May 30, 2024 - TRA Newswire -

The steady drumbeat of severe storms in Texas this month affected both the movement of freight and passengers across the state. 

Severe storms from Houston to New Orleans earlier this month had Union Pacific Railroad teams work to restore service after the Gulf region was hit with high winds, baseball-size hail and torrential rainfall. Due to the weather systems, the Gulf Coast area also experienced flash floods, downed trees and power lines that affected rail service.

“Rivers reached levels we haven’t seen since Hurricane Harvey in 2017,” said Eric Gehringer, executive vice president-Operations. “Team members from all areas of our operation stepped up to the plate, continuing to move freight along critical routes and ensuring equipment was at the ready.”

Members of the Union Pacific 24/7 command center coordinated preparations, analyzed train counts and determined detour routes to minimize service impacts. In all, Team UP unloaded 18,000 tons of ballast, raised 3.5 miles of track, installed 200 rail ties, tamped nearly 16,000 feet of rail, installed more than 75 generators and cleared more than 150 trees.  UP maintains a Flood Planning and Recovery page for more information regarding the railroad’s severe weather protocols. 

UP was not the only Class 1 railroad affected by severe weather, earlier this month BNSF Railway reported similar issues. A track washout occurred near Navasota, TX which affected the main track. Navasota, TX is approximately 24 miles Southeast of College Station, TX. BNSF personnel responded and the main track reopened on Saturday, May, 11.

Late last month, extreme straight-line winds were said to be responsible for some 24 rail cars derailing at Trent in West Texas. Union Pacific Senior Communications Manager Mike Jaixen told FOX Weather that no injuries were reported. The National Weather Service office in San Angelo, Texas said that based on Doppler radar data, they believe that straight-line winds caused the derailment. A local storm report issued by the office said an 80-mph wind gust was estimated at the time of the incident.

On the urban passenger side Metropolitan Transit Authority Chair Elizabeth Gonzalez Brock reported that Houston Metro modified some routes and services to help accommodate storm recovery. Metro light rail service was restored on the Green and Purple lines; the northern portion of the Red line was being served by buses. 

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) reported on Tuesday that power outages, downed trees and other debris were slowing light rail. According to a news release "DART’s Rail System is experiencing delays due to the inclement weather - this includes issues with fallen limbs across the tracks as well as power outages across our service areas including some DART rail stations. IMPORTANT: If you see a crossing arm that is down, please find an alternate route, it is never safe to go around a downed crossing arm. DART Police are working to get personnel on platforms for customer service;  Patrol Units are checking grade crossing across the system. Utilize the Go Pass App for updates and to find alternate routes."