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Blizzard to disrupt weekend freight flows out West

Lengthy road closures likely, including Denver freight market

A high-impact late-season winter storm is still on track to slam portions of the Rockies and Plains this weekend. Shippers should expect potentially significant delays in freight flows.

The potent low-pressure system will move across the Desert Southwest Friday to near the Four Corners region by Saturday, then across southeastern Colorado Sunday. This track will bring significant snowfall to much of northeastern and north-central Colorado, likely resulting in difficult to impossible travel from Saturday afternoon through Sunday night.

The most severe conditions from deep accumulating snowfall will likely occur in and near the Front Range and Foothills of the Rockies, where 24 to 48 inches will pile up through Sunday night. Along the I-25 corridor, including Fort Collins and Boulder, up to 24 inches of snowfall can be expected. Meanwhile, the city of Denver will probably see about 12 inches. Initially, temperatures will be warm enough to bring a mix of rain and snow to some areas, but the air should turn cold enough Saturday night into Sunday for mostly snow. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued winter storm warnings and watches for this region.

Heavy snowfall will also spread into eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. Places such as Medicine Bow, Bordeaux, Wheatland, Laramie, Cheyenne and the Snowy Mountains in Wyoming will be hit with 24 to 36 inches of snowfall, with up to 24 inches in Scottsbluff and Sidney, Nebraska. The NWS has also issued winter storm warnings and watches for these areas.

Wind gusts will reach 40 to 50 mph, so blowing and drifting snow will lead to periods of blizzard and whiteout conditions. There’s a good chance of lengthy road closures on sections of I-25, I-70, I-76 and I-80. Delays in air cargo are likely at Denver International Airport (ICAO code: DEN), and a shutdown is possible at some point.

Besides poor visibility and dangerous road conditions, drivers will have to be ready for possible power outages due to the combination of winds and heavy snowfall. The storm will also disrupt logistics or movement of livestock and crops as some roads may become impassable for several hours or an entire day. The storm should fade late Sunday night into Monday, with mainly light snowfall lingering.

Look for weather updates throughout the week on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.