A strong snowstorm isn’t letting up across the high elevations of the Sierra Nevada. Heavy, wet snowfall and high winds will challenge drivers for another day.
The storm began Tuesday, with rain changing to snow as a cold front entered the region. We don’t have official snowfall amounts, but the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has reported spinouts on Interstate 80.
Another 12 inches of snowfall could pile up Wednesday in places above 6,000 feet. This includes I-80 over Donner Pass, U.S. Highway 50 over Echo Summit and California State Route 88 over Carson Pass, as well as areas around Lassen Volcanic National Park, South Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Stateline and Incline Village.
The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Reno, Nevada, reported wind gusts Tuesday of almost 90 mph along portions of U.S. Highway 95, with gusts of 66 mph in Carson City and 55 mph in Lake Tahoe (as of 8:30 p.m. PST). Winds won’t be as strong Wednesday in western Nevada or eastern California, but gusts of 45 to 60 mph will still make deadheading (carrying an empty trailer) or hauling light loads risky. Blowing snow will reduce visibility at times, and the winds could also produce waves of 2 to 4 feet on Lake Tahoe.
The storm should fade late Wednesday afternoon. Winter storm warnings and wind advisories remain posted across the Sierra Nevada until 6 p.m. PST. However, light snowfall could linger through Wednesday night and Thursday morning, with road conditions staying slick.
Impact on freight
This storm is mainly impacting “backhaul” markets, which have more inbound freight than outbound. The FreightWaves SONAR map of the Headhaul Index (HAUL) below supports this.
HAUL is the difference between the volume of outbound and inbound loads. Markets like Stockton, California, and Medford, Oregon, which include the Sierra Nevada, are shaded red. This indicated a negative HAUL score, meaning a higher amount of inbound freight and loose capacity. There may be a lot of drivers waiting out the storm or driving through the storm to try to get to their next pickup.