Fierce winds have been battering parts of Montana since yesterday, with gusts exceeding 80 mph.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Great Falls reported a gust of 82 mph in Glacier County, with at least a dozen more reports of gusts between 60 and 72 mph across other parts of Glacier County, as well as Cascade County. Several other areas recorded gusts between 50 and 59 mph.
Well before the winds kicked in, the NWS issued a high wind watch, followed by a high wind warning as the blustery conditions became imminent. They are forecasting winds to maintain strength at least through this morning, with crosswind issues mainly on east-west routes including Interstate 90 from Livingston to just east of Big Timber, as well as portions of I-15 from Great Falls to the Canadian border.
Even though winds will die down in some areas this afternoon, they will still be strong enough to cause blowing snow and occasional whiteout conditions. Blowing dust is possible in areas where no snow is falling.
As a cold front moves through the region, snow showers will develop today and will be heavy in some spots before fading overnight. Several inches will pile up in Marias and Logan passes, in addition to the LIttle Belt Mountains and high elevations around Heart Butte, Great Falls, Nye and Big Horn. Another 12 inches or more could accumulate Friday through Saturday as another storm tracks through the region, with wind chills dropping to 30 degrees below zero or colder.
Impact on freight
The wind and snow may impact freight flows in the Missoula, Montana market, as well as a few areas around the Billings market, especially truckers heading there to drop off loads. Not many carriers are sending drivers into these markets to pick up freight.
The latest SONAR data from FreightWaves shows low outbound tender volumes (OTVI.MSO) in the Missoula market, evident in the map directly below. However, in the adjacent chart, inbound tender volumes (ITVI.MSO) have increased by more than 40% over the past few days, which means more drivers have been hauling freight into the Missoula market. Panic buying during the current coronavirus outbreak may be partly to blame for this trend.
The OTVI and ITVI indices each have a base value of 10,000 based on trucking volumes on March 1, 2018. The indices move in proportion to the total observable outbound or inbound tender volume.
Other winter weather conditions
Heavy snow could hit portions of the Great Basin, the Rockies and the central Great Plains Friday and Saturday. This includes the daily high-outbound volume markets of Denver and Salt Lake City. Some of the highest elevations could get slammed with one to two feet of accumulation.
Freezing rain, sleet and heavy snowfall will move rather quickly through northern New England on Friday. Drivers will need to be careful in the recently up-and-coming Augusta, Maine market, where outbound volumes have more than doubled in the past nine days.
Have a great day, and be careful out there!