Major storms will slow freight movement in the West this week

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Most of the significant weather affecting freight movement this week is in California and other parts of the West. Heavy rain and snow will affect travel through several markets, including two that have seen increasing inbound volumes lately.

Today and Tonight

The first of two storms this week in the Golden State will drench southern sections today (Monday) and this evening, while the mountains get plenty of fresh snow. Flash Flood Watches have been issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) for the Los Angeles and San Diego metro areas, where one to two inches of rain could fall in coastal areas as well as adjacent elevations below 5,000 feet, with localized amounts of three inches possible. Drivers should be aware that flooding, mudslides, and debris flows from wildfire burn scar areas could lead to road closures along the I-5, I-15, and I-405 corridors, as well as US-101 and the Pacific Coast Highway. Wind gusts in some coastal communities could reach 40 to 50 mph, especially from near Santa Barbara to Paso Robles, potentially knocking down tree limbs and power lines.

Meanwhile, the mountains of the following counties are under Winter Storm Warnings for this afternoon and tonight: Kern, Los Angeles (excluding the Santa Monica Range), Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura. Snow totals could exceed 12 inches in many elevations above 5,000 feet. In the Kern County mountains just east of Bakersfield, as well as Los Angeles and Ventura County mountains, wind gusts of 60 to 75 mph will make it dangerous to impossible to deadhead or haul light loads on state routes 2, 33, 39, 155, and 178. In addition, blowing snow will drastically reduce visibility at times.


Morning and early afternoon snow will be an issue from the Salt Lake City metro area into the Rockies of southeastern Idaho. Another round of snow could hit the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range on Tuesday afternoon and evening. Travel could be slick on portions of I-15, I-80, I-84, and I-86.


A fresh round of snow could hit the Four Corners region (where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet) on Tuesday night or Wednesday, affecting drivers on I-40 and I-70.


The second major Pacific storm to hit California this week will probably arrive on Wednesday night, possibly lasting a full 24 hours, and may be even worse than the early-week deluge of rain and snow. Heavy rainfall and a threat of flooding is likely in the Sierra foothills and elevations below 7,000 feet, with flooding also possible again in the Los Angeles metro area. Heavy rain from this storm could result in washed out roads, mud slides, rock slides, and debris flows in the vicinity of the Ferguson, Pier, and Railroad burn scar areas. Rain totals of two to four inches are expected in this region by Thursday evening.

In the Sierras above 7,000 feet, heavy snow accumulations and hazardous travel is likely with up to four feet of new snow piling up. Hauling loads over Carson Pass (CA-88), Donner Pass (I-80), Echo Summit (US-50), and Yuba Pass (CA-20), just to name a few, will be treacherous and risky.

Impact on Freight Movement

  SONAR Ticker: Inbound Tender Market Share - Weekly Change; Monday, January 14, 2018 radar at 12 noon EST.
SONAR Ticker: Inbound Tender Market Share – Weekly Change; Monday, January 14, 2018 radar at 12 noon EST.

Because of the recent overflow at container terminals at ports in the Los Angeles market, loads are being trucked to warehouses in nearby regional markets such as Ontario, Stockton, and Phoenix, Arizona. The map above shows large increases of inbound volume – loads coming into these markets – during the past week, as indicated by the light blue and dark blue shadings east of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. It will be interesting to see if the strong storms this week disrupt movement enough to reduce or delay any further loads coming into these markets.

Use this interactive map for updated winter weather alerts from the NWS. Drivers: please stay safe out there, especially if you can’t find alternate routes. Check chain laws here for the latest updates on winter driving, and look for weather updates throughout the week on the FreightWaves website.

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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.