Blizzard to slam parts of the Northeast on Thursday (with forecast video)

Plow clearing snowy New Hampshire road.

A blizzard is about to blow through parts of the Northeastern U.S., stalling late-week freight flow in the region. Snow totals will be measured in feet, and truckers may not be able to see more than a few feet in front of them at times.

SONAR Critical Events: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020

Setup and snowfall amounts

A relatively minor snowstorm will produce accumulations of up to 6 inches in the South Bend, Gary, Ft. Wayne, Detroit, Toledo and Cleveland freight markets, as well as in Toronto, Canada. There may be isolated spots of up to 8 inches. The storm will end in these areas overnight, with subfreezing temperatures day and night through early Sunday.

The jet stream will energize the storm as it moves through the Northeast late tonight and Thursday, producing blizzard conditions in parts of upstate New York and interior New England, areas that have seen their share of heavy snowfall this season.

Snowfall totals of 6 to 12 inches are likely on Thursday in the Buffalo, New York area, as well as the Green, White and Mahoosuc Mountains, and Montreal, Canada.

Winds will be howling at 40 to 50 mph, which means blowing snow could drastically reduce visibility at times on portions of I-81 and I-90, as well as the Trans-Canada Highway.

Lake-effect snow showers and gusty winds will linger on Friday and Saturday in upstate New York. Snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour may produce an additional 1 to 2 feet in places like Oswego, Orchard Park, Jamestown and Watertown.

Impact on freight

Most of the interior Northeast is made up of what freight industry people call “backhaul” markets, meaning there’s more inbound freight than outbound; conversely, a “headhal” market is one that has more outbound than inbound. In FreightWaves SONAR, the HAUL index shows the difference between outbound and inbound freight in each of the 135 markets. Headhaul markets are positive values shaded in purple or blue; backhaul values are negative, shaded in red. Most markets in the blizzard’s impact zone are currently low-end backhaul or have virtually no freight leaving or entering.


Generally, carriers want to send drivers to headhaul markets because they contain the most available loads for pick-up. But the current HAUL index tells us that most of the freight across the interior Northeast markets stays within/between these markets. So the blizzard will mainly affect drivers on local/regional runs within the blizzard’s impact zone. The exceptions are the Buffalo market, with a fairly high HAUL score of 30.25, and the Augusta, Maine market which has a backhaul score of almost -22.0.

Other notable weather

Heavy snowfall, 4 to 8 inches, will also impact drivers in the southern Appalachians from this afternoon to Thursday morning, especially in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. Winds gusts could exceeding 40 mph at times.

Wicked northeasterly crosswinds exceeding 50 mph will make deadheading risky today and tonight across parts of southern California. This will affect drivers on parts of I-8, I-10, I-15 and I-40 in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. 

Thunderstorms today and this evening could produce heavy rainfall, localized flash flooding, and isolated severe winds in portions of Florida. Occasional delays are likely on I-10 from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, I-75 from Lake City to Naples, and I-95 from Jacksonville to Miami.

Have a great day, and be careful out there!