Record snowfall slammed several Midwestern cities Tuesday, delaying truckers on interstate highways. Some drivers were involved in accidents, and another storm is brewing Thursday.
Places like Minneapolis-St. Paul and Duluth, Minnesota; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; as well as Fargo, North Dakota, received 4 to 8 inches of snowfall Tuesday. These were not only daily records but also October monthly snowfall records for some of these locations.
Another 4 to 8 inches could pile up in the same areas through Thursday night and early Friday. Also, snowfall rates will be heavy at times, at 1 to 2 inches per hour.
The storm’s impacts will span from the northern Rockies of eastern Montana and Wyoming — where more than 12 inches of snowfall is likely — to the Dakotas, Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This includes cities such as Billings and Glendive, Montana; Fargo and Bismarck, North Dakota; Pierre, Rapid City and Aberdeen, South Dakota; Fergus Falls and St. Cloud, Minnesota; and Marquette, Michigan, in addition to far northern Wisconsin. This will affect freight flows on Interstates 29, 35, 90 and 94.
Gusty winds will create periods of blowing snow and reduced visibility in some areas. Bridges and overpasses will be especially slick due to areas of freezing rain and slush. The storm should fade by sunrise Friday, but yet another snowstorm could hit the region over the weekend.
Impact on freight
Freight markets in the potential impact zone include Missoula, Billings, Bismarck, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, St. Cloud and Duluth. These are mostly “backhaul” markets, meaning they have more inbound volumes than outbound.
This is evident in the FreightWaves Headhaul Index map below. This index measures the difference between outbound and inbound tender volumes. Markets in red/pink indicate higher inbound volumes (backhaul), while markets in blue/purple indicate higher outbound volumes.
So drivers heading to these markets in the snowstorm’s path are mostly dropping off. They will likely be deadheading — driving an empty trailer — to go where the freight is, in other Midwest markets or even Southern California.