Winter storm dumping record snowfall in Great Plains (with forecast video)

Tractor-trailer heading down a snowy road.

A snowstorm barreled into the Great Plains overnight, dumping mounds of snowfall in parts of Texas and Oklahoma.

Daily snowfall records have already been broken Wednesday in Oklahoma City and Wichita Falls, Texas. They have measured 3.2 and 2.4 inches, respectively. The old Feb. 5 records were 2.3 inches for Oklahoma City in 2002, and 1.7 inches for Wichita Falls in 1964. The average snowfall for the date is one-tenth of an inch. Another batch of snowfall could return to these areas this evening.

The transportation department for each state is reporting slick conditions and some accidents, but no major interstate shutdowns as of Wednesday morning.


SONAR Critical Events and radar: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, 11 a.m. EST; Plains-Midwest-Northeast storm

Several more inches of snowfall — with some sleet and freezing rain thrown in for good measure — will head to eastern Kansas, Missouri and Illinois the rest of Wednesday. The storm will clip Wichita and Kansas City but will likely make a direct hit in St. Louis as well as Springfield, Illinois.

Wednesday night and Thursday, the storm will move into the eastern Great Lakes — mainly along and north of Interstate 70, including Indianapolis, Columbus and possibly Detroit — as well as the Northeast.

Significant ice accumulation is possible from the Poconos to the Catskills and the Berkshires Thursday and Friday. Snowfall totals over those two days from Upstate New York to interior New England and southeastern Canada could reach 1 to 2 feet.

It looks like major Northeast metropolitan areas on the Interstate 95 corridor, from Washington to Boston, will be wet rather than white. Little to no frozen precipitation should develop in these cities.

Impact on freight

Of the 135 freight markets, Joliet, Columbus and Indianapolis are in the top 11 in terms of outbound freight volumes. They are also in the path of this winter storm. The latest FreightWaves SONAR data, updated Wednesday morning, shows Joliet (OTVI.JOT) is ranked fifth, Columbus (OTVI.CMH) is ninth and Indianapolis (OTVI.IND) is 11th. These are among the markets with the most freight available.


Fortunately, the storm will only brush by the southern suburbs of Chicago, which are part of the Joliet market. This area is forecast to receive 3 to 6 inches of snowfall. Freight movement could be slower at times in the Columbus and Indianapolis markets where periods of sleet, snow and freezing rain are possible. The storm should clear these cities by sundown Friday.

While the scope of the storm from north to south won’t be large, sometimes it doesn’t take much wintry weather to cause significant delays. Arriving at a receiver just a few hours late can start a snowball effect through the supply chain.

Another option is to look for loads in Atlanta, the top freight volume market. Instead of using the major lane of Atlanta to Chicago, head to Dallas instead. Rates may not be as favorable, but the risk of weather delays is much lower.

SONAR Ticker: OTVI; Los Angeles and Ontario markets indicated by red arrows

Southern California is another area rich in freight waiting to be picked up. The Los Angeles and Ontario markets are in the top 10 as far as outbound volumes, and the weather there should be quiet for the next several days.

Northwest nuisance

Heavy snowfall in the high elevations of the Washington Cascades will gradually change to periods of heavy rainfall Wednesday as warmer air moves into the storm. Many mountain passes will become slushy. Heavy rainfall will also continue drenching the lower elevations, valleys and lowlands in western Washington.

SONAR Critical Events and radar: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, 10 a.m. EST; Northwest storm

River and creek levels could rise rapidly, resulting in flooding, mudslides and landslides on Interstate 5 from Olympia and Seattle to the Canadian border. Flooding is also possible on the US-101 corridor, as well as many state routes. The flood threat will last at least through Friday.

Have a great day, and be careful out there!