A strong winter storm will continue to challenge truckers and slow down freight flows across several states heading into 2021. The highest impacts will hit portions of the nation’s heartland.
Snow, ice and gusty winds will linger Wednesday in parts of the Great Lakes, but overall conditions there should gradually improve. Places such as Chicago and Green Bay, Wisconsin, as well as Lansing and Traverse City, Michigan, could see up to 4 more inches of snowfall and/or a tenth of an inch of ice accumulation.
The worst conditions may develop farther south, from Texas to southern Iowa. Wednesday through Friday (New Year’s Day), anywhere from 3 to 12-plus inches of snowfall could pile up in Midland-Odessa, Lubbock and Abilene, Texas; northern Oklahoma; Wichita and Topeka, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; as well as Ottumwa, Iowa. Freezing rain could result in ice buildup of a few tenths of an inch in some of these locations, leading to possible downed tree limbs and utility lines.
Drivers should expect possible major delays on the following interstates within the potential impact zone: I-10, I-20, I-35, I-40, I-70, I-80 and I-90. Slowdowns may last 12 to 24 hours, with road closures likely in some areas.
The area of heaviest snowfall will probably set up across western Texas, western Oklahoma and central Kansas, while most of the ice looks to be in the northern and far eastern portion of the potential impact zone. Wind gusts of 30-40 mph will cause blowing and periods of possible whiteout conditions.
Later on New Year’s Day, the storm will head toward the Great Lakes. Snow and freezing rain could return to places like Chicago, northern Indiana, northern Ohio, southern Wisconsin and southern Michigan before changing to rainfall.
Other areas of snowfall
Look for additional periods of moderate to heavy snowfall Wednesday through the first week of January in the Cascades and northern Rockies. Many high elevations could see snowfall totals of 3 to 4 feet. Truckers may have issues in the usual trouble spots on Interstate 90 like Snoqualmie and Lookout passes, as well as Stevens Pass on U.S. Highway 2. Slick spots may also impact travel on Interstate 84 in the Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon.
While the mountains get slammed with snowfall, valleys and lowlands will get soaked with heavy rainfall. Totals of 3 to 5 inches may cause occasional localized flooding along the Interstate 5 corridor from Seattle to Portland.
Other notable New Year’s weather
Thunderstorms could produce tornadoes and severe straight-line winds Thursday and New Year’s Day across the Deep South. Places in the potential line of fire include Houston; New Orleans; Jackson, Mississippi; Pensacola, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, Florida; Mobile and Birmingham, Alabama; Macon, Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia; Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina; as well as Wilmington, North Carolina.