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Hot Shots: Fierce fires, ferocious floods, train derailments and more

Highlighting images in transportation, trucking and weather

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Every Friday, FreightWaves takes a look at the past week or so in social media, highlighting images in trucking, transportation and weather. This week features the monstrous Dixie fire in California, major flooding from Tropical Storm Fred, a train colliding with a truck in Ohio and more.

Related: Dixie fire spreading, now second biggest in California history

Wildfire woes

The Dixie fire in Northern California has been burning since July 13 and is still the largest wildfire in the country. As of midday Friday, the blaze covered 700,630 acres, about 3 ½ times the size of New York City’s five boroughs combined. Earlier this week gusty winds fanned the flames, spreading them quickly toward Janesville and other nearby towns. The Dixie fire burned down the small town of Greenville earlier this month, and the fire is only 35% contained. Smoke from the fire is likely to blow back toward Susanville, Lake Tahoe and Truckee, California, as well as Reno and Carson City, Nevada, as the wind direction shifts this weekend. Gusts of 30 to 35 mph could make fire suppression difficult.

The Caldor fire in eastern California, which started Saturday, is only about one-tenth the size of the Dixie fire. However, because of the strong winds, it exploded during the week. It damaged much of the town of Grizzly Flat, and other small towns lie in its path. It was 0% continued as of Friday morning, with an estimated containment date of Aug. 31, according to InciWeb.

Fred’s flooding

Tropical Storm Fred made landfall along the Gulf Coast early this week with gusts whipping up to 70 mph. Worse than the winds was the rain, especially once the storm moved inland. As it slowed a bit while tracking through the Southeast, torrential downpours ensued. Fred dumped 8 to 10 inches of rain Monday in parts of the southern Appalachians.

The storm also produced tornadoes and straight-line wind damage from northeast Georgia to the mid-Atlantic as Fred moved north. Less severe flooding from Fred hit parts of the Northeast.

Off track

An estimated 32 cars of a westbound Norfolk Southern freight train derailed early Monday morning in downtown Oconee, Georgia, a community of 280 people. Oconee is about 60 miles southwest of Augusta, Georgia. According to a report on the Trains magazine website, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said the derailment occurred about 1 a.m., blocking Central Drive in Oconee. No injuries were reported. The report didn’t say whether the cars were carrying cargo at the time.

Norfolk Southern service was delayed by two more of its trains derailing this week — one in Mississippi, the other in upstate New York. The derailed cars in Mississippi were carrying hazardous materials, but WTOK-TV in Meridian, Mississippi, said nothing was spilled. There was no report on what, if anything, the derailed cars in New York may have been carrying. Customers were told to expect delays of at least 24 hours.

Train vs. truck

The moment an 18-wheeler that got stuck at a railroad crossing was smashed by a CSX freight train was captured on video. It happened early Monday evening in Columbus Grove, a village about 90 miles northwest of Columbus, Ohio.

Fortunately, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said no one was injured in the crash, with train crew members seen in local news footage exiting the train unharmed. Police said they started receiving reports of the truck on the tracks at around 6.45 p.m., but it was already too late to stop the oncoming train. They have also said that initial indications showed the truck’s driver had trouble maneuvering across the crossbuck.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.