Disruptive weather is still on pace to hit dozens of U.S. states starting today, Jan. 10, lasting through this weekend and possibly beyond. Snow, ice and wind will slow down freight movement and supply chains, or possibly grind them to a halt, in portions of the Great Plains and Midwest. More periods of heavy snowfall will barrel through the mountains of the Northwest. Finally, in the South, there’s an elevated threat for strong/severe thunderstorms, flash flooding and possible tornadoes.
A major winter storm will impact the Plains, Midwest and Great Lakes region this weekend. Precipitation will start as rain in many areas today, changing to freezing rain and then snow later today and Saturday as colder air spreads into the intensifying system. The main impacts of ice, snow, wind and reduced visibility will occur from early Saturday through early Sunday. The storm will initially impact Nebraska, northern Missouri, eastern Kansas and southeastern Iowa before it moves toward Wisconsin, northern Illinois and Michigan on Saturday. The storm should fade in the Great Lakes areas late Saturday night into Sunday morning and will be done by Sunday evening in adjacent areas of Canada.
Major cities in the impact zone include, but are not limited to Des Moines, Kansas City, Topeka, the Quad Cities, Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay and Chicago, in addition to Quebec City, Motreal and Ottawa in Canada. Major interstates in the impact zone include I-35, I-72, I-88, I-80, I-74, I-39, I-90, I-94 and I-75. Operations at many assets such as airports, railroads, oil/petroleum facilities, ports and intermodal ramps will likely be delayed or stopped at times during the storm. These assets are color coded in the FreightWaves Critical Event map above based on the anticipated level of risk.
Snowfall totals of 6 to 12 inches will be common with this storm. Ice accumulations will be most significant from northern Missouri to eastern Iowa, northern Illinois (extending close to Chicago), southern Wisconsin and into Michigan. Ice buildup may approach one-quarter to one-half of an inch. This could weigh down tree limbs and utility lines, resulting in power outages and road closures.
As the storm cranks up, winds will become strong and gusty. This could result in areas of whiteout conditions and add to the threat of power outages and roadblocks.
The impacts of this storm could last into early next week as temperatures in some affected areas will struggle to exceed the freezing mark. Even in areas that do warm to above 32 F during the day, refreezing and black ice could be issues at night.
Another storm will dump 1 to 3 feet of new snowfall in the high elevations of the Cascades and northern Rockies today through Saturday afternoon. Even lower elevations like Spokane will see several inches. This is the next in a series of storms that has hit the region since Jan. 1.
Look for additional periods of snow and gusty winds Sunday through next Tuesday, with snow levels possibly dropping to the valley floors along I-5. Drivers needing to reach Seattle or Portland from the Midwest/Great Plains should avoid I-90 in the Northwest, rerouting southward to I-80, then catching I-84 to I-5. Weather should be less harsh most of the way on this alternative route.
While the mountains of the Northwest get buried with snow, the lowlands and valleys of the Washington Cascades could get drenched with rain totals of 1 to 2 inches today into early Saturday. Rainfall over the past couple of weeks has increased soil moisture to high levels across western Washington state. This will put extra pressure on soil instability and could trigger additional landslides this weekend.
The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Seattle said Wednesday that as many as six landslides/mudslides had been reported recently in western Washington, including in Grays Harbor County, where sections of State Route 109 were closed for a few days. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, this road has been reopened. Grays Harbor County is on Washington’s northwestern coast.
A line of strong to severe thunderstorms is likely to develop in eastern parts of Texas and Oklahoma later today and this evening, moving across the lower and middle Mississippi valleys, Tennessee Valley and the northern Gulf Coast states tonight and Saturday. There’s a good chance of intense winds gusts exceeding 60 mph as well as tornadoes. The most intense storms could also produce flash flooding.
The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has issued a moderate risk for severe storms today and tonight from eastern Texas and Oklahoma to Arkansas and Louisiana. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest risk, moderate risk is a 4. This is a potentially serious situation. But regardless of risk level, drivers should be prepared to stop or slow down at times along the I-10, I-20, I-55 and I-65 corridors.
Have a great day and a wonderful weekend and be careful out there!