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Mother Nature is scaring up plenty of bad Halloween weather today across the U.S., from wildfires and high winds to snowstorms and thunderstorms. Whether hauling a full load or less than truckload, bobtailing or deadheading, drivers will need to be extra careful.

California scorched, trucker can help

At least 11 wildfires continue to rage in portions of California, burning around 100,000 acres across the state. The largest fire is the Kincade Fire, which started on October 23 in the Wine Country of Sonoma County. It covers nearly 77,000 acres just north of Santa Rosa. Firefighters have been making progress, and the Kincade Fire was 45% contained as of yesterday evening, October 30, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).

The next biggest is the Saddle Ridge Fire near Los Angeles. It covers 8,800 acres and has been burning since October 10, but it’s close to 100% contained. The much smaller Getty Fire, started on October 28 near I-405 (known locally as “the 405”), just west of Beverly Hills. The most recent fires – the Easy Fire to the west of Los Angeles and the Hill Fire to the east – just started yesterday, October 30.

In response to the California wildfires, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has suspended certain regulations, including hours of service (HOS) and Temporary Operating Authority Registration fees, for truck drivers who want to provide direct assistance in the state.

Trucking companies hauling supplies, goods, equipment and fuel into California, or providing other emergency assistance, are exempt from Parts 390 through 399 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). Direct assistance ends when a truck is used in interstate commerce to transport cargo or provide services not directly supporting the emergency relief effort.

Firefighters hope to make more headway with the Kincade Fire as the Diablo winds in northern California have died down. However, a Red Flag Warning remains in place until 6:00 p.m. PDT today for the Los Angeles metropolitan area where the Santa Ana winds haven’t let up. Fierce gusts of 50 to 60 mph will blow across Los Angeles and Ventura counties, making it difficult for crews to keep fires from spreading out of control. Isolated gusts of 70 mph are possible in the Santa Monica and Los Angeles County mountains. Adding fuel to the fire – extremely dry air with afternoon humidity of less than 10%.

The winds will not only give firefighters trouble, but they may also delay air cargo and passengers at Los Angeles International Airport (ICAO code: LAX), Ontario International Airport (ICAO code: ONT) and the Bob Hope Hollywood-Burbank Airport (ICAO code: BUR).

A bit of good news for freight movement – according to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), US-101 near the Kincade Fire has reopened from Larkfield-Wikiup to Geyserville. Also, Caltrans is reporting fewer closures on the 405 near the Getty Fire.

What firefighters need is rain, but there is not a drop in the forecast for at least the next week. But winds will become tame compared to the past several days.

In addition to all the other wildfire problems, around 147,000 customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (NYSE: PCG), known as PG&E, still have no electricity due to a combination of downed power lines and public safety shutoffs (PSPs). PG&E announced yesterday evening that it has restored power to approximately 92% of its customers who were part of the PSPs.

Halloween hassles

Snowfall and gusty winds continue in the Midwest the rest of today from eastern Iowa to Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee and lower Michigan. The last of the snow should fade from eastern Michigan by midnight.

Yesterday, a daily record 1.2” of snow was reported at O’Hare Airport. By the time it’s over, storm totals of two to four inches will be common across the region, with pockets of five to seven inches possible. Wind gusts of 35 to 40 mph will produce blowing snow and reduced visibility at times.

SONAR Critical Events: Thursday, October 31, 10:00 a.m. EDT

Shippers should expect minor delays on the ground and in the air. Winds could affect some freighters at O’Hare International Airport (ICAO code: ORD), Chicago Midway International Airport (ICAO code: MDW), Chicago Rockford International Airport (ICAO code: RFD) and General Mitchell International Airport (ICAO: MKE) in Milwaukee.

On the flip side, heavy rain may lead to flash flooding and roadblocks from the southern Appalachians to upstate New York. Thunderstorms this afternoon and evening could produce severe winds, large hail or isolated tornadoes from upstate South Carolina to the Shenandoah Valley, central Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Roads will be super slippery on the I-81, I-85 and I-95 corridors, and secondary routes in between. Rain should clear northern New England by daybreak tomorrow, November 1.

SONAR Critical Events: Thursday, October 31, 10:00 a.m. EDT

Along with the rain, wind gusts of 50 to 65 mph will rock the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario tonight and tomorrow, in addition to Down East Maine along US-1, the Boston metropolitan area, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. This also includes places like Cleveland, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Rochester, Syracuse, Watertown and Saranac Lake, affecting sections of the I-81 and I-90 corridors. The rest of New England, as well as Long Island and upstate New York, will experience gusts of 40 to 50 mph. Winds should subside by tomorrow evening.