Major snowstorm continues to spin over the Sierra Nevada (with forecast video)

Tractor-trailer on snowy California highway.

The first major snowstorm to hit the Sierra Nevada in about three months cranked up over the weekend. Some areas like Squaw Ski Resort and Tahoe City got slammed with two feet or more of accumulation, while others spots like Alpine Summit and Squaw Valley recorded wind gusts of more than 100 mph.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Monday, Mar. 16, 2020, 10 a.m. EDT; Sierra snowstorm

Roads were closed as snow plow drivers worked overtime to keep up with the intense winds and snowfall rates. But the storm isn’t over. Several inches to a foot or more of additional snowfall will hit the Sierra Nevada today through tomorrow, with areas of gusty winds and whiteout conditions. Amounts depend mostly on elevation.

Due to spin-outs in the Donner Summit area over the weekend, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) closed Interstate 80 from Colfax to the Nevada border. This is a stretch of about 75 miles which includes Truckee. CHP tweeted earlier this morning that the highway is back open for now. However, CHP may close it again at some point during the storm. The high elevations above 7,000 feet around Truckee and South Lake Tahoe could see another 12 to 18 inches of snowfall through Tuesday, with up to 10 inches in spots below 7,000 feet.

As the storm continues spinning over the region, heavy snowfall will develop later today and tonight in the Cascades of northern California and southern Oregon – areas that didn’t see snow over the weekend. This will last through Tuesday as 4 to 8 inches could pile up above 3,000 feet in the Mt. Shasta area, impacting portions of I-5.

Impact on freight

The Reno and Stockton markets straddle the Sierra Nevada range from far western Nevada into eastern California. There’s not much freight leaving these markets, baked on the latest SONAR data from FreightWaves.

The map below shows the Headhaul index (HAUL) which measures the difference between outbound volumes and inbound volumes for the 135 freight markets across the continental United States. Reno and Stockton are in medium to dark red, meaning they are “backhaul” markets that have more loads coming into them rather than leaving, often leading to loose capacity of trucks.

SONAR Ticker: HUAL map (left); SONAR Tickers: ITRI.SCK, ITRI.RNO (right)

However, the chart next to the map shows that carriers have been rejecting more and more loads into Reno and Stockton. Their inbound tender rejection rates (ITRI. RNO, ITRI.SCK) are above 10.0%, which is high. This may be at least partly to do with the storm. Carriers could be reluctant to have drivers make drop-offs into markets getting hit with a significant snowstorm where interstate closures are possible. They could be waiting out the storm, or possibly have worked with shippers to extend lead times, arranging for drop-offs shortly after the storm ends.

Other areas of snowfall today

Heavy snowfall will also develop today in the mountains around Los Angeles and San Diego. This includes high elevations of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Riverside counties, where accumulations could range from 5 to 15 inches. This could affect the I-5 corridor between Gorman and the Grapevine, a stretch of cabout 13 miles.

Have a great day, and be careful out there!