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Snowstorm to slam Rockies early this week

1st major storm of season to produce blizzard conditions

(Photo: Idaho DOT)

The first major storm of the season is set to blanket the Rockies with heavy snow through midweek. While this will primarily be a mountain snow event, a few snowflakes could reach the lower-lying valleys.

Whether truckers are ready for it or not, Old Man Winter will slam a large part of the region Monday through Tuesday, fading early Wednesday. The storm will also produce blizzard conditions and the coldest temperatures of the season in the mountainous terrain, with lows dropping into the teens and 20s.

Across many high elevations of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, the National Weather Service is forecasting 1 to 2 feet of snow to pile up. Places along the Front Range like Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Fort Collins, Colorado, as well as the western suburbs of Denver, are expected to stay just warm enough to support mainly rain. However, a few wet snowflakes are possible.

The storm was just beginning Sunday as some of the first snow showers began marching into the Pacific Northwest. But the most impactful wintry weather is still to come as snow becomes heavier and more widespread across the Intermountain West.

Travel conditions can quickly become hazardous as snowfall rates of an inch or more per hour, paired with blowing snow, may lead to whiteout conditions. Wind gusts will hit 35 to 50 mph in some places, adding another layer of risk for drivers deadheading (pulling empty trailers) or carrying light loads.

The snow and much colder conditions will continue to filter south and east through the Rockies Monday night. Prior to dawn on Tuesday, Utah’s Wasatch Range and Uinta Mountains will likely experience intensifying snowfall rates.

Related: 5 states with toughest chain laws for truckers

Besides potential delays in trucking freight flows, the storm could also disrupt operations at intermodal hubs and oil facilities in the region.

Across the Salt Lake Valley, temperatures may be just a touch too warm for snowfall. That being said, however, afternoon high temperatures are still expected to hit the mid-40s Tuesday through Thursday, about 20 degrees below average.

Major lanes of concern

• Interstate 25 from Casper to Buffalo, Wyoming.
• Interstate 70 from Vail to Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
• Interstate 80 in southeastern Wyoming.
• Interstate 84 in Idaho.
• Interstate 90 from Sundance, Wyoming, to Bozeman, Montana.

Other notable weather this week

Severe storms will produce areas of dangerous winds, large hail and tornadoes Monday across the Midwest, including Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis. The severe storm threat increases Tuesday and moves to the Plains, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and northern Texas.

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.