Highway remains closed as new snowstorm approaches northwestern US (with forecast video)

Trucks in a snowy California parking lot.

Another round of heavy snowfall and gusty winds will return to the Northwest this afternoon after a brief break since last night. Freight movement delays will continue in the coming days.

SONAR Critical Events on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, 10 a.m. EST. Ongoing Northwest snowstorm threat.

Some high elevations of the Olympics in Washington, as well as the Cascades in Washington, Oregon and northern California will pick up an additional 1 to 2 feet of snow over the next two days. Many lower elevations will see several inches along with areas of freezing rain and icy conditions. This storm is the next in a series of many that have resulted in transportation troubles since the beginning of the year.

An eastbound section of I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass has been closed from time to time in the past two weeks. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) tweeted early Tuesday evening that it reopened this stretch of highway for now, with chain requirements in place. However, carriers and their drivers should prepare for WSDOT to possibly shut down the road again.

According to the agency’s website, US-2 at Stevens Pass is still closed. Westbound traffic is stopped at the summit at milepost 64 and eastbound traffic is stopped at milepost 32, just east of Gold Bar. There is no estimated time of reopening. The current snow depth at Stevens Pass is 111 inches.

The Oregon DOT has issued commercial vehicle restrictions on portions of I-84 along the Washington-Oregon border. Some of these restrictions are due to the hazardous winter weather.

On Monday, BNSF (NYSE: BRK.A) railroad had to close its Scenic Subdivision because of deep snow and downed trees. This track runs between Scenic and Skykomish, Washington. More than 250 trees had fallen across the area since Friday, and the subdivision between Seattle and Portland picked up rerouted loads. The Scenic Subdivision was scheduled to reopen Tuesday.

As this storm fades in the Cascades Thursday afternoon, it will spread heavy snowfall across the Sierra Nevada. This could cause problems on I-80 from the Reno-Lake Tahoe area through Truckee and Donner Pass in eastern California.

Carriers, shippers and brokers can use FreightWaves Critical Events to keep track of assets such as airports, rails, oil/petroleum facilities and ports in the target zone of any high-impact or long-term storm systems. As shown on the FreightWaves Critical Events maps in this article, the assets are color coded based on the anticipated level of disruption. Weather forecast details are also available.

Other areas of the country will soon be treated severely by Mother Nature. A potential high-impact storm will likely produce heavy snowfall, icy roads and blustery winds across portions of the Plains, Midwest/Great Lakes and New England. This will begin Friday and last through the weekend.

SONAR Critical Events on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, 10 a.m. EST. Potential high-impact winter storm.

Now is the time to plan. The storm will begin to intensify over the Plains and Midwest on Friday. Then it will track eastward, producing a swath of freezing rain and moderate to heavy snow across most of the Great Lakes, New England and adjacent areas of Canada late Friday and Saturday. The storm should fade across northern New England on Sunday.

This late-week storm could dump up to 8 inches of total snowfall in many areas, with localized amounts of 10 to 12 inches. Winds will be an issue with this storm system as sustained speeds reach 20 to 30 mph with gusts of 35 to 40. The combination of snow and wind will cause low-end blizzard/whiteout conditions at times, resulting in likely transportation disruptions. Roads may be blocked/closed due to downed tree limbs and utility lines. Scattered power outages are possible.

Major interstates within the risk zone include I-35, I-75, I-81, I-87 and I-90. The largest cities that will see the biggest impacts are Fargo, North Dakota; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisconsin; Buffalo, New York; and Toronto and Ottawa, Canada. Local and regional supply chains and business operations could be disrupted for a few days, and some passenger jets carrying belly cargo could be grounded.

Look for updates about this storm on the FreightWaves website and social media sites.

Have a great day, and be careful out there!