Strong storms hitting US coasts on cusp of new year

Tractor-trailer on a snowy road.

The year will end on a snowy note across portions of the Great Lakes, Northeast and Northwest. Truckers trying to get home for the holiday, or making deliveries before ringing in 2020, will hopefully make it on time safely. 

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Tuesday, December 31, 2019, 10 a.m. EST

Several more inches of snowfall could pile up today, Dec. 31, and tonight from Michigan and northern Indiana to northern Ohio and upstate New York. This includes cities such as Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Traverse City, Cadillac, South Bend, Erie, Clevalend, Orchard Park and Jamestown. Slow-downs are likely on I-90, I-94 and I-96 through these areas. Gusty winds will be an issue, leading to blowing/drifting snow and occasional whiteout conditions.

More snow will also cover roads from eastern New York state to Maine, including the Adirondacks, Berkshires (western parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts), Green Mountains and White Mountains. Freezing rain and sleet will add another layer of difficulty for drivers, resulting in icy conditions on I-95 from Portland to Bangor and Millinocket. Most coastal areas of northern New England will see rain, a rain-snow mix or a rain-sleet mix.

Besides making trouble on the highways and byways, this storm could delay freight movement on runways. Looking at FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events, any air cargo at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport (ICAO code: CLE), Albany International Airport (ICAO code: ALB) and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (ICAO code: MHT) have the highest chance of delays. This is indicated by the orange color coding on the map above. The storm may also make it difficult to load/unload freight at some intermodal ramps in the region, and disruptions at port operations in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Ashtabula, Ohio are possible.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued various winter weather alerts in these regions. These alerts are housed inside SONAR Critical Events and update automatically as conditions change.

In the Northwest today and tonight, look for periods thunderstorms and moderate to heavy rainfall in the valleys of Washington state and Oregon. Strong winds will kick in from time to time, especially in coastal areas along the Pacific and Puget Sound. Meanwhile, freezing rain and snowfall will hit the high elevations of the Cascades, as well as the northern Rockies in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. On New Year’s Day and Thursday, Jan 2, areas of heavy snowfall will spread into Nevada and the Wasatch Range in Utah, in addition to the central and southern Rockies. Some mountain areas will be slammed with 12 to 24 inches of total snowfall, along with gusty winds and very low visibility at times.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Tuesday, December 31, 2019, 10 a.m. EST

Major metropolitan areas included in the impact zone include Seattle and Salt Lake City. Disruptions are likely at Seattle-Tacoma International (ICAO code: SEA) and Salt Lake City International ((ICAO code: SLC) airports and the Port of Seattle, as well as several oil/petroleum facilities and railroads in the region.

Other notable weather today, Dec. 31

High winds will give truckers trouble in southern California. Northeasterly gusts will reach 40 to 60 mph from San Diego to Los Angeles, affecting travel on portions of I-5, US-101 and the Pacific Coast Highway.

High winds will also create a high risk of blowovers today and tomorrow on I-15 in Montana, from Great Falls to the Canadian border; in Wyoming on I-25 between Chugwater and Wheatland; in Wyoming on I-80 over the summit between Cheyenne and Laramie as well as  between Arlington and Elk Mountain.

We hope all of you had a great 2019 and wish you all the best for a happy, healthy and successful new year! Have a great day, and be careful out there.