Truckers who can’t avoid the Mountain West the next few days will have to chain up as heavy snowfall develops. High winds will increase the travel risk.
A storm system is approaching the region, producing light snow and freezing rain in high elevations Monday. The storm will spread south Tuesday from the Cascades and northern Rockies into the Sierra Nevada. As of Monday morning, the National Weather Service (NWS) has various winter storm alerts posted only for the Sierra Nevada, where the worst weather may occur.
Snow levels there will start out around 6,000 to 7,000 feet, then lower slightly Wednesday. Through Wednesday afternoon, 12 to 24 inches of snowfall could pile up along the crest of the northern Sierra Nevada and over the higher elevations of the southern Cascade Range.
In addition to the heavy snowfall, strong gusty winds from the southwest will lead to blowing snow and occasional whiteout conditions. Significant disruptions to travel and freight movement are likely across the northern Sierra highway passes late Tuesday into Wednesday.
Conditions will be especially treacherous on Interstate 80 over Donner Pass, as well as U.S. Highway 50 over Echo Summit and California Highway 88 over Carson Pass.
NWS meteorologists may issue more alerts for other areas later as they continue to fine-tune the forecast.
High winds will also be a major issue for drivers late Monday night and Tuesday. Gusts could reach 60 to 80 mph from Mt. Shasta, California to the Cascades of southern Oregon, including portions of Interstate 5
Impact on freight
The highest volume market in the path of this snowstorm is Stockton, California. Indicated on the FreightWaves SONAR map below of the Outbound Tender Volume Index (OTVI), it appears in blue. This indicates a high level of outbound loads being offered by shippers to carriers.
Out of 135 freight markets, Stockton ranks 15th regarding OTVI. So a lot of truckers may be heading there to pick up loads. However, the storm will delay drivers arriving Monday if they can’t leave before the storm intensifies by nighttime. Otherwise, they may have to wait at least a couple of days for the storm to fade.