UPDATE: Weather disruptions abound in West and Northwest

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Union Pacific map of main lines affected by wintry weather in the Pacific Northwest.
Union Pacific
A washout on Union Pacific tracks west of Portola, Calif., in the Feather River Canyon.
Union Pacific
SEATTLE — Add ice to the weather afflicting rail operations in the Northwest as Union Pacific, BNSF Railway, and Amtrak struggle to keep trains moving.

Service disruptions from ice-laden trees falling on tracks are compounded by multiple road closures hampering the response of maintenance teams, both UP and BNSF reported. BNSF reported numerous downed trees on its Fallbridge Subdivision, which runs from Pasco to Vancouver, Wash., through the Columbia River Gorge. The railroad had no estimate when the line would reopen.

While the Fallbridge Sub remains closed, BNSF says Stevens and Stampede passes through the Cascade Range are operating, although under less than optimal conditions.

On Thursday, as the day before, Amtrak combined trains 27/28, the Spokane Wash.-Portland, Ore., sections of the Empire Builder, with the Chicago-Seattle train, Amtrak spokesperson Vernae Graham tells Trains News Wire. Given road conditions, it was not possible to offer a bus bridge on 27/28's regular route on the Fallbridge Sub.

At last report, the Builder’s westbound Seattle section departed Spokane 14 minutes late at 2:29 a.m., but had lost an hour on the BNSF route over Stevens Pass.

The Washington State Department of Transportation reported Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass, south of Stevens Pass, was closed with conditions too unsafe to begin snow-clearing operations. On the Pacific Coast, U.S. Highway 101 was closed by a slide near Lake Crescent on the Olympic Peninsula.

On Wednesday, UP alerted customers to multiple interruptions on six subdivisions from Seattle and Portland to Hinkle, Wash., and from Hinkle northeast to Spokane and southeast to Pocatello, Idaho. Road closures around Hinkle, Spokane, and Pendleton, Ore., were a particular problem, UP reported.

The Hinkle-Spokane Ayer Subdivision had been shut down completely by an earlier storm and had barely reopened when the latest storm hit.

— Robert W. Scott contributed to this report.

UPDATE: Additional closures and new comments from Union Pacific and BNSF Railway. 3:45 p.m. Central time.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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