Wet, windy weather ahead for final Christmas shipping push

(Photo: TruckStockImages.com)

(Photo: TruckStockImages.com)

Another storm is heading to the East Coast soon, but this one won’t be a classic Nor’easter with lots of snow. That is the good news. The bad news is that it’s coming at one of the worst times of the year, just before Christmas. Truckers will be under pressure to make on-time deliveries of last-minute loads at the same time everyone else is hitting the roads for the holiday. Highways will be extra busy, and travel will probably be be delayed on the ground as well as in the air.

Timing of the Storm

The storm will spread scattered rain across the Southeast region of the U.S. today (Wednesday), from eastern Texas across the rest of the Gulf Coast states. The storm really cranks up tonight through Thursday as the rain becomes widespread with pockets of very heavy downpours. Three to four inches could fall in parts of the Florida Panhandle and from Tampa to Orlando, as well as on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Many other large southern cities, including Atlanta, could get doused with up to two inches.

The storm heads across the Northeast region Thursday night through Friday, producing steady rain from Virginia to Maine. Rain will be heavy in this region, too. Many small coastal communities could end up with two-inch or three-inch totals in their rain buckets, as well as some large metro areas such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

Winds will strengthen across the Southeast region on Thursday, with gusts of 30 to 40 mph from Florida to eastern North Carolina. Winds will pick up along the coast of the Northeast region on Friday. Gusts could reach 40 to 50 mph from northern New Jersey through Long Island, all the way to Boston, Cape Cod, Newport, and Portland. Many areas are at risk for power outages and beach erosion.

As colder air arrives on Saturday, rain in interior portions of the Northeast region will change to light snow.

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Impacts on Travel and Freight Movement

Heavy rain will slow down drivers on the major corridors of I-4, I-10, I-20, I-75, I-85, and I-95, so plan to take breaks during heavy downpours that may limit visibility for long stretches. The combination of the approaching storm and saturated soil from recent rains could result in minor flooding of coastal areas, rivers, streets, and areas of poor drainage. Severe thunderstorms could produce flash flooding in south Florida. Drivers may hit roadblocks due to high water or downed trees and power lines, especially on secondary routes.

The National Weather Service has already issued Flood Watches for portions of the Mid-Atlantic states and the Gulf Coast, and Flood Warnings continue until further notice for many rivers in the Carolinas. Updated weather alerts can be found on this interactive map.

Also, winds will make it difficult to haul some light loads, but vans that are filled to capacity with Christmas orders should be all right since gusts are expected to stay below 50 mph.

The storm could also slow down air freight, and is likely to cause flight delays at major airports like Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International (ICAO code: ATL), Baltimore-Washington International (ICAO code: BWI), Boston’s Logan International (ICAO code: BOS), New York’s LaGuardia (ICAO code: LGA) and JFK International (ICAO code: JFK), Miami International, (ICAO code: MIA), and Philadelphia International (ICAO code: PHL).

In addition to increased holiday traffic over the next few days, truck drivers will face weather challenges while trying to deliver shipments on time, and then trying to get home to their families. Hopefully, in the spirit of the Christmas season, everyone can be a little nicer to them and to each other while on the roads.