The timing couldn’t be worse for holiday travelers, or for truckers trying to one more load under their belts before heading home for Thanksgiving, but two storms next week could throw a wrench into their plans. Each storm could potentially affect several states over two- to three-day periods, spanning the entire Monday through Black Friday period. Shippers may want to take steps to get ahead of Mother Nature, if possible.
Before we get into further discussion about next week, here’s what’s happening today, Nov. 22 (Friday) through this weekend.
Today is the third and final day of the Mountain West snowstorm, the first notable snowstorm for the region this fall. Most of the snowfall today will be across portions of Colorado, with an additional two to five inches west and south of Denver in places such as Columbine, Vail, Trappers Lake and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near the New Mexico border. Snow is also spreading into Kansas. Drivers may run into roadblocks and short-term delays on sections of the I-25 and I-70 corridors. This storm should wind down tonight.
Meanwhile, a cold front will produce periods of wet weather in parts of the Southeast and Northeast regions today, including the ever-so-busy I-40 and I-95 corridors. Rain may be heavy at times, but flash flooding is not likely.
Rain will continue across the Southeast on Saturday, with areas of rain, freezing rain and snow in the Northeast Saturday night. Watch out for a wintry mix in spots from St. Louis to Indianapolis later tonight and Saturday. Problems could arise, especially on secondary roads, bridges and overpasses. Wet weather will linger into Sunday from the mid-Atlantic to Boston and possibly coastal Maine, while the Southeast dries out. Snow showers may pop up across the northern Rockies on Sunday.
Recent computer models are coming into agreement that a potentially significant winter-like storm could hit portions of the Plains and Midwest next Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 25-27. Unfortunately, this is during peak travel time for everyone trying to get home safely to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends. Details regarding timing and snowfall amounts are preliminary at this point, but here’s the latest forecast.
Look for four to eight inches (with isolated spots of 10-plus inches) and strong winds (gusts of 35 to 40 mph) across the Plains and Midwest starting late Monday, continuing into early Wednesday morning. The storm will first impact the foothills of Colorado and southeastern Wyoming late Monday. The storm will progress eastward into western Nebraska and western Kansas on Tuesday. The combination of heavy snow and strong winds will cause significant transportation issues, made worse by blowing snow and possible white-out conditions.
Shipers, carriers and brokers should prepare for potential major transportation issues in the air, on the roads and on the rails. There’s a good chance of interstate highway closures and airport shut-downs. Business operations would be disrupted, schools closed, and power knocked out in some areas.
Major interstates within the risk zone include I-25, I-70, I-76 and I-80. Closures could last for 12 to 24 hours depending on how the storm pans out. The largest cities in the path of this potential storm are Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder and Fort Collins in Colorado, as well as, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Airports and other assets at risk in these cities are indicated by the dots and “donuts” on the FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events maps throughout this article.
The storm will head toward the Midwest next Tuesday night and Wednesday. There is more debate about the storm’s exact track by then. But heavy snowfall and gusty winds could drastically slow down or bring transportation to a screeching halt in places such as Omaha, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee and Grand Rapids.
An upper-level low pressure system will work its way into the western U.S. beginning next Wednesday, coming ashore in California. This disturbance will send copious amounts of Pacific moisture into the region, dumping heavy snow in the mountains and heavy rain in the valleys. The speed of the system will be fairly slow, and some locations may see a few days of rain and/or snow surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday.
A potentially strong and slow-moving storm in the Pacific will move into the western U.S. beginning next Wednesday. It could last for several days across the region. With Pacific moisture and plenty of cold air, one of the biggest impacts will be snowfall. It may end up being measured in feet rather than mere inches in some mountainous portions of California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. Plenty of lower elevations in Nevada and Utah would see snow, albeit in lesser amounts. Additionally, there will be a chance for flooding and mudslides in central and southern parts of California because of heavy rainfall. This includes the Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas. Debris flows will be possible in wildfire burn scar spots.
Forecasts for these storms will become more fine-tuned over the next few days. Look for updates on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.