A prolonged outbreak of arctic cold will soon spread across more than a dozen states. Truckers may have issues with fuel gelling and brakes cracking from the Plains to parts of the Northeast.
Everyone involved in freight and supply chains should expect disruptions to transportation networks — road, rail and air. Issues ranging from vehicle performance (trucks, cars and locomotives) to rail issues (frozen switches) are likely. Business operations could be impacted since workers may not be able to travel due to the dangerous conditions. Livestock will also be at risk.
Extreme cold — record levels in some places — will be accompanied by strong winds in the northern Plains and snowfall in the favored lake-effect snow areas of the Great Lakes. The strong, frigid air mass will plunge into the north-central U.S. and Great Lakes regions over the upcoming weekend, lasting at least through the first few days of next week. This includes major metropolitan areas such as Chicago; Detroit; Cleveland; Milwaukee; Minneapolis; Kansas City, Missouri; Indianapolis; and Columbus, Ohio. Smaller cities include Great Falls and Billings, Montana; Pierre, South Dakota; Fargo, North Dakota; Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha, Nebraska; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Buffalo, New York.
These regions typically get cold in the middle of winter, but this air mass will be much colder than normal, even for early February. Low temperatures will be in the zero to 30 below zero range. Daytime highs will remain below zero in many areas, only reaching the single digits in others.
Wind chills will likely be coldest across eastern Montana, northern South Dakota, all of North Dakota, most of Minnesota and northern Wisconsin, where it will feel like 40 to 50 below zero. The National Weather Service has issued wind chill warnings and advisories for these areas. Because flatbed drivers have to spend a lot of time outside their trucks, it will be crucial for them to dress in layers, covering as much skin as possible. In these kinds of temperatures and wind chills, it only takes about 10 minutes for frostbite to set in.