Another snowstorm is about to slam the Pacific Northwest (PNW) after Mother Nature finally decided to give the region a break for the past week or so.
The PNW has been battered by rounds of heavy snow, flooding rain and fierce winds since the beginning of 2020, which led to accidents, road closures and freight movement delays.
Transportation and supply chain impacts from the upcoming storm should remain fairly localized as opposed to widespread — whether on roads, rails or runways — but shippers, carriers and drivers will still need to prepare.
Periods of heavy snowfall begin Friday night in the Cascades of Washington and Oregon, spreading into the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon as well as the Rockies of northern Idaho and western Montana on Saturday, possibly lasting across the region through early Monday (Presidents’ Day).
Look for weekend totals of 12 to 24 inches in the highest elevations, with an additional 12 inches possible in some areas on Monday.
Roads will become slick and hazardous for truckers. Lookout and Snoqualmie passes on Interstate 90 could be trouble spots, in addition to Lolo and White passes on US-12, Stevens Pass on US-2, Santiam Pass on US-20 and Willamette Pass on OR-58. Portions of I-84 in Oregon will be dicey, especially in the Meacham and Tollgate areas.
On Sunday, some of the heavy snowfall will head to the mountains of northern California, northern Nevada, the Wasatch Range in Utah and the West Yellowstone area.
In western Washington, snow levels will start at 1,500-2,000 feet Friday night, rising to 3,000-3,500 feet Saturday, then down to 1,000-2,000 feet Sunday.
Some parts of the PNW will get wet rather than white. The valleys, lowlands and coastal areas of Washington and Oregon could get doused with up to 4 inches of rain this weekend, resulting in possible areas of localized flooding, mudslides and landslides. This includes the I-5 corridor from Seattle to Portland and spots along US-101.
The snowstorm that hit the Great Lakes and interior Northeast on Wednesday and Thursday is gone. However, very cold air is enveloping the regions. This will keep many roads slick for the next few days with little/no chance to thaw.
As temperatures drop, shippers that would normally ship freight in dry vans request more and more reefers to keep temperature-sensitive freight — cosmetics, chemicals, water and beer, to name a few — from freezing. This is known as “protect from freeze,” or PFF. Reefers are climate-controlled trailers that allow drivers to set a desired temperature for the insides of the trailers.
For carriers running long-haul reefers loads from mild spots in the East to the markets in the Northwest, PFF protocols will be crucial the next several days. By late Friday night, temperatures in the Great Lakes and interior New England will range from 15 degrees above zero to 15 below zero. Highs on Saturday will barely reach above freezing in the Great Lakes and will only be in the teens and 20s across interior New England. Mornings will stay subfreezing into next week.
The FreightWaves SONAR map above shows the forecast daily average temperatures for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The areas in dark and deep blue represent the coldest conditions, with warmest weather in the yellow.
Next week, more snowfall is heading back to some of the same areas of the Great Lakes and Northeast that the last storm hit. This will not likely be a major storm either, but some travel disruptions will pop up.
Have a great day and a wonderful weekend. Please be careful out there!