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Snowstorm, Blizzard Conditions In The West This Weekend

Snowstorm, Blizzard Conditions In The West This Weekend

Another round of heavy snow and fierce wind is coming back to parts of California this weekend. But this won't be the only area of the country to see a healthy dose of the white stuff. The Pacific Northwest, including Seattle, is also one of Mother Nature's target zones.


Let's start in the southern Sierras where some of the heaviest snow is predicted to fall, and where Winter Storm Warnings go into effect this afternoon (Friday, February 8), lasting until Sunday or Monday, depending on location. A Winter Storm Warning for snow means severe winter weather conditions will make travel very hazardous or impossible. In case of an emergency, truckers should keep flashlights, plenty of non-perishable foods, and several gallons of water in their cabs.

Snow totals of one to three feet are likely in Kings Canyon National Park and the Tulare County mountains - including Camp Nelson, Giant Forest, Johnsondale, and Lodgepole - with isolated amounts of four feet near Yosemite National Park. A few inches are possible in elevations between 3,000 and 4,000 feet. Winds gust could reach 65 mph on exposed ridgetops and near the crest.
Other major trouble spots in the Sierras will be the northeast foothills, Sacramento Valley, western Plumas County and Lassen Volcanic National Park. These areas could receive snow totals of two to four feet in elevations above 3,000 feet, with local accumulations of up to five feet. In the foothills, total snowfall could reach four to eight inches above 2,500 feet, with pockets of 12 to 18 inches.
Mono County, along the Nevada border, will get slammed, too. This includes Mammoth Lakes and surrounding areas, where four to 10 inches of snow could pile up east of US-395, with 10 to 18 inches west of US-395. But west of US-395 above 7,500 feet, look for larger accumulations of one to three feet. This will be paired with strong winds gusting as high as 50 mph, up to 105 mph over ridgetops.

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Now we go to northern California where the lion's share of snow will fall in the Mount Shasta region, with totals of 12 to 24 inches. Winds could gust as high as 40 mph in exposed areas and high terrain. Travel will be especially difficult on the I-5 corridor from south of Weed to the Siskiyou-Shasta County border (including Dunsmuir). Other treacherous spots will be CA-89 from Snowmans Summit to Dead Horse Summit (including McCloud).

Heavy snow will also affect other high elevations of northern California, like in Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity Counties where six to 12 inches will be common, with isolated spots of 15 to 20 inches. By late Saturday night or early Sunday, snow levels could drop to 500 feet, sending a few inches to the foothills.

For drivers who have to go through the Reno-Carson City area into California, conditions will get worse along the way. The greater Lake Tahoe area will see weekend snow totals of 12 to 24
Inches. This includes Incline Village, South Lake Tahoe, Stateline, and Truckee. Bigger accumulations of two to four feet are possible above 7,000 feet, with winds gusting up to 95 mph over ridges.

For carriers, the best advice is to avoid hauling loads through any of the areas previously mentioned, if possible. Many routes will be extremely unsafe due to snowpack, in addition to blowing snow and near whiteout conditions. There's a good chance of road closures and drivers being forced to turn around, including on sections of I-80, wasting time and money.

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Pacific Northwest

The same storm striking the Sierras will have areas of the Pacific Northwest snowbound for a while. Snow has been falling this morning in northern counties of Washington state. Snow will fall harder and faster this afternoon through tonight as it spreads through the Olympics and Puget Sound. Winds will get stronger, too, so blowing snow and low visibility will become issues. The northern slopes of the Olympic Range, just west of the sound, will probably have the most accumulation. Hurricane Ridge is one location that could end up with more than 12 inches of fresh snow.

It's not unusual for mountain snow this time of year, but it is unusual for significant snowfall to make it down to the lowlands. This storm will be the exception to the rule. The Seattle metro area, including Everett, Olympia, and Tacoma, could see a widespread three to six inches, with localized areas of up to eight inches.

SONAR ticker: Outbound Tender Volume Index - Weekly Change, as of 8:00 a.m. on Friday, February 8, 2019.

SONAR ticker: Outbound Tender Volume Index - Weekly Change, as of 8:00 a.m. on Friday, February 8, 2019.

This won't cause major disruptions in the supply chain since this part of the Northwest is comprised of soft markets - Pendleton, Portland, Seattle and Spokane - with stagnant (white-shaded) or declining (red-shaded) outbound freight volumes. These markets are indicated by the arrows on the FreightWaves SONAR map directly above. However, for the truckers who do have to get loads into or out of Seattle this weekend, the storm will create safety issues beginning this evening. The odds are good for delays along the I-5 corridor, so drivers should plan accordingly, or avoid the area if they can.

Be sure to keep up with the latest chain laws and updates on winter driving here. Everyone at FreightWaves hopes everyone out there has a safe weekend on the roads!

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