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Deep freeze continues this week in Plains, Midwest

Abundant subzero temperatures with dangerous wind chills

(Photo: Shutterstock)

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.

A strong arctic air mass plunged into the north-central U.S. and Midwest regions over the weekend and will linger virtually all of this week. The impact zone stretches from Montana and eastern Wyoming to the Dakotas, Great Lakes and Central Plains.

Extreme cold (some possibly near record levels), strong winds and snowfall in the favored lake-effect snow areas of the Great Lakes could impact supply chains and business operations for an extended period of time. The most intense lake-effect snowfall will hit western Michigan, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northern Ohio and western New York.

In addition, numerous light to moderate snow systems will move across portions of the central Plains and Midwest during the upcoming week. The snow in these areas will add to the transportation issues in the frigid conditions.

This area typically gets cold in the middle of winter, but this air mass is much colder than normal for early February. Late-night lows will drop below zero across several states this week, possibly as cold as the 20s and 30s below zero from eastern Montana to North Dakota and northern Minnesota. Temperatures will remain below zero day and night in these locations, while wind chills will be a brutal 30 to 50 below zero. 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 takes 10 minutes or less for frostbite to set in. Wind chills as low as 25 below zero will hit as far south as Nebraska.

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.

This deep freeze will continue to impact truckers in 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. Highs in many of these spots will only reach the single digits and teens all week.

Other notable weather

Significant ice and snow could impact drivers Wednesday through Friday in the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic. Look for updates on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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One Comment

  1. Sleeping in parking lots

    This small sleeper freightliner with glove boxes above the bed , bunk heater was set at 73 degrees and it only heated up to 54 degrees when it was -14 degrees below zero.

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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.