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Blizzard still on track to clobber nation’s heartland

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

People in the Great Plains just can’t catch a break. After a “bomb cyclone” in mid-March slammed parts of Colorado, the Dakotas and Nebraska with heavy snow and destructive record-breaking winds – knocking out electricity to hundreds of thousands of customers – another storm is on the way this week. For an April storm, it may become historic for some places.

 Estimated high-impact storm areas.
Estimated high-impact storm areas.

Similar to the March storm, the next one is beginning its life in the Rockies and will strengthen as it moves toward the target areas on Wednesday and Thursday, April 10 and 11. It’s not forecast to “bomb out,” meaning the central barometric pressure would drop at least 24 millibars in 24 hours, but the pressure will be low enough to produce powerful winds and intense snowfall.

The following areas will likely take the brunt of the blizzard – South Dakota, eastern Wyoming, northeast Colorado, the western two-thirds of Nebraska, and portions of Minnesota. Since FreightWaves first told you on Monday about the impending storm, the National Weather Service (NWS) has changed Winter Storm Watches to the more serious Blizzard Warnings for the areas previously mentioned. The areas that are expected to get the most snow, wind and ice have also expanded a bit, and some places in the pink-shaded area on the map above could receive a messy mix of snow, wind and freezing rain/ice.

Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska Panhandle

The Denver metro area could see up to eight inches of snow, which isn’t a big deal for the Mile High City, but winds will gust to 60 mph. The heaviest snow will most likely fall south of I-76. The highest elevations around the Cheyenne, Wyoming area could see 12 inches of snow with gusts reaching 55 mph, while people in Scottsbluff, Nebraska will get up to 10 inches with 50-mph winds.

Northern Nebraska

Portions of northern Nebraska may get slammed with a double whammy of ice and snow. Freezing rain will lead to ice accumulations of up to one-tenth of an inch in places such as Oshkosh, Spencer, Springview and Valentine, followed by 12 to 24 inches of snow. All of this will be accompanied by wind gusts of around 50 mph.

South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota

Many neighborhoods from Rapid City, South Dakota to St. Cloud, Minnesota will get socked with 12 to 24 inches of snowfall, plus wind gusts reaching 50 to 55 mph. Some spots of freezing rain and ice will also develop in South Dakota near the Nebraska and Minnesota borders.


Impact on Freight

This blizzard won’t hit many high-volume freight markets and, thus, should have only minor impacts on supply chains. The FreightWaves SONAR map shows fairly low outbound volumes in markets within the storm’s path (red rectangle), as indicated by their white shading. But this doesn’t mean that the storm will have no impact on freight movement. Carriers that had planned to send drivers through these areas will have to steer them well out of their way to avoid the pounding winds and blowing snow, or wait out the storm. Also, the effects of the storm – power outages and possible road closures – mean drivers may have to avoid the region for several days until roads are cleared.

Check chain laws here for the latest updates on winter driving, and look for official updated NWS winter weather alerts on this interactive map.

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.