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Storms out west could snarl last-minute Christmas shipments

Delays likely for truckers hauling through Sierra Nevada

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Several storm systems will be tracking into the West Coast this week and over the upcoming Christmas weekend, producing moderate to heavy snow and rain beginning Wednesday.

Related: A look back: 6 impactful weather events in 2021 transportation

The storms will primarily impact the Cascades in southern Oregon and northern California, as well as the Sierra Nevada in eastern California. However, travel could also become hazardous across the Rockies at times. Carriers, shippers and customers should expect potential disruptions to supply chains due to delays on the roads, in the air and at intermodal ramps.

While San Francisco and Portland are not within the likely impact zone, truckers will have issues on Interstate 5 in the Mount Shasta region and Interstate 80 in the greater Reno-Carson City and Lake Tahoe areas, in addition to several popular U.S. highways in the region. 

Related: Chaining up: 4 pro tips for truckers

Rainfall totals by the end of the week could reach 6 inches in some lowlands and valleys, leading to possible episodes of flash flooding. Meanwhile, in some high elevations, up to 8 feet of snow could pile up. The snow will significantly impact mountain passes, including Donner Pass, Carson Pass and Echo Summit, just to name a few.

Also, wind gusts will hit 40 to 75 mph at times and possibly up to 100 mph along some Sierra ridges. This will produce periods of blowing snow and whiteout conditions, as well as elevating the risk of rollovers.

Related: 5 states with toughest chain laws for truckers

The National Weather Service has issued various winter weather alerts for the Sierra Nevada, but may post alerts in other areas throughout the week..

Major lanes of concern

• Interstate 5 from Redding, California, to Eugene, Oregon.
• Interstate 80 from Alta, California, to Reno, Nevada.
• U.S. Highway 50 from Carson City, Nevada, to Pollock Pines, California.
• U.S. Highway 101 from Santa Rosa, California, to North Bend, Oregon.
• U.S. Highway 395 from Carson City to Mesa Camp, California.

Other notable weather this week

Look for several more inches of snow Monday, along with areas of freezing rain and icy conditions, across parts of the Cascades and northern Rockies. Truckers should be especially careful over Lolo Pass, Lookout Pass, Homestake Pass and MacDonald Pass. Roads will be slick on Interstate 90 from just east of Seattle to Spokane, Washington; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and just west of Billings, Montana.

Thunderstorms could produce heavy rain and flash flooding in parts of the Gulf, Southeast and mid-Atlantic coasts Monday and Tuesday. Drivers may run into temporary delays along Interstates 10, 75 and 95 in places like New Orleans, Mobile, Alabama, potentially anyplace in Florida, southern Georgia, southeastern Alabama, as well as eastern portions of the Carolinas. As of Monday morning, the chances of severe winds, tornadoes or large hail were low.

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.