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High-impact snowstorm to hit Rockies, Plains

Lengthy road, airport closures likely

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

A strong winter storm will likely move from the central Rockies into the Plains later this week, impacting freight flows on the ground and in the air.

Heavy snowfall and strong winds will initially develop Friday over the mountains of Colorado, migrating into the Plains late Friday and over the weekend. Virtually all the most recent computer models are depicting a large area of heavy snowfall, with totals of 6 to 15 inches and some areas receiving 20-plus inches.

Current indications, as of Wednesday morning, point to the epicenter of the biggest totals piling up in western Nebraska, eastern Wyoming and northeastern Colorado. Most of this core area could see more than 12 inches, with some locales getting 30 inches or more, making this a potentially record-breaking storm system for some places. The Denver metropolitan area will see around 12 inches of snowfall, while heavier totals will hit Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the Nebraska Panhandle.

Other cities likely to be hit include, but are not limited to Fort Collins, Colorado; Scottsbluff and Valentine, Nebraska; Rapid City and Pierre, South Dakota; as well as Laramie and Casper, Wyoming.

Winds will be strong, creating significant amounts of blowing and drifting snow. Periods of whiteout conditions will increase the impacts on transportation. This storm could have major impacts, leading to lengthy road and airport closures.

Major interstates within the potential target zone include I-25, I-70, I-76, I-80 and I-90. Denver International Airport (ICAO code: DEN) is the only major airport in the storm’s path.

Besides poor visibility and road conditions, drivers will have to be ready for possible power outages due to the combination of winds and heavy snowfall. The storm will also disrupt logistics or movement of livestock and crops as some roads may become impassable. The storm should fade Monday, with mainly light snowfall lingering.

Look for weather updates throughout the week on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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.