Nor’easter coming close to a few high-volume freight markets (with forecast video)

Plow clearing very snowy highway in New York state.

After fairly quiet weather across the country over the weekend, things are perking up a bit early this week as a moderate nor’easter develops off the Mid-Atlantic coast. The storm will dump heavy snowfall in some areas, coming close to three of the nation’s largest freight markets.

Set up and snowfall amounts

A low pressure system is developing along the Mid-Atlantic coast today. As it moves northeast, it will spread heavy snowfall across upstate New York, northeastern Pennsylvania and interior New England. Coastal cities and most of the Interstate 95 corridor will be rainy, except for areas near and north of Augusta, Maine, where snowfall is likely.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Monday, Mar. 23, 2020, 10 a.m. EDT

Places like Plattsville and Monticello, New York; Concord, New Hampshire; Pittsfield, Massachusetts; the Green Mountains in Vermont; and the northern suburbs of Boston could see snowfall totals of 5 to 10 inches. In some spots, snow may mix with rain initially before changing to just snow. The storm will gradually fade overnight into early Tuesday.

Impact on freight

Last Friday, when FreightWaves first reported on this potential storm, it looked like the nor’easter could dump snow in the high-volume markets of Harrisburg and Allentown, Pennsylvania and Elizabeth, New Jersey. It was going to be a close call, but it looks like these markets will get wet, not white.

The latest SONAR data from FreightWaves, updated this morning, ranks Harrisburg, Allentown and Elizabeth as 2nd, 5th and 8th, respectively regarding outbound volumes (OTVI.MDT, OTVI.ABE, OTVI.EWR). Combined, they account for 9.0% of the nation’s total outbound freight volume.

SONAR Tickers: OTVI Tree Map (left); SONAR Tickers: OTRI.MDT, OTVR.ABE, OTVR.EWR (right)

Volumes have spiked since the beginning of the month, mostly due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Shipments of supplies to fight the virus, as well as panic buying, have resulted in higher demand for shippers and carriers. Fortunately, the nor’easter won’t have a major impact on drivers trying to pick up loads in Harrisburg, Allentown and Elizabeth.

However, along with the sudden increase in volume comes increasing outbound tender rejections (OTRI.MDT, OTVR.ABE, OTVR.EWR). These are the loads offered by shippers that carriers are turning down. In this case, carriers are refusing loads likely because they can’t keep up with the demand as capacity tightens. Rejection rates are running between 14 and 23% for these three markets, likely sending spot rates well above contrat rates.

Other winter weather

Heavy snowfall will continue this morning in the Sierra Nevada of eastern California, south of I-80, as well as in the mountains around the Los Angeles area. Totals of 6 to 12 inches will hit areas such as Yosemite and Sequoia national parks, in addition to Acton, Mount Wilson and Sandberg.

A two-day snowstorm will slam the Salt Lake City market beginning tomorrow. The Wasatch Mountains north and south of I-80 could see 12 to 20 inches, as well as areas of I-80 in southwestern Wyoming. Downtown Salt Lake City will see a rain-snow mix.

Severe thunderstorms

Potent thunderstorms and heavy rainfall could hit parts of Kansas and Oklahoma late tonight, followed by Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee on Tuesday. Severe winds, large hail and isolated tornadoes are possible from Wichita and Tulsa, to Little Rock, Memphis and Nashville.

Have a great day! Stay healthy and be careful out there!