Major snowstorm continues to slam western US (with forecast video)

Satellite animation of storm over the western U.S.

Periods of heavy mountain snowfall will continue to slow down drivers today, Dec. 12, through tomorrow in the high elevations of the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West. More specifically, roads will be most treacherous in the Cascades of Washington state and Oregon, the Olympics of Washington state, the Rockies of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, and the Wasatch in Utah. FreightWaves has been reporting on this all week. The forecast hasn’t changed much since yesterday, except to add Colorado and California to the list of states in the storm’s crosshairs.

SONAR Critical Events: Thursday, December 12, 2019, 10:00 a.m. EST. Target areas of Mountain West, Pacific Northwest snowstorms highlighted.

Totals exceeding 24 inches are likely in several of the tallest peaks, with many other areas seeing 12 to 24 inches. Some of the target routes include, but are not limited to, Stevens Pass (US-2), Snoqualmie Pass (I-90) and White Pass (US-12) in Washington state; Lookout Pass (I-90) on the Idaho-Montana border; Loveland Pass and the Eisenhower Tunnel (I-70) west of Denver; Dobson Pass in Idaho; and McKenzie and Santiam passes in Oregon. Other trouble spots will be Yellowstone and Mount St. Helens national parks. Blowing snow will create occasional whiteout conditions and potential roadblocks. Besides dangerous road conditions making travel risky for everyone, deadheading is a gamble due to the very gusty winds.

The storm should taper tomorrow, Dec. 13, except in the Rockies, where it will linger into Saturday, Dec. 14. Also, heavy snowfall will develop in the Sierra Nevada of eastern California tomorrow night into Saturday.

Shippers may experience delays of air cargo to and from Denver International Airport (ICAO code: DEN), Great Falls International Airport (ICAO code: GTF) and Salt Lake City International Airport (ICAO code: SLC). Customers should also expect delays of any freight on Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) and BNSF (NYSE: BRK.A) railroads through the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West regions.

Other areas of snowfall today, Dec. 12

Look for more snowfall from Duluth and Minneapolis, Minnesota to Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan and northern lower Michigan thanks to a low-pressure system. Delays are likely on I-41, I-43 and I-75. The highest accumulations of 5 to 8 inches will pile up in far northeastern Wisconsin and southern portions of Michigan’s UP. This storm should fade later today and this evening, except for some lingering lake effect snowfall in downwind locations. Another batch of potentially heavy snowfall could return to the region tomorrow.

Additional notes

Freezing rain and icy conditions will develop overnight into Friday, Dec. 13, in the southern and central Appalachians. This will affect the I-40, I-64 and I-85 corridors from western North Carolina to southern Virginia and eastern West Virginia. This includes Asheville, Boone, Winston-Salem and the western and northern Charlotte suburbs in North Carolina; Roanoke and Lynchburg, Virginia; and Beckley, West Virginia. Two-tenths of an inch of ice accumulations in the mountains will make roads extremely hazardous and could weigh down utility lines, leading to power outages and roadblocks.

SONAR Critical Events: Thursday, December 12, 2019, 10:00 a.m. EST. Areas shaded in green are at risk for icy conditions.

Because of extremely gusty winds and a high risk of blowovers, the Wyoming Department of Transportation has been closing portions of I-80 and I-25 to light, high-profile vehicles in the southeastern part of the state. Gusts from the west will reach 60 mph or stronger today and tomorrow.

Have a great day, and be careful out there!