High-impact snowstorm to hit northern states later this week

Trucks and other vehicles on a snowy Nebraska road.

A potential high-impact winter storm could hit several Northern states later this week, slowing freight movement through the weekend. Now is the time for carriers, shippers and brokers to get ahead of the game.

The storm will begin to crank up over the Midwest on Friday, producing heavy snowfall and strong winds across the region. The system will then track eastward and produce a swath of moderate to heavy snow across the Great Lakes region, interior New England and adjacent areas of southern Canada late Friday and Saturday. The storm should exit northern New England on Sunday.

Early computer model suggestions indicate snow accumulations of 4 to 8 inches will be common, with totals as high as 12 inches in places that get stuck under the heaviest snow bands. Disruptions of supply chains and business operations at the local and regional levels could be quite elevated during the storm but shouldn’t linger very long afterward.

SONAR Critical Events: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, 2 p.m. EST. Potential high-impact winter storm

Major interstates that truckers should avoid within the target zone include I-35, I-75, I-81, I-87, I-90 and I-94. Major cities at risk include Fargo, North Dakota; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Buffalo, New York; as well as Toronto and Ottawa in Canada.

Winds will be an issue, with sustained speeds of 20 to 30 mph and gusts up to 40 mph. While this won’t likely turn into a major blizzard, the combination of snow and wind will be intense enough at times to create hazardous travel environments on the roads, in the air and on the tracks due to blowing and drifting snow and occasional whiteout conditions. Road closures are a good bet; freighters and passenger planes carrying belly cargo could be grounded for a while. Loading and unloading of freight at intermodal ramps will be difficult.

Some areas will turn icy as freezing rain develops along the transition line between rain to the south and snow to the north. It’s still a bit too soon to know precisely where the band of freezing rain will set up, but right now it looks like it could run through places such as Omaha, Nebraska; Kansas City, Missouri; Des Moines, Iowa; Erie and State College in Pennsylvania; Syracuse, New York; and maybe parts of the Chicago area. Ice buildup, paired with the gusty winds, would result in scattered power outages and roadblocks due to downed tree limbs and utility lines.

Carriers, shippers and brokers who subscribe to FreightWaves SONAR can use the Critical Events platform, like the map above, as a single, comprehensive way to track high-impact weather events. Forecast details, assets at risk and official weather alerts are just some of the resources included in the one-screen snapshot of the situation. Get more information by requesting a demo here.

We will continue to post updates of the forecast on the FreightWaves website and our social media accounts.