Soggy week ahead in several large freight markets (with forecast video)

Tractor-trailers heading down wet road.

The focus this week in the large freight markets is on wet weather, with no high-impact snowstorms on the horizon.

The set up

A low pressure system near the center of the country will produce mainly rain today and tonight from portions of the Plains to the Great Lakes. Some rain will spread to the lower Mississippi Valley along a cold front. Freezing rain, sleet or snow may be in the mix for places like Sioux Falls, Omaha and Des Moines, as well as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Michigan. A thin glaze of ice may cover some roads, making them extra slick.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Friday, Mar. 6, 2020, 10 a.m. EST (left); SONAR ticker: OTVI map (right)

The system heads to the Northeast on Tuesday, producing periods of rainfall across most of the region during the day and night. Drivers may hit traffic jams during the morning rush hour in Ohio Valley locations, followed by evening rush hour delays on the Interstate 95 corridor.

Heavy snowfall could develop on the northern side of the storm, with up to 6 inches of accumulation in the St. John Valley, just north of Caribou and Presque Isle. This will affect drivers on US-1. Some spots in northern Maine will see mainly sleet and freezing rain.

Another wave of rain and snow may hit the Great Lakes and Northeast later in the week, on Thursday or Friday. This storm could be stronger, but it’s too early to tell with a high level of certainty at this point. Look for updates throughout the week on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.

Periods of rainfall will also hit the Southwest this week from Tuesday to Friday. Totals of 2 to 5 inches are possible for parts of the Phoenix metro area, with an inch or two in Tucson. Several inches of snowfall may pile up in the high elevations north of Tucson.

Impact on freight

The rainfall in the Midwest and Northeast regions is not likely to cause flash flooding or river flooding, but it could slow down freight flows just a bit today and tonight in the Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana markets. Despite declines in outbound market shares (OTMS.CMH, OTMS.IND) over the past week, these markets rank 10th and 11th, respectively, based on the latest analysis from FreightWaves SONAR. Outbound tender market share measures the percentage of the nation’s outbound volume produced by each of the 135 markets.

Today, Columbus has 2.14% of the nation’s outbound freight, while Indianapolis has 1.92%. In the tree map below, markets with the highest market shares are in the largest squares and rectangles on the left; lowest values are toward the right side. The top number is the percentage change over a chosen time period – in this case the past week – and the bottom number is the market’s current share.

SONAR ticker: OTMS Tree Map

Tonight and Tuesday the rain may have minor impacts in some of the largest markets such as Harrisburg and Allentown, Pennsylvania (OTMS.MDT, OTMS.ABE), as well as Elizabeth, New Jersey (OTMS.EWR). These markets rank third, fifth and eighth, respectively. The heaviest rainfall will likely hit the 16th-ranked Phoenix market, where localized flash flooding is possible. 

All of the markets mentioned, except for Columbus and Indianapolis, have higher market shares week over week. So the wet weather is heading through growing markets with increasing volumes, but impacts should be manageable for shippers, carriers and drivers.

Have a great day, and be careful out there!