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States of emergency declared ahead of major winter storm

Governors of Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma brace for heavy snow and freezing rain

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The governors of at least three states issued states of emergency Tuesday, just ahead of a major winter storm threatening areas from the Plains to the Northeast.

The storm is forecast to dump heavy snow in some places over the next two days, while other places will see sleet and freezing rain, leading to very icy roads. The storm will also generate strong winds and periods of blizzard conditions.

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Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma signed an executive order covering all 77 counties in the state. The order temporarily suspends requirements for size and weight permits of oversized vehicles transporting materials and supplies used for emergency relief and power restoration. Executive Order 2022-02 is in effect for seven days and may be extended if conditions warrant.

The National Weather Service began issuing winter weather alerts earlier this week. They now stretch more than 2,000 miles west to east from the southern Rockies to Maine and north to south from Michigan to Texas.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois also issued a disaster declaration, activating approximately 130 members of the Illinois National Guard to ensure state resources were available to combat the storm.

“I’m authorizing a disaster proclamation for Winter Storm Landon, effective immediately, to support local government disaster response and recovery operations wherever necessary. I want to assure county and local officials and everyone in the path of the storm that my administration will provide resources every step of the way,” Pritzker said. “On the ground, all state assets stand ready to assist. I encourage everyone to do what you can to stay safe: Listen to local authorities to stay up to date with the latest conditions in your community and make sure your household has essentials.”

The Illinois Department of Transportation said it will deploy more than 1,800 trucks and equipment to plow and treat roads, as well as respond to any weather emergencies.

The NWS is predicting the impacts of the storm to be “extreme” from central Illinois to northern Indiana, as well as from eastern Arkansas to western Kentucky. Based on its Winter Storm Severity Index, this means “extensive and widespread severe property damage, lifesaving actions will be needed [and] results in extreme disruptions to daily life.” 

Finally, Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency for Missouri ahead of the storm, which allows state agencies such as the Missouri National Guard to help local areas with emergency preparation and response. 

“Severe winter weather isn’t something we are strangers to here in the state of Missouri, but we must be prepared for the worst,” Parson said in a press release from his office.

“By signing this order, we enable our emergency management professionals to have every tool and resource available to aid Missourians, protect lives and respond to this winter storm,” Parson went on to say. “We encourage all Missourians to be vigilant and take precautions to avoid hazardous road conditions and keep themselves and their families safe.”

Widespread power outages and road closures are possible across the path of the storm, with far-reaching impacts on trucking, air and rail cargo and overall supply chains. Shippers, carriers and customers should expect significant delays during the storm and for at least several days afterward.

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Major interstates in the storm’s likely path include I-35, I-40, I-44, I-55, I-69, I-70, I-72, I-80 and I-90. Impacts will include a variety of issues ranging from reduced speeds to major slowdowns or even multiday road closures. Delays in air cargo, in addition to loading and unloading at intermodal ramps, are likely.

Major cities and freight hubs in the potential impact zone include Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Dallas-Fort Worth; St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri; Chicago; Indianapolis; Memphis, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; Detroit; Cleveland; as well as Buffalo, New York.

Major lanes of concern

• Interstate 35 from Wichita, Kansas, to Austin, Texas.
• Interstate 40 from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
• Interstate 44 from Oklahoma City to St. Louis.
• Interstate 55 from Memphis to Chicago.
• Interstate 64 from St. Louis to Huntington, West Virginia.
• Interstate 70 from Denver to Columbus, Ohio.
• Interstate 90 from Chicago to Syracuse, New York.

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.