UPDATED August 30, 2017 – TRA Newswire –
Massive flooding caused by Hurricane / Tropical Storm Harvey has wreaked havoc with all modes of transportation, especially railroads, along the Texas Gulf Coast and around Houston. All three Class I railroads that serve the Gulf coast region are on hold and not expected to operate trains through the region anytime soon.
Houston Metro stopped all bus and rail services as many roads and sections of the city were reported to be underwater. Amtrak service has been affected by flooding. The Amtrak website reported that “continued high winds and heavy rainfall from Hurricane Harvey have led Amtrak to extend its truncation of the Sunset Limited service (Trains 1 & 2) and the Texas Eagle (Trains 21, 22, 421 & 422) across Texas out of an abundance of caution and in consultation with Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway.”
Union Pacific rail operations along the Gulf Coast from Brownsville, Texas to Lake Charles, Louisiana are currently suspended due to high water and storm damage. In a post on their website UP stated that “as weather and access to storm damaged areas allows, we are inspecting and repairing track, bridges and signals to return to service as quickly and safely as possible. Until the storms move out and the flooding recedes, we are not able to access or inspect our tracks and facilities in the greater Houston area. Rain and flooding continues in Houston and east of Houston into Louisiana.”
The railroad has stopped taking any new shipments destined to its “Houston Service Unit,” which includes the city and a broad part of its surrounding area. Union Pacific also reported that “routes through San Antonio are opening up which will allow us to run trains both north and south between San Antonio and Hearne, Texas. The Laredo gateway remains open to interchange traffic with the Mexican railroads. Livonia and Avondale shipments destined to points west of Tucson into California normally traveling through Houston will be re-routed through Longview and Ft. Worth, Texas around the flooded areas.” (See also UP pledges $250K for hurricane relief)
BNSF Railway’s website reported that there are significant service disruptions in the Houston area and throughout southeastern Texas. BNSF’s Pearland (Houston) intermodal and Automotive hubs are open but roads leading to the facility are flooded.”Train loading and unloading operations have been suspended. Customers should expect delays on shipments scheduled to move through the region and BNSF operations teams are re-routing some traffic to minimize disruption.”
BNSF said all rail traffic and operations at its Pearland, Texas, intermodal and automotive facilities remain suspended. The carrier’s command center is in contact with state and local officials about when it might be able to reopen. It said major freeways are flooded in the area, making its facilities inaccessible to shippers. Several BNSF subdivisions remain out of service due to multiple washouts and high water reported. All traffic destined to/originating from Houston, as well as traffic scheduled to route through Houston, remains suspended. Other area rail lines, including those with BNSF trackage rights, have also been forced out of service.BNSF reported that given the size and scope of this historic flooding, normal train flows in the area are not likely to resume for an extended period. Customers should expect continued delays on shipments scheduled to move through the area.
Kansas City Southern said continuing rain and poor conditions have limited its ability to survey damage along its routes. The carrier is examining the potential for re-routing trains once they begin to roll again. arts of the Houston metropolitan area have received over 50 inches of rain from Hurricane Harvey. Service between Kendleton and Laredo, Texas on Kansas City Southern Railway and Kansas City Southern de Mexico has been suspended. (See also KCS donates to disaster relief efforts).
Fleetowner.com reports that “there are already numerous signs that Harvey will leave a lasting reminder to the freight transportation community in Houston and surrounding areas. Larry Gross, intermodal and rail expert with FTR, said Harvey was shaping up as a “massive freight transport disruptor,” and that people should expect big jumps on truck spot rates and lengthy rail intermodal delays. The Port of Houston and several other nearby ports remained closed on Monday. Also shuttered was Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Baytown refinery, one of the biggest in the United States. It can process up to 560,000 barrels of oil a day. With extensive flooding on key roads, including Interstate 10, it could be several more days before those trucks are able to arrive – and the full extent of the damage comes into view.”
The TimesColonist.com reported that Seth Kursman, a vice president with Canadian company Resolute Forest Products, has committed to sending a rail car full of lumber to Houston once the storm-battered city begins to recover from the devastation wrought by hurricane Harvey. Watching footage from the storm-drenched city hit close to home for Kursman, who moved to Canada from Houston 15 years ago. “I just can’t imagine the devastation,” he said, noting he saw images of his old neighbourhood, flooded, on the news. “I was really personally moved.”
The Federal Railroad Administration declared an emergency event on August 24, citing the threat of flash flooding and power outages. The FRA’s order read that pursuant to Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 211.45, Federal Railroad Administration Acting Administrator Heath Hall has determined that the imminent threat of Tropical Storm Harvey with flooding rains, potential power outages, and localized flash flooding conditions predicted to occur in the Texas gulf coast region of the United States constitutes an “emergency event” as related to railroad operations.
Amtrak announced on their website the following changes to travel in Texas:
• Sunset Limited (Train 1/421 & 2/422) will originate and terminate in San Antonio instead of New Orleans, with no alternate transportation between New Orleans and San Antonio.
• Texas Eagle (Train 21/421 & 22/422) will originate and terminate in Fort Worth instead of San Antonio, with alternate transportation provided between Fort Worth and San Antonio.
Amtrak Thruway Buses in central and southern Texas (Routes 6021 & 6022, 8721 & 8722, and 8821 & 8822) are canceled and the Amtrak station in Houston remains closed. On their website Amtrak announced that passengers with travel plans also can confirm their train’s status, change their plans or review refund information using Amtrak.com, smartphone apps or by calling 800-USA-RAIL. Service Alerts, Passenger Notices and other announcements are posted at Amtrak.com/alerts.
Ahead of impending rains and potential flooding in Louisiana as the tropical storm was set to move to the east Amtrak moved equipment for the Sunset Limited out of New Orleans. The train, which would have operated through Texas, was instead brought up to Chicago as part of a huge City of New Orleans train #58 on August 27th.