As thermometers began to elevate late last week across the US Upper Midwest, northern and southern Plains, and most of the Central states, the grain transportation logistics picture improved.
While a mid-February extended cold snap spurred conversations about potential winterkill damage to dormant winter wheat crops, grain market participants focused more on nearby logistical concerns.
Temperatures hit a record-low -9 degrees in Kansas City on Feb. 16 and thermometers in nearby Lawrence, Kansas, US, fell to -17. Cold weather slowed movements of grain trains, at times to a standstill, due to the effects on locomotive power and rail car air brakes. Snow and ice stymied truck traffic in the Central states and Northeast, but especially in the southern Plains of northern Texas where trucks aren’t typically tuned for ultra-cold weather.
By the weekend of Feb. 19-21, overnight low temperatures had risen steadily into the 20-30 degree range from the Canadian border down to central Texas. At mid-morning Feb. 22, storm activity was limited to snowfall from Washington along the eastern seaboard to western Maine, including most of Pennsylvania and upstate New York. Moderate to heavy rainfall was lashing the Appalachian states and scattered parts of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.
Grain trains were flowing more regularly again by Feb. 19, brokers and millers said, and supplies were arriving after 24- to 36-hour delays.
“It could have been a lot worse,” a miller said.
As a considerable number of rail cars had earlier been placed at country origins in eastern Colorado and western Kansas, loading for contract applications or spot market offerings were expected to break open early this week.
Meanwhile, Class 1 railroads told market participants to expect extreme congestion and lengthy delay times through Kansas City, Missouri, US; St. Louis, Missouri, US; and Chicago, Illinois, US, gateways.