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Wintry weather disrupting transportation in Northeast U.S.

Image: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Mother Nature was not kind to parts of the U.S. Thanksgiving week, slamming parts of the West, Great Plains and Midwest with heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions. Now it’s the Northeast’s turn today and tonight, December 2. Drivers will need to chain up – check chain laws here for the latest updates on winter driving – and shippers should expect delays in road and air cargo over the next few days. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued winter weather alerts across most of the region.

SONAR Critical Events: Monday, December 2, 2019, 9:00 a.m. EST

The current storm, which began yesterday, will continue to produce rain, snow, sleet and freezing rain across a large portion of the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Roads and runways will be slick from the southern Appalachians to Washington, D.C., New York City, Boston and much of the rest of New England. Drivers will need to be especially careful on the I-64 and I-95 corridors, but other interstates will be affected as well. Snowfall totals of six to 12 inches will be common in many inland communities, with more than 12 inches in some of the highest elevations of New England. Winds may be strong enough in some areas to produce blowing snow, creating white-out conditions at times.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has announced commercial vehicle restrictions on several interstate highways in the eastern part of the state. Restrictions are also in place in New Jersey, with reduced speed limits on several interstates in New York state. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), ground delays have begun at several major airports, including Philadelphia International (ICAO code: PHL), Laguardia (ICAO code: LGA) in New York City and Logan International (ICAO code: BOS) in Boston. Ground delays at additional airports are possible throughout the day.

Assets, such as airports, that are at risk of storm disruptions are indicated by the dots and “doughnuts” on the FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events above. In this case, they are red, which means the assets are under a “High” risk of disruptions.

The storm will wind down in some areas by early tomorrow, December 3. But sleet and heavy snow will keep going from Providence and Boston into Maine. Heavy lake effect snowfall could develop on Wednesday for areas just downwind of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Other areas of snowfall

SONAR Critical Events: Monday, December 2, 2019, 9:00 a.m. EST

Heavy snowfall continues today from portions of the Sierra Nevada and Cascades to the mountains of northern Nevada and southern Idaho, as indicated by the blue-green shaded areas on the map directly above. The highest elevations of the Sierra Nevada in northern and eastern California could receive up to another 12 inches of snowfall. Look for several inches of heavy, wet snow in the greater Reno-Lake Tahoe area, as well as the Cascades of southern Oregon. As temperatures drop overnight, the wet snow may freeze onto roads and other surfaces. In the mountains of northern Nevada, a few inches of snowfall may be preceded by light, freezing rain. All of this could create icy conditions on sections of I-80 through the Mountain West.

Flooding rains

While the mountains get pounded by snow, ice and wind, some lower slopes and valleys in California will get drenched with torrential rainfall. The NWS has posted a Flood Watch for areas around Mariposa southward to Squaw Valley. Totals of one to two inches today could lead to flooding and roadblocks. This storm will fade by late this afternoon/early evening. However, another round of snowfall may return to the Sierra Nevada on Wednesday, with heavy rainfall in southern California.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is 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 February 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” eight consecutive years.