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Midwest Bracing For Halloween Snowstorm


Mother Nature is about to scare up a snowstorm in some Midwestern states beginning later today, October 30. Not a major storm for most areas in the impact zone, but it will be enough to cause some trouble. Truckers will have to deal with a lot of slick roads, and the winds will pick up. Shippers should expect minor/moderate delays on the ground and in the air.

Halloween Hassle

Snow showers will continue during the day and into early evening from eastern Colorado into the Great Plains, between I-40 in the Texas Panhandle and I-80 in Nebraska. Then, a band of heavy snowfall will develop late this afternoon through this evening from around Kansas City and northern Missouri into much of Iowa, from Des Moines to Davenport. This will keep going through the night. Late tonight, heavy snow will gradually spread into Wisconsin and northern Illinois, mostly from north of downtown Chicago to Rochester, Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay.

SONAR Critical Events: Wednesday, October 30, 10:00 a.m. EDT

Major interstates likely to be affected include I-39, I-80, I-88 and I-90. Impacts will include reduced speeds and prolonged slow-downs. A small portion of I-70 east of Kansas City is on the edge of the impact zone, and transportation there is likely to see some minor delays.

Precipitation may start as sleet or freezing drizzle in some areas before changing to snow, leading to icy roads. The highest snowfall totals through tonight – potentially seven to 10 inches – may occur along a 150-mile stretch from around Kirksville, Missouri to around Peoria, Illinois. Totals of two to five inches will be more common.

Wind gusts up to 30 mph will produce blowing snow and limited visibility at times for drivers. Winds may also delay air cargo at O'Hare International (ICAO code: ORD), Midway International (ICAO code: MDW) and Rockford International (ICAO code: RFD) airports in Chicago, as well as General Mitchell International Airport (ICAO code: MKE) in Milwaukee. These are indicated by the red dots and "donuts" in the FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events map above.

Some power outages are possible as a result of the winds and areas of heavy snow. Also, this early season winter storm will likely delay the harvest of corn and soybeans in the Midwest, stress livestock, and cause logistical issues for grains and other commodities within the area.

Snow totals of three to six inches will be common with the Halloween storm, but there could be areas that receive up to 10 inches. Blowing and drifting snow will reduce visibility on the I-80, I-88 and I-90 corridors. Winds may knock down trees and utility lines, resulting in scattered power outages. 

Other Weather Today, October 30

Meanwhile, on the warm side of the storm, areas of heavy rain this afternoon and evening will drench parts of the Arklatex region, as well as the Tennessee, Ohio, and lower and middle Mississippi River valleys. Totals through tonight could reach two to three inches in some places. Localized flash flooding is possible in places such as Texarkana, Memphis, Louisville, Huntsville, Atlanta, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Charlotte, and Greenville, South Carolina.

Risk of flash flooding from October 30, 7:00 a.m. EDT to October 31, 7:00 a.m. EDT. (Source: NOAA)

Public safety power shutoffs (PSPs) continue in California as wildfires, dry conditions and strong winds persist across the state. As of early this morning, around 475,000 Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) customers still had no electricity. That is an improvement, however, from nearly a million customers without power earlier this week. The PSPs issued by PG&E are meant to prevent live power lines from starting new fires if those lines were to be blown down by the vicious winds.

The largest fire – the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County – started on the evening of October 23. It has increased in size to almost 77,000 acres, spreading across northern California's wine country. This is compared to around 66,000 acres yesterday, October 29. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), the cause of the Kincade Fire is under investigation. The fire got its name because it started near John Kincade Road and Burned Mountain Road, northeast of Geyserville. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has posted several closures on US-101 from Larkfield-Wikiup to Geyserville – a distance of about 16 miles.

Winds should die down in northern California by this evening. But until then, gusts of 30 to 50 mph will make it difficult for crews to control the fire, which is only 15% contained.

SONAR Critical Events: Wednesday, October 30, 10:00 a.m. EDT

The Getty Fire started on October 28 near the Getty Center, just west of Beverly Hills. It's much smaller than the Kincade Fire – about 100 times smaller – and winds in the immediate vicinity of the fire should be tame enough for firefighters to maintain control. However, ferocious Santa Ana wind gusts are forecast to reach 70 or 80 mph in nearby canyons and valleys.

Due to the proximity of the Getty fire and its smoke to I-405 (known locally as "the 405"), some ramps/lanes on the highway are still closed, from Mulholland Drive to Sunset Boulevard. Wildfires are burning in at least nine other locations in California. Additional road closures are possible.

The threat for fires spreading or new ones starting is at extreme levels, the highest category assigned by the National Weather Service (NWS). Besides the winds, afternoon relative humidity will drop below 20% in many areas, creating a virtual tinder box in which fires can spark. Conditions should improve in southern California by late this evening/overnight. Hopefully, this will give firefighters an upper hand.

In addition to potential ground transportation issues, strong winds may delay air cargo at San Francisco International Airport (ICAO: SFO) and Sacramento International Airport (ICAO code: SMF), as well as Los Angeles International Airport (ICAO code: LAX) and Ontario International Airport (ICAO code: ONT).

Additional Notes

Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) train service in Missouri, between Moberly and Kansas City, has resumed. Logjams, caused by major flooding, collapsed the railway's bridge in Brunswick over the Grand River earlier this month. Repairs have been finished, and trains scheduled through these areas are now operating on normal schedules. Customers do not need to update any shipping instructions and can view all shipment routing and ETAs via AccessNS.

Tropical Update

SONAR Critical Events: Super Cyclonic Storm Kyarr, Wednesday, October 30, 8:00 a.m. EDT

The India Meteorological Department is still categorizing Kyarr as a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm. It continues to spin over the Arabian Sea, producing winds of 105 mph around its eyewall, compared to 120 mph yesterday. The storm should continue to lose more steam as it glides by the Arabian Peninsula over the next several days.

Although Kyarr will likely remain offshore, its impact extends onto land. FreightWaves spoke to two ship agents in the region. Shipping operations at ports along the coast of Oman, which includes several important container trans-shipment ports along with oil and gas facilities, are reported to be closed due to heavy swells of 13 to 20 feet (approximately four to six meters), as well as heavy wind and rain.

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