Whether you call it an “arctic blast” or a “deep freeze,” the dangerously cold weather across the Midwest is about to get worse and maybe even historic. The combination of blistering winds and possible record low temperatures will put stress on trucks, truckers and possibly the freight markets in the coming days.
Polar Vortex Strikes Again
Along with more snow over the weekend, a piece of the polar vortex drifted into the Great Lakes states, producing record low temperatures (as low as in the 40s below zero in Minnesota on Sunday). Another lobe of the polar vortex will send reinforcing cold air to the region beginning tonight (Monday), and is expected to last almost all week.
Cities like Bismark, Chicago, Cleveland, Des Moines, Detroit and Green Bay will experience their coldest temperatures in more than 20 years. Temperatures, plus the effects of stiff northerly breezes, will add up to life-threatening wind chills. The worst wind chills – in the 40s and 50s below zero – will occur from Minot, North Dakota to International Falls, Minnesota on Tuesday. Then, on Wednesday, they will spread south and east into Iowa, northern Illinois and Wisconsin.
This will not be a quick dose of frigid weather by any stretch of the imagination. Temperatures could remain below zero in some areas 24/7 until Friday afternoon.
Check the latest winter weather alerts from the National Weather Service (NWS) on this interactive map.
Impact on Freigh
Besides very slick and dangerous driving conditions, there’s a potential for road closures causing delays along major corridors like I-80, I-90 and I-94. The extreme cold will present other problems for truckers such as fuel gelling, brake system failures, and/or aging batteries with low Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) values not cranking.
Pouring the proper amount of extra winter additive into your diesel can help prevent gelling, and according to a report from Gold Eagle, your diesel should flow smoothly in temperatures as cold as 40 below zero. Another blog from the Truckers Report suggests that drivers keep their trucks constantly running in areas of extreme cold, except during short stops like those for fueling. It is also recommended to keep reefers running, even if they’re empty.
The widespread cold outbreak across the Midwest could increase the demand for “no-freeze equipment” this week. Anyone who has to haul “protect from freeze” loads should make sure temperatures are properly set in their reefers.
Risk to People
People can die from extreme cold. Even though the average number of annual deaths in the U.S. from 1988 through 2017 ranked lower than any other weather-related category (except for wind and rip currents), extreme cold should be taken very seriously. Frostbite can set in quickly on exposed skin, within 30 minutes when wind chills reach the 30s below zero; in less than 10 minutes with wind chills in the 40s below zero or lower. This is the kind of bitter cold that will spread across the areas mentioned earlier, so drivers should dress in layers, wear hats and gloves, and do everything in their power to make sure they don’t get stuck outside for any lengthy period of time.
Please be careful and stay safe out there!
Other Notable Weather This Week
A narrow band of snow will move across portions of the Southeast region tonight, making it as far south as northern Louisiana during the late night hours. This will affect travel along the I-20, I-24, I-40, I-65, I-75, I-81 and I-85 corridors in parts of the country that are not used to handling snow. Only a few inches of snow can dramatically slow down traffic in places like Jackson, Mississippi, Birmingham, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia. The snow should fade across the southern Appalachians around midday Tuesday, but will continue in the Northeast along portions of the I-95 corridor Tuesday afternoon and night.
Also, a couple of late-week storms on Thursday and Friday could bring back heavy snow and strong winds to the Sierras of eastern California and the greater Lake Tahoe area, along with heavy rain and flooding to some coastal communities, valleys and foothills.