Severe storms targeting several freight regions late-week (with forecast video)

Tractor-trailer heading down highway with dark storm cloud across the sky.

For the 12th day in a row, severe thunderstorms will pound parts of the Plains, Northeast and Southeast Thursday. Additional severe weather will threaten the Plains Friday and Saturday.

Truckers should expect at least minor delays due to occasional hard-falling hail and torrential rainfall, which will reduce visibility.

Sudden wind gusts could make driving a bit dicey for brief periods of time, especially for those who are deadheading.

Since Monday, July 13, the National Weather Service (NWS) has received 319 reports of severe winds and large hail, as well as 11 tornado reports. Gusts of 60 to 80 mph blew down trees, knocked out power and damaged homes and businesses in at least a dozen states.

Frontal boundaries and unstable air masses will continue to trigger severe storms in many areas for at least the next two days.


Potential target areas Thursday stretch from the Ozarks into the Ohio Valley, western Pennsylvania and portions of upstate New York.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Thursday, July 16, 2020, 7 a.m. EDT; Severe thunderstorm risk areas for Thursday

A low pressure system and its associated cold front, along with just enough wind shear, warmth and humidity, should produce periods of thunderstorms throughout the day.

Damaging straight-line winds and large hail will be the main threats, and will be scattered across eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and western New York state. This includes Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio; Erie and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; as well as Buffalo and Rochester, New York. A brief tornado could touch down in any of these areas.

Severe storms should quickly weaken by the time they reach central Pennsylvania and central New York Thursday evening as low-level moisture decreases and the atmosphere stabilizes.

Farther south, severe storm coverage should be more isolated from the lower Ohio Valley, in places such as Cincinnati and Louisville to Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, Tulsa and Wichita. However, where storms do hit, the winds and hail could pack a destructive punch.

To the west, at least isolated severe storms are forecast to once again develop across the higher terrain of the central Rockies, and subsequently spread slowly eastward across the central Great Plains through Thursday evening. This would put places like Denver and Pueblo, Colorado; Guymon, Oklahoma; North Platte and Grand Island, Nebraska; as well as western Kansas under the gun.


The severe storm threat Friday afternoon and evening will be mainly confined to the central and northern Great Plains. A cold front extending from Canada into the United States will help spark the storms, which may be particularly severe from the eastern half of North and South Dakota into western Minnesota, where a deadly EF-4 tornado struck last week.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Thursday, July 16, 2020, 7 a.m. EDT; Severe thunderstorm risk areas for Friday, July 17

Severe storms may be numerous from Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot, North Dakota to Aberdeen, South Dakota and Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota.

Severe storms don’t typically cause major/long-term disruptions in freight movement on the roads, unless they result in accidents, but drivers should expect at least minor delays when they run into these storms. Conditions can change quickly and may catch drivers off guard if they aren’t prepared.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.