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Powerful weekend snowstorm still on track toward Northeast

Rain forecast to change to heavy snow Friday night

(Photo: New Hampshire DOT)

Weekend truckers will hit hazardous driving conditions and delays across a large swath of the U.S.

A dynamic storm system will track from the Gulf Coast into the Southeast, mid-Atlantic, Northeast and southeastern Canada from Friday into Saturday, pulling in plenty of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.

Related: Chaining up: 4 pro tips for truckers

More than 150 million people will face some type of impacts from the storm east of the Mississippi River. However, the Northeast, which received accumulating snow Wednesday after above normal warmth Monday, is likely to take the brunt of the impacts. The storm is forecast to rapidly strengthen into a potential bomb cyclone during its journey up the Eastern Seaboard.

A storm becomes a bomb cyclone, or undergoes bombogenesis, when its central atmospheric pressure drops by 24 millibars or more in 24 hours. This particular storm could meet or exceed that criteria, meaning it would produce strong winds, heavy precipitation and periods of blowing snow, whiteouts and localized blizzard conditions. Gusts could exceed 40 mph in some areas, which may also lead to scattered or widespread power outages. 

As of Friday morning, the National Weather Service had issued winter storm warnings in a dozen states, stretching from northern portions of Mississippi and Alabama to northern New England. Winter weather advisories are in place across northern Georgia, including the northern suburbs of Atlanta.

(Map: FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events and radar, 8 a.m. ET, Mar. 11, 2022. To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.)

The biggest snow amounts of 6 to 12 inches will hit from parts of West Virginia and central Pennsylvania to northern Maine and southeastern Canada. Accumulations of 3 to 6 inches are possible as far south as Kentucky, in addition to central and eastern Tennessee.

From a travel standpoint alone, major disruptions are likely on the roads, as well as with air cargo. Loading and unloading at ports and intermodal ramps are also likely.

For most areas, precipitation will begin as rain Friday afternoon and evening, changing to snow Friday night as very cold air catches up with the moisture. Snow will continue Saturday. In some parts of the interior Northeast, look for a rain-snow mix at the onset, followed by only snow.

Related: 5 states with toughest chain laws for truckers

Large metropolitan cities and freight hubs along the Interstate 95 corridor in the Northeast will see much less snow, with slushy conditions at the beginning of the storm. But as temperatures plummet even more Saturday night after the storm ends, the slush and snow will freeze, leading to potential black ice. The combination of winds and bitter cold will produce subzero wind chills across the interior Northeast.

Even though the snow portion of the storm may last only eight to 12 hours — perhaps just a few hours in some areas — impacts will be significant.

Major lanes of concern

• Interstate 24 in Tennessee from Clarksville to Chattanooga.
• Interstate 40 in Tennessee from Memphis to Knoxville.
• Interstate 64 from Lexington, Kentucky, to Charlottesville, Virginia.
• Interstate 70 from Zanesville, Ohio, to Baltimore.
• Interstate 76 from Youngstown, Ohio, to Philadelphia.
• Interstate 80 from Youngstown to Teaneck, New Jersey.
• Interstate 81 from Jefferson City, Tennessee, to Watertown, New York.
• Interstate 90 from Erie, Pennsylvania, to Boston.
• Interstate 95 from Washington to the Maine-Canada border.
• Trans-Canada Highway from Montreal to Quebec City.

Other notable weekend weather

Severe thunderstorms could strike Friday and Saturday from the Gulf Coast to the mid-Atlantic Coast. Damaging wind gusts, large hail, torrential rain and tornadoes are all possible from New Orleans to Orlando, Florida, northward to the Carolinas and the Delmarva Peninsula.

Also, look for high winds and an elevated risk of rollovers Friday in Southern California, including parts of the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. Winds also will be an issue for drivers Friday night and Saturday in central and eastern Montana, southeastern Wyoming and south-central Oregon. 

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.