Updates status advisories from Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific
The Class I railroads with a presence in the U.S. Gulf Coast are monitoring how Hurricane Zeta will affect rail operations.
Service disruptions could occur as a result of the storm, they said in service advisories Tuesday and Wednesday, and the railroads will assess their networks for post-storm damage.
Zeta made landfall Wednesday as a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of around 110 mph, FreightWaves reported early Thursday. It was the strongest hurricane to hit the continental U.S. this late in the season since 1899. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.
Zeta has since weakened to a tropical storm and continues to move quickly inland. As of 8 a.m. EDT Thursday, sustained winds had decreased to 60 mph, and the eye of the storm was 50 miles west of Asheville, North Carolina.
“Norfolk Southern continues to monitor Tropical Storm Zeta which made landfall on the Gulf Coast Wednesday evening and is currently traveling Northeast across the Norfolk Southern system. Norfolk Southern Engineering is cleaning trees and debris and inspecting and repairing track in flooded areas as water recedes. Local operations across Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia may be affected by the cleanup efforts. Customers with shipments destined to these areas can expect delays of 12 – 24 hours.,” said Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) in a Thursday service advisory. The railroad said it would provide updates as conditions changed.
Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) said in a Thursday update that it has completed its inspection process on impacted areas of its network and it has restored all rail service. Union Pacific (UP) also said generators are being utilized in areas without power. Interchange with eastern carriers over New Orleans is also expected to resume later Thursday., although UP’s ability to interchange will be reduced until commercial power returns.
UP also said interchange with the New Orleans Public Belt remains closed and its opening is yet to be determined. Furthermore, UP’s intermodal terminal in Avondale, Louisiana, remains closed Thursday.
“Many local roads are impassable due to downed power lines and the terminal does not currently have power. We are hopeful we will reopen the terminal on Friday, October 30 and will advise as soon as that determination is made,” UP said.
BNSF (NYSE: BRK) also said that interchanges with Eastern carriers would be affected as floodgates closed in New Orleans. The company said Wednesday that it suspended all rail operations east of Lafayette, Louisiana, as well as westbound from the New Orleans area at 2 p.m. CDT.
Meanwhile, in a Tuesday weather update, Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU) said, “We are monitoring the storm closely and will notify you of any changes to our network or service. As always, the safety of our employees, customers’ shipments and the communities we serve remains the priority.”
It’s not only the railroads and other freight transportation companies keeping an eye on the storm. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) said Wednesday it would declare emergency services should conditions warrant. The board expressed similar comments for past Gulf Coast hurricanes this season.
The STB “is actively monitoring any rail service disruptions caused by Hurricane Zeta,” the board said Wednesday. “The board is prepared to utilize its emergency service authorities pursuant to 49 U.S.C § 11123 if a ‘failure of traffic movement exists which creates an emergency situation of such magnitude as to have substantial adverse effects on shippers, or on rail service in a region of the United States.’”
The board continued, “Rail carriers, shippers and other stakeholders experiencing rail service disruptions that create an emergency situation are asked to contact the board’s rail customer and public assistance office.”
The Coast Guard continues to restrict vessel movement at the ports of Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Plaquemines, South Louisiana, St. Bernard and the Venice Port Complex in Louisiana; Biloxi, Gulfport, Mobile and Pascagoula, Mississippi; as well as Pensacola, Florida. Portions of these ports may be closed, FreightWaves’ Senior Meteorologist Nick Austin reported Thursday.
Nick Austin, FreightWaves Director of Weather Analytics and Senior Meteorologist contributed to this report.