Snowstorm, bitter cold keep trucking across northern states (with forecast video)

Tractor-trailers heading down a snowy road.

A snowstorm that began Wednesday will keep trucking through the Midwest and Northeast on Thursday, dumping several inches in some places before fading overnight. This is not a major winter storm for these regions of the U.S., but it will be bad enough to cause transportation issues and freight movement delays, as well as short-term disruptions of supply chains and business operations at the local and regional levels.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020; Midwest-Northeast winter storm

Most of the snowfall today will occur across the eastern Great Lakes and much of New England. The highest amounts of 3 to 6 additional inches will hit areas along the southern shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie, as well as in portions of the Adirondacks, Green Mountains and White Mountains. Freezing rain will result in minor ice accumulation in some spots, and wind gusts could cause blowing snow and occasional reduced visibility for drivers. More snowfall could return to these regions by Monday.

Even after the current storm fades Thursday night, many roads could remain frozen and quite slick on Friday and Saturday as temperatures drop like a rock. By sunrise Friday, readings will be from 15 degrees above zero to 15 below zero, with high temperatures on Friday only reaching the single digits and teens. This includes portions of I-70 from Springfield, Missouri, to Columbus, Ohio, and points north; I-90 from Cleveland to Rochester, New York; I-81 from Binghamton to Syracuse and Watertown, New York; I-95 in Maine; and interstates across Vermont and New Hampshire.

SONAR Ticker: FREEZE map

Wind chills will be as cold as the 20s and 30s below zero in Minnesota and northern Wisconsin on Friday. Frostbite can set in very quickly under these conditions, so drivers should spend as little time as possible outside their trucks.

As temperatures drop, shippers that would normally ship freight in dry vans request more and more reefers to keep temperature-sensitive freight — cosmetics, chemicals, water and beer, to name a few — from freezing. This is known as “protect from freeze,” or PFF. Reefers are climate-controlled trailers that allow drivers to set a desired temperature for the insides of the trailers.

The FreightWaves SONAR forecast for daily average temperatures across the Midwest and interior Northeast (FREEZE) shows very cold conditions for the next few days. This is shown in the map directly above. Carriers running reefers through these areas need to be vigilant about their PFF procedures in order to prevent damage to temperature-sensitive cargo.

Looking ahead

SONAR Critical Events: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020; Northwest weekend storm, Feb. 15-17

Periods of heavy snowfall return to the Pacific Northwest, southern British Columbia, northern Idaho and western Montana from this afternoon into early next week. Places like Lookout and Snoqualmie passes on I-90, as well as Lolo Pass on US-12 and Stevens Pass on US-2 could become trouble spots for drivers. These are areas that have been hit hard by snowstorms this year but have had a break for the past week or so.

By the time the storm fades next Monday, up to 4 feet of snowfall could pile up in the high elevations of the Cascades and northern Rockies. In the valleys, rainfall totals will register in the 1- to 3-inch range, with isolated amounts of 4 inches or more. The heavy rainfall may result in flooding and mudslides, especially on and near westward-facing slopes in western Oregon and western Washington. In addition to the precip, some strong winds could slam some lower elevations.

Have a great day, and be careful out there!