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Major ice storm could hit the South later this week, flooding in southern California

(Photo: Shutterstock)

While blizzards and tornadoes aren’t likely to strike the U.S. this week as they did last week, ice and heavy rain could stop or slow down the movement of goods in some parts of the country. Areas to watch closely will be the Midwest, Southeast, Southwest, and West regions.

The potential storm worth watching the most won’t develop until late this week, but it could turn out to be a devastating event. Areas of sleet, heavy snow, and freezing rain will spread west to east from the Texas Panhandle through the Kansas-Oklahoma border and the Arkansas-Missouri border, leading to significant icing on roads, trees, and power lines from Friday morning through Friday night. The ice threat will shift to parts of the Ohio and Tennessee River Valleys on Saturday night and Sunday, putting a freeze on freight movement through northeastern Georgia, southern Illinois, southern Indiana, the Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina and northeastern Tennessee, and along the Tennessee-Kentucky border.

The latest computer forecast models are showing an average of half an inch of ice accumulation across the target areas. This would make it impossible for truckers to drive on several major routes like I-24, I-40, I-44, I-49, I-55, and I-81, as well as secondary routes in between. As with any widespread ice storm, lots of roads would be closed, and at least tens to hundreds of thousands of people would lose electricity as trees and power lines fall under the weight of the ice. This would throw a major wrench in the supply chain. The intensity and scope of the storm depend on many factors, especially it’s exact track, and the forecast will have to be adjusted each day. Stay ahead of the storm by checking updated winter weather Watches and Warnings from the National Weather Service (NWS) on this interactive map.

On the warmer, southern side of this storm, hauling freight will be tough across northern and eastern Texas, as well as the Deep South. From Friday morning through Friday night the low pressure system will dump heavy rain from Houston to Dallas. Early indications show up to five inches of rain which would cause flash flooding and road closures between I-20 and I-45. Torrential sheets of rain would reduce visibility at times, moving eastward across the Gulf Coast states through the weekend, dousing southern Alabama, northern Florida, southern Georgia, southern Louisiana, and southern Mississippi.

Before this storm freezes and drenches the areas previously mentioned, it will move slowly across California on Wednesday and Thursday. Right now it looks as if the San Diego metro area could get hit the hardest. Alex Tardy, a meteorologist at the NWS-San Diego office, tells FreighWaves that up to three inches of rain could fall in parts of the nearby Santa Ana Mountains. This is a lot of rain for the area in just a two day period, and it’s where the Holy Fire burned during the summer. So, more debris from the wildfire could flow into the foothills.

Tardy also says that San Diego and other coastal cities in the metro area could get flooded as rivers and creeks rise above their banks. San Diego might receive a month’s worth of rain in these two days. The forecast is for up to two inches, while an average December sees 1.77 inches, according to NWS records. Drivers should be ready for possible road closures and can check them on this web site.

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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.
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