First winter storms of 2019 to hit the Plains, Southwest this week


The first winter storm of 2019 won’t waste any time cranking up, making travel messy and dangerous across portions of the Midwest, Mountain Prairie, and Southwest regions right out of the gate. Truckers who need to work tonight and New Year’s Day should be extra careful, as will drivers returning to work later in the week.

New Year’s Eve

A plowable snowfall is likely across portions of upstate New York tonight, as well as central and northern Vermont. In addition, light ice accumulation is possible across portions of eastern Vermont and the northern Saint Lawrence Valley. Truckers will have to be extra careful on I-87, I-89, and I-91.

Another problem in upstate New York tonight will be strong crosswinds from Buffalo and Jamestown up to Watertown. Gusts could reach 65 mph at times along the I-81, I-86, and I-90 corridors. Drivers will have a hard time hauling light loads, with deadheading and bobtailing extremely risky. Also, the winds could bring down trees and power lines, leading to numerous power outages. A High Wind Watch has been posted for these areas.

New Year’s Day

The new year will be off to a snowy start across the southern Rockies. More than 20 inches could fall in the highest elevations of New Mexico and southeastern Arizona from tonight through New Year’s Day. This will affect travel on I-10, I-25, and I-40, making it particularly difficult to get over Bobcat, Campbell, Glorieta, Palo Flechado, Raton, and Tijeras passes in New Mexico, as well as Apache, Gates, Nugent’s, and Railroad (Cochise County) passes in Arizona. Winter Storm Warnings are up for for these areas.

Wednesday through Friday

A low pressure system will begin to spin up over Texas, producing areas of snow and freezing rain across western, central, and northern portions of the state, spreading into central and eastern Oklahoma. This will cause problems along the I-20 corridor from Midland to Dallas-Fort Worth, and on the I-35 corridor from Dallas-Fort Worth to Oklahoma City. There’s potential for around a quarter-inch of ice accumulation which would bring down large tree limbs and power lines. Besides numerous to widespread power outages, drivers could run into areas where tree limbs and power lines are blocking roads, so they may be forced to turn around and re-route.

The freezing rain and ice threats move to southern Missouri on Friday, mainly from Branson and Springfield over to the Bootheel, missing the St. Louis area. But just a slight shift northward in the forecast could make a big difference and would stop truckers in their tracks on the I-44, I-55, I-64, and I-70 corridors. The National Weather Service will probably end up issuing Winter Storm Watches and Winter Storm Warnings which can be found here.

The FreightWaves staff would like to wish all the hard-working truckers out there a very happy new year. Please drive safely, and we’ll see you in 2019!

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Nick Austin, Director of Weather Analytics and Senior Meteorologist

In his 17 years of weather forecasting experience, Nick worked on air at WBBJ-TV and WRCB-TV, including time spent doing weather analysis and field reporting. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from Georgia Institute of Technology. Nick is also 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 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” for eight consecutive years. Nick earned his National Weather Association Broadcasting Seal in 2005.