Scattered thunderstorms across the Great Plains and western U.S. could have a two-pronged effect today. Some may become major rainmakers; others may start fires. Meanwhile, grain barge movement on the Mississippi is still struggling even after most locks have reopened.
Unsettled in the West
Because of monsoonal moisture increasing, there’s an outside chance of some storms producing flash flooding in portions of the Four Corners states, southern California and the Las Vegas metropolitan area. In contrast, dry thunderstorms may spark wildfires in the northern Rockies, from southeastern Idaho to parts of central and northern Montana. Afternoon humidity will be very low in these areas, and winds will be breezy. Smoke from any fires that develop could limit visibility along the I-15 corridor. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued Red Flag Warnings for these areas.
Truckers will be sweating it out when picking up and dropping off loads in Southern California. Temperatures this afternoon will reach 95° to 105° in places such as Burbank, Ontario, Riverside, San Bernardino and Santa Clarita, and the NWS has issued Heat Advisories for these cities.
High Plains storms
A few severe storms could drop large hail or whip up strong winds from eastern Montana into the Dakotas and extreme eastern Wyoming. Rain may be heavy enough to flood some roads/intersections, leading to potential roadblocks. Drivers should expect minor/moderate delays on sections of US-2, I-90 and I-94 heading through Glasgow, Bismarck, Minot and Rapid City.
Mississippi River barges
Grain barge movement up and down the Mississippi has been slow most of the summer due to system-wide high water disruptions. Business started to pick up a few weeks ago until Hurricane Barry hit the central Gulf Coast on July 13. The Port of New Orleans was closed for a short period of time, although it was reopened by the U.S. Coast Guard on July 14.
According to the latest Grain Transportation Report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), released on July 18, the total tonnage of grains moved by barges, the number of grain barges moving down river, and the number of grain barges unloaded in New Orleans all decreased from the previous week.
The heart of hurricane season is getting close. August and September are typically the busiest months. There’s a disorganized cluster of clouds and storms in the northern Gulf of Mexico, but right now FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events shows only a low chance of these developing into a significant tropical system.