Major snowstorm to hit two high-volume freight markets (with forecast video)

Plow clearing snowy Utah highway.

As a four-day snowstorm fades in the Sierra Nevada, its energy will move into the Rockies and Great Basin. Heavy snowfall and blustery winds will crank up tonight across the Four Corners states of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, lasting through Thursday night. This includes the Denver and Salt Lake City freight markets, which have been blossoming over the past month.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Wednesday, Mar. 18, 2020, 10 a.m. EDT; Snowstorm

Some of the heaviest snowfall in Colorado will be west of Denver, along Interstate 70. Total accumulations of 9 to 18 inches are possible in the Eisenhower Tunnel, Georgetown and Breckenridge areas.

Blizzard conditions are likely in southeastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a blizzard warning that includes I-80 from Elk Mountain and Cheyenne, Wyoming to Sidney, Nebraska, as well as on I-25 from Cheyenne to Douglas, Wyoming. These places could see freezing rain changing to heavy snowfall. Wind gusts reaching 50 mph will cause blowing snow and occasional whiteouts with low or no visibility.

In Utah, 6 to 12 inches of snowfall could pile up in the Wasatch Plateau, in addition to the high elevations in the Wasatch Range south of I-80.

The high elevations of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado will also see plenty of snowfall and wind, but they won’t affect interstate freight movement. However, the storm will impact drivers on I-40 in Flagstaff, Arizona through early Thursday.

Impact on freight

The impending winter storm will blast through two growing freight markets in the western United States – Denver and Salt Lake City. Southeastern Wyoming is part of the Denver freight market, whose outbound volume has increased 44% month-over-month (m/m); Salt Lake City market’s have gone up almost 27% m/m.


The latest FreightWaves SONAR data shows Denver’s outbound volume (OTVI.DEN) dropped from Monday, March 16 into Tuesday, March 17. This is represented by the blue line on the chart directly above. However, its index value still remains elevated, the 23rd-highest in the nation out of 135 markets. Salt Lake City – the green line on the chart – ranks at number 20, and outbound volume (OTVI.SLC) there has been increasing dramatically so far this week.

Fortunately, this storm will be fairly short-lived. However, drivers may get stuck in the Denver and Salt Lake City markets with freight if they don’t pick up the loads and get out of the region sometime this afternoon.

Other weather today

Strong to severe thunderstorms could pop up this afternoon and evening from central and northern Texas to central Oklahoma. The best odds for isolated tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail, highlighted on the map below, will be from Abilene and San Angelo to Wichita Falls and Oklahoma City. 

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Wednesday, Mar. 18, 2020, 10 a.m. EDT; Severe thunderstorm threat

Have a great day, and be careful out there!