Major winter storm developing in the Rockies (with forecast video)

Tractor-trailer on mountain road with snow in background.

Another winter storm is about to slam the mountains of the Western U.S. just a few days after dumping record snowfall in Utah.

On Monday, Salt Lake City received a daily record 8.6 inches of snowfall, breaking the old record of 7 inches set in 1936. The average daily snowfall for the date is four-tenths of an inch. Many high elevations of the Wasatch and Rockies were slammed with 12 inches or more.

Snow is already falling in the Rockies of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and will likely come down harder through the day on Thursday. Heavy snowfall will gradually spread into the Wasatch Range in Utah on Thursday, as well as the Rockies in Colorado.

SONAR Critical Events: Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020; Rockies impending snowstorm

Lower elevations will see less than 12 inches, with up to 6 inches of snowfall in Denver and Salt Lake City. However, drivers will have to deal with a lot more snow in surrounding areas.

The storm will dump 12 to 36 inches in the higher elevations, including the Eisenhower Tunnel area on Interstate 70, about 55 miles west of Denver. Wind gusts in the high elevations will range from 40 to 65 mph, resulting in blowing snow and low or no visibility.

Because of the timing of this storm — hitting on a Friday — it’s important for shippers and receivers to communicate with each other ahead of time. Many receivers are closed on the weekends, and drivers — especially those on long hauls of 800 miles or more — don’t want to get stuck trying to make drop-offs in the region originally scheduled for Friday. An option is to arrange for them to deliver on Monday so they can wait out the storm, which is forecast to fade Friday night.

The FreightWaves SONAR chart below shows the current inbound volumes for the Salt Lake City market, updated Thursday morning, for the various lengths of haul — long (more than 800 miles), tweener (450 to 800 miles), mid-haul (250 to 450 miles) and city (up to 100 miles). Long haul is in the lead, indicating that much of the freight coming into Salt Lake City comes from more than 800 miles away, from places like Los Angeles.


Inbound long haul loads also lead the way in the Denver market.


Winter storm warnings for this upcoming snowfall stretch from Park City, Utah, to western Wyoming; Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls and Helena, Montana; and northern Idaho along the Montana border, including Lolo Pass on US-12. Drivers will surely run into delays in these areas, in addition to Interstate 90 heading to Seattle.

Speaking of Seattle and western Washington, rivers are rising rapidly due to heavy rainfall. Flooding, mudslides and landslides could lead to roadblocks on the Interstate 5 corridor, and a flood watch is in effect through Friday afternoon. As colder air hits the Washington and Oregon Cascades, snowfall will return Friday night and Saturday.

Other notable weather

Look for periods of freezing rain, sleet and snow until sundown Friday from northern Pennsylvania and Upstate New York to interior New England. Some areas of the Northeast near the Canadian border could see snowfall totals of 1 and 2 feet. Major Northeast freight markets on the Interstate 95 corridor will be wet rather than white. Meanwhile, light to moderate snowfall is possible in places like Columbus, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Detroit and Charleston, West Virginia.

SONAR Critical Events: Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020; Eastern U.S. severe weather

Thunderstorms will produce severe winds, flash flooding and possibly tornadoes across the Southeast on Thursday. Problem areas will pop up from the Carolinas to the Gulf Coast.

Have a great day, and be careful out there!