Updated to include comments from Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern
U.S. freight railroads are watching how tropical depression Cristobal might affect operations as it moves inland. They have also been waiting for the floodgates in New Orleans so that rail operations can resume.
The storm made landfall near Grand Isle, Louisiana, late Sunday evening and is expected to travel up the Mississippi River. Area flooding as the storm travels northward could potentially disrupt rail operations temporarily.
“Our main concern was waiting for the floodgates in/around New Orleans to open so we could resume local traffic in the area,” Norfolk Southern (NS) spokesman Jeff DeGraff said.
Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said Union Pacific (UP) was also awaiting the floodgates to reopen. The route to and from New Orleans had been closed because of the storm and the closed floodgates.
BNSF said it is looking to ensure that no track damage occurred because of the storm.
“Now that Cristobal is north of BNSF tracks in Louisiana, our maintenance-of-way crews are beginning inspections to ensure there is no damage. We are in ongoing discussions with local governments to monitor flood levels and floodgate operations,” said BNSF (NYSE: BRK) spokesman Ben Wilemon. “BNSF will continue to closely monitor the storm as Cristobal heads north toward Memphis and Chicago.”
The Florida Avenue Bridge near the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA), located near the floodgates by Florida Avenue, is still open to rail and marine traffic, although it is closed to vehicular traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians, according to a June 8 port update at 1:15 p.m. CDT.
Earlier today, FreightWaves reported that the Port NOLA Container Terminal (New Orleans Terminal and Ports America) would be closed today, June 8, as well as all breakbulk terminals. Normal business operations will resume Tuesday, June 9.
The New Orleans Flood Protection Authority had closed some flood gates ahead of the storm, but has since reopened two of them as of 5:00 p.m. CDT. Two gates are set to open soon, while one gate remains closed, according to the authority. The U.S. Coast Guard also restricted traffic coming in and out of Port NOLA on Sunday, but it has since reopened the Lower Mississippi River to all vessel traffic, according to Port NOLA.
Last Friday, June 5, NS warned of potential delays as a result of Cristobal, according to a customer update. UP said it was preparing its network in the event of potential outages.