A strong winter-like storm will barrel through the Rockies and southern Great Plains tonight, October 23 into Thursday, October 24. Shippers should expect delays due to significant travel issues for truckers who try to make it through the storm.
A strong cold front will help trigger snowfall over the southern foothills and Palmer Divide late this afternoon and evening, followed by southern Colorado, northeastern New Mexico, and the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas tonight. The snow will be heavy at times tonight before tapering a bit Thursday.
The heaviest snowfall will blanket areas along and south of I- 70 and across the Palmer Divide. Over the I-25 corridor, most of the accumulating snowfall will be in southern areas, while further north towards Fort Collins amounts may be less than one inch.
Twelve to 15 inches could pile up from the foothills of the Denver area to Pikes Peak, Monument Hill, portions of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Wet Mountains, as well as Raton Pass and the Johnson and Bartlett mesas in New Mexico.
Snowfall totals in lower slopes will range from just a couple of inches to eight or nine, depending on location and elevation. Downtown Denver and suburbs to the south and west could receive up to four inches of snow, nearly the average monthly total for October. Areas just north and east of Denver, including the Denver International Airport, will get lighter amounts. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued various winter weather alerts, housed inside the FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events platform in the map above.
Russell Danielson, a meteorologist with the NWS office in Boulder (which covers the Denver metropolitan area), told FreightWaves this isn’t the first big snowstorm to hit the Colorado Rockies this season. About a week and a half ago, a storm dumped three to four inches of snow in Denver and six to 12 inches in the nearby mountains.
“For this time of year it isn’t out of the ordinary,” said Denielson. He went on to say that the first measurable snowfall of the season typically arrives by mid-October, so the first storm was right on target.
The impending storm is also forecast to contain wind gusts as high as 35 to 40 mph in some areas. This, combined with occasional snowfall rates of two inches per hour, will lead to blowing snow and extremely low visibility on sections of the I-25 and I-70 corridors. This includes the Eisenhower Tunnel, about an hour’s drive west of Denver (in fair weather conditions) and used by many truckers.
Danielson said driving conditions will be “quite treacherous.”
Besides Denver, the storm will hit other areas in Colorado such as Aspen, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Georgetown, Idaho Springs, Castle Rock, Breckenridge, Winter Park, Lake George and South Park.
The storm may drop two to three inches of snow along the US-54 and US-87 corridors from Guymon, Oklahoma to Amarillo, Texas. This would also affect drivers on I-40 through Amarillo.
Other weather today, October 23
During daylight hours today, drivers will run into areas of scattered rain and snow showers across the Rockies and North Dakota. Look for the heaviest snowfall in the following areas: Montana on US-89 from Kings Hill Pass to Raynesford, and SR-200 from Belt to Geyser; Black Hills of northeastern Wyoming and South Dakota, including the cities of Lead, Deadwood, Four Corners and Sundance. Meanwhile, thunderstorms and heavy rain could develop in the southern Great Plains late night into Thursday.
The risk for wildfire development will increase the next couple of days across portions of California and southern Nevada. Very dry conditions and extremely gusty winds – more than 50 mph at times – could spark new fires, as well as quickly spreading new and existing fires out of control.
A 115-mile stretch of Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) track is still out of service in Missouri between Kansas City and Moberly. Flooding in early October led to a logjam that caused the collapse of the Norfolk Southern bridge over the Grand River in Brunswick, Missouri. The repairs may not be done until mid-November. Norfolk Southern has entered into agreements with its interline partners to detour freight traffic over alternative gateways through the duration of the outage.
Have a great day, and be careful out there!