Wet weather hitting nation’s two largest freight markets (with forecast video)

Tractor-trailer stopped on wet highway.

Periods of rainfall today and tonight may slow down freight flows just a bit in the nation’s two largest markets – Atlanta, Georgia and Ontario, California – as well as Los Angeles, the sixth-largest. The heaviest rainfall that may cause the most delays will be in California.

Set up

A cold upper-atmospheric low pressure system off the West Coast will continue to interact with subtropical Pacific moisture, generating moderate to locally heavy rainfall across southern California today through tonight.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2020, 10 a.m. EST

There’s a threat of thunderstorms, too, including the possibility of strong storms. The greatest threat will be during the afternoon and evening hours when the atmosphere will become more unstable. Any thunderstorms that develop will have the potential to produce brief downpours, with rainfall rates of one-half inch to one inch per hour. In addition, thunderstorms will be capable of producing small hail, wind gusts up to 45 mph, and dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning. Conditions will also be favorable for isolated waterspouts over the coastal waters today, which can move onshore as small tornadoes.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a flash flood watch for the following areas across interior southern California – Death Valley National Park, the eastern Sierra Nevada Slopes,  Owens Valley, the western Mojave Desert, the White Mountains of Inyo County, Fort Tejon, Indian Wells Valley, the Kern County desert, Lake Isabella and the Tehachapi area. The NWs may add other areas to the watch as the storm progresses.

East of the Mississippi, a cold front is producing rainfall of varying intensities from the lower Mississippi Valley to the Northeast. Most of this wet weather should fade by late afternoon or early evening and will not likely result in flash flooding in most areas, including Atlanta.

Impact on freight

There’s plenty of freight in the Atlanta, Ontario and Los Angeles markets for carriers to grab. FreightWaves SONAR has an easy way to see this, using a scale called the Outbound Tender Volume Index (OTVI). This is an index value which moves in proportion to the total observable outbound tender volume of a market. Out of 135 freight markets nationwide, Atlanta, Ontario and Los Angeles (OTVI.ATL, OTVI.ONT, OTVI.LAX) rank first, second and sixth, respectively, in terms of outbound volume levels.

SONAR ticker: OTVI Tree Map

The SONAR tree map directly above shows this. Markets with the highest outbound volumes 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, since yesterday – and the bottom number is the market’s current index value. Atlanta, Ontario and Los Angeles are circled in red.

While there’s abundant freight in these areas, it could take drivers longer than usual to get out of these markets with loads, or into them to pick up loads. Let’s face it – Atlanta traffic is bad enough on a dry day; and heavy rain in southern California can result in road blocks due to potential flooding and mudslides. Delays should be fairly minor and short-term, but are likely. The silver lining – it’s not snow or ice!

Have a great day, and be careful out there!