Snowstorm still on track to clip large northern freight markets (with forecast video)

Plows clearing snowy Illinois highway.

A snowstorm in the Southwest is making a beeline toward the Midwest and Northeast, and it could disrupt freight flows in a few large markets.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020; Midwest-Northeast winter storm

Tuesday through Tuesday night, the storm will continue dumping heavy snowfall in the Rockies of southern Colorado (south of Interstate 70) and New Mexico. High elevations could receive totals of 10 to 15 inches, along with strong winds and whiteout conditions in New Mexico. Snowfall on the order of 2 to 5 inches, with areas of light freezing rain/sleet, will spread into northern Texas and western Oklahoma.

On Wednesday, the jet stream will eject the storm into the Midwest, where it will merge with another winter storm dropping down from Canada into the Dakotas. Look for moderate to heavy snowfall totaling up to 6 inches in places from Missouri to Michigan, with up to 8 or 9 inches in some spots. Gusty winds will result in blowing snow and occasional whiteout conditions in some areas. This would affect a lot of important interstate highways like I-55, I-65, I-70, I-80 and I-90, just to name a few.

Some of the cities in the potential impact zone include Topeka, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; and Davenport, Iowa; as well as large freight markets like Chicago and Joliet, Illinois; Indianapolis; Columbus, Ohio; and Detroit.

SONAR Ticker: OTMS Heat Map List

As of Monday, those five markets were among the 13 with the highest outbound tender market shares (OTMS) in the country, according to FreightWaves SONAR. OTMS measures the percentage of a market’s outbound volume relative to the rest of the U.S., which has 135 freight markets. Joliet (OTMS.JOT) ranks eighth, Columbus (OTMS.CMH) ranks 10th, followed by Indianapolis (OTMS.IND), Detroit (OTMS.DTW) and Chicago (OTMS.CHI) at 11th, 12th and 13th, respectively. Combined, these markets currently account for a little more than 10.5% of the nation’s outbound freight.

Impacts of this storm will be fairly short-term in the Midwest. However, roads may stay slick late week as temperatures drop fast after the storm passes. Many locations will experience their coldest readings so far this winter, with subfreezing readings all day Friday. Temperatures should rebound over the weekend.

As the storm ends in the Midwest, its next stop is the Northeast on Wednesday night and Thursday.

SONAR Critical Events: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020; Closer view of Midwest-Northeast winter storm impact zone

Parts of the Adirondacks, White Mountains and Green Mountains could get buried in 12 inches or more of snowfall. Several inches of snowfall could pile up from the eastern Great Lakes to lower elevations of Upstate New York and New England, impacting small freight markets and truckers on regional runs. One exception is the larger Cleveland market, which ranks 23rd in market share (OTMS.CLE), currently handling 1.29% of the nation’s outbound freight.

Other places likely to get slammed are Buffalo, New York; Burlington, Vermont; Portland, Maine; and possibly southern Ontario and southern Quebec, Canada. However, Canadian provinces more likely to be affected, based on the latest forecast, are New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Other than in Maine, the storm won’t cause much trouble on I-95 in the Northeast. Most of the corridor will be wet rather than white.

Other notable weather

Powerful winds under dry conditions continue Tuesday across parts of the Sierra Nevada, the North Bay Mountains around San Francisco, Southern California and along the Colorado River in southern Nevada. Gusts could reach 60 mph or greater in some spots, making deadhead runs risky for drivers.

Meanwhile, periods of heavy rainfall and severe thunderstorms could result in more flooding across the South on Wednesday and Thursday. Watch for possible road and ramp closures from eastern Texas to the Tennessee and Ohio valleys and possibly some spots on the Gulf Coast.

Have a great day, and be careful out there!