midwestern farmers from starting on this year's planting. Forecasts for continued below-normal temperatures in the nation's breadbasket will keep soils too cool for seeds to germinate, meteorologists said.

"It's looking like not much corn planting is going to get done in the Midwest during April. The first half of May is going to be more of a ball game," said Mike Palmerino, forecaster with DTN Meteorlogix weather service.

Actual ball games have been tougher to come by as the boys of summer have become springtime refugees -- the Cleveland Indians baseball team had to move this week's scheduled home games from snowy Jacobs Field to the Milwaukee Brewers' stadium, which used its retractable roof. The Chicago Cubs also postponed a contest due to a stinging snowstorm.

Another violent storm swept out of the southern plains on Friday, blanketing Colorado and Kansas with snow, and stormy weather was expected to batter the East Coast over the weekend.

But Friday dawned bright and sunny in Madison, Wisconsin.

"The sun is so high in the sky and so powerful after the spring equinox (which occurred on March 20 this year), that as soon as it comes out, the melting begins," Martin said.