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Smorgasbord of weather slowing down late-week supply chains

Delays from snow, fire, wind, and rain

Image: Colorado Department of Transportation

Heavy snow and rain, as well as high winds and wildfires, will shift down several local/regional supply chains a notch for the next couple of days.

The snowstorm that began last night keeps cranking across the Rockies and southern Great Plains today, October 24, mainly south of Denver and Colorado Springs. Snowfall will remain heavy in some places, along with gusty winds, blowing snow, and white-out conditions. Shippers should expect delays, and drivers will have to be extra careful.

SONAR Critical Events: Thursday, October 24, 10:00 a.m. EDT

The storm dumped 19 inches of snow in Genesee, Colorado (elevation 7,648 feet) in the foothills just west of Denver. The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Boulder, which covers the Denver metropolitan area, received seven inches. The western suburbs of Denver were hit with two to six inches, while the Denver International Airport (ICAO code: DEN), just east of downtown, received only a trace.

The Colorado Department of Transportation reported several accidents last night on I-70, mainly west of downtown Denver. Portions of the highway were closed for a while.

Unfortunately, the storm gives freight carriers another reason to avoid the Denver area. After having a stellar spring, Denver is now one of the worst freight markets for carriers to send their trucks. With the 14th lowest Headhaul Index (HAUL.DEN) value in the country at -31.77, based on the latest date from FreightWaves SONAR, outbound volumes have been on a steady decline since May of this year, 2019. Since the end of September, however, Denver has become much worse in terms of places to source freight, with volumes dropping almost 15% in the past month. In other words, the market has too many trucks and too little freight.

Inbound volumes did drop over the past few days, but not nearly to the extent of the outbound loads, making it one of the more oversupplied areas of the country. Tender rejection rates – the percentage of electronically offered loads turned down by carriers because of better options – followed suit, plummeting from almost 4.5% on October 9 to 1.28% yesterday, October 23 – the third lowest in the U.S.

SONAR Tickers: OTVI.DEN (light green), ITVI.DEN (lime green)

The current snowstorm will fade in southern Colorado by early this afternoon, local time, followed by a farewell in eastern New Mexico by early this evening. Then, the storm will end in northern Texas and western Oklahoma overnight tonight. Travel will remain treacherous for truckers, even after the snow stops falling. Additional roadblocks are still possible on I-70, and new ones may pop up on I-25 from Denver into New Mexico as well as on I-40 in the Texas Panhandle.

Before it’s all said and done, several inches of snow will cover roads in southern Colorado’s Wet Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This will affect travel on the I-25 corridor from Walsenburg to Trinidad.

In New Mexico, anywhere from two to six inches could accumulate, mainly west of I-25. Higher amounts of six to 10 inches could pile up over Raton Pass, as well as the Johnson and Bartlett mesas. Winds will be gusty, leading to blowing snow and reduced visibility. The NWS has issued a Winter Storm Warning for these areas and those mentioned in southern Colorado. These alerts are housed in the FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events platform in the map above.

This is the second winter-like storm of the season for the Colorado Rockies. In mid-October, a storm dumped three to four inches of snow in the Denver area and six to 12 inches in the nearby mountains. However, this will be the first snowstorm of the season for northeastern New Mexico.

Other weather today, October 24

Firefighters are still trying to contain wildfires across California. New fires could spark, and existing fires could spread quickly due to extremely low humidity and strong Santa Ana winds gusting to 45 or 50 mph. Pacific Gas and Electric Company has issued public safety power shutoffs (PSPs) in the northern part of the state in order to prevent potentially downed power lines from sparking new fires. Smoke from fires could reduce visibility as it blows across the I-5 corridor through the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys.

SONAR Critical Events: Thursday, October 24, 10:00 a.m. EDT

Thunderstorms, heavy rain and localized flash flooding will slow down drivers from portions of central and eastern Texas to Tulsa, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas. A few storms may contain large hail and severe winds. The threat for severe storms and flash flooding shifts to Louisiana and Mississippi on Friday, October 25, then to the Ohio Valley on Saturday, October 26.

SONAR Critical Events: Thursday, October 24, 10:00 a.m. EDT

Finally, high crosswinds will make deadheading quite risky across portions of central and western Montana tonight and Friday. Even drivers with full truckloads may have problems. Gusts will reach 60 to 85 mph along the I-15 and I-90 corridors through Butte, Bozeman, Helena and Great Falls, in addition to US-2 from Cut Bank to Havre.

Additional notes

A 115-mile stretch of Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) track is still out of service in Missouri between Kansas City and Moberly. Flooding in early October led to a logjam that caused the collapse of the Norfolk Southern bridge over the Grand River in Brunswick, Missouri. Norfolk Southern officials say the repairs will be finished no later than November 6, 2019. The railroad has entered into agreements with its interline partners to detour freight traffic over alternative gateways through the duration of the outage.

Have a great day, and be careful out there!

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.