Freight, passenger railroads brace for Hurricane Michael

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Hurricane Michael and Southeast U.S. railroads
PENSACOLA, Fla. — It’s been less than two weeks since railroads fully recovered from Hurricane Florence in September and now, tropical weather is once again wreaking havoc on freight and passenger rail operations in the Southeast.

Class I railroads CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern issued customer bulletins Tuesday advising of Hurricane Michael’s potential impacts to rail service. The ever-intensifying storm grew to a Category 3 status Tuesday as it barreled toward Florida’s panhandle coast from the Gulf of Mexico and is now projected to land as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds in excess of 140 mph.

In preparation for Wednesday’s projected landfall, CSX curtailed operations along the Florida panhandle and into southeastern Georgia, warning of freight delays between Pensacola, Fla., and Baldwin, Fla., and between Dothan, Ala., and Valdosta, Ga.

The railroad is monitoring the storm’s path and did not indicate when rail service would resume.

Norfolk Southern echoed similar comments in a Tuesday service alert, saying it is operating under normal hours with no closures planned, however depending on where Hurricane Michael makes landfall, the railroad might reroute a minimal amount of traffic away from affected areas.

With host freight railroads taking precautionary measures in advance of the storm, Amtrak, too, has adjusted its service. Silver Star Nos. 91 and 92 are only operating from Miami to Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday with no alternate transportation between Jacksonville and New York. Similarly, Palmetto Nos. 89 and 90 are operating between New York City and Washington, D.C. No alternate transportation will be provided between Washington and Savannah, Ga.

The National Hurricane Center placed much of Florida’s panhandle coast at risk for storm surge, high winds, and torrential rain beginning Wednesday. The storm is expected to then move northeast across much of central and southeastern Georgia and both Carolinas, including parts of North Carolina that saw record floods from Hurricane Florence less than a month ago.
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