Severe storms threatening high-volume freight markets (with forecast video)

Tractor-trailer heading down highway, with thunderstorm ahead.

Truckers have to watch out for rough weather today as severe storms begin firing up in the Midwest and Northeast freight regions.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Wednesday, June 10, 2020, 9 a.m. EDT; Severe thunderstorm risk areas

A low pressure system, on the heels of Tropical Depression Cristobal, is dumping more heavy rainfall in parts of the Midwest.

A strong cold front, along with plenty of atmospheric moisture and instability, will spark thunderstorms later today in the Midwest, followed by the Northeast this evening. Many of these storms could become severe, with fierce wind gusts, large hail and isolated tornadoes.

The National Weather Service (NWS) defines a thunderstorm as severe if it produces any of the following:

• Winds of at least 58 mph (50 knots)
• Hail at least 1 inch in diameter
• A tornado

This won’t be an all-day event, but conditions will be dicey from late afternoon into the evening. This is when the majority of the severe weather will occur.

The areas at highest risk are across the eastern half of lower Michigan, southward to Indiana and Ohio (the red-shaded area on the SONAR Critical Events map above). This includes Detroit, Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, as well as points in between. These areas will be right under a low-level jet, a region of relatively strong winds in the lower part of the atmosphere. At the ground, wind gusts could reach/exceed 70 mph.

Severe storms will also develop just outside the highest risk zone, although the chance is a little lower. This includes markets from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Indianapolis, Indiana; Louisville, Kentucky, Charleston, West Virginia; Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Scanton, Pennsylvania; as well as Buffalo and Rochester, New York.

Venturing farther away from these areas the odds for severe weather drop, but doesn’t fade away altogether. Isolated severe storms could hit places like Chicago, all the way to the Tennessee Valley and a few spots along the Gulf Coast.

SONAR ticker: OTVI

The SONAR map directly above shows the latest Outbound Tender Volume Index (OTVI). Markets with darkest blue shading have the highest levels of outbound freight available. This would include markets at risk of seeing severe weather later today and tonight, including Harrisburg, which ranks third among the 135 markets in the U.S. It also includes other top 15 markets such as Allentown, Indianapolis and Columbus. Short-term delays of ground transportation and freight movement are possible in and between these areas.

Besides severe storms, near-record heat could bake parts of the Northeast. High will reach the lower 90s, but it will feel like the mid- to upper-90s because of the high humidity.

Hotter-than-normal weather will also hit from San Diego to Los Angeles, where highs today could reach 100 degrees in some spots.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.