Freight railroads get out of Irma’s path

CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and FEC suspend rail ops in Florida, southeast
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The National Hurricane Center issued this update on Friday morning outlining Irma's latest forecast, which places Florida and much of Georgia in the direct path of the category five hurricane.
National Hurricane Center
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Expect few freight trains to run through Florida this weekend as railroads tie down operations ahead of Hurricane Irma.

CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and Florida East Coast officials all say they're preparing for the worst before the cyclone makes landfall, possibly as soon as Sunday.

Even though the storm was still in the eastern Caribbean Sea Friday morning Florida East Coast Railway Senior Vice President Robert Ledoux tells Trains News Wire in a Friday morning email that FEC has suspended all rail traffic and is currently taking down crossing gates.

“Our yards will be closed as of noon today until after the storm passes. We have equipment and materials pre-positioned and plan on recovery operations on the south end of our network Monday morning,” says Ledoux.

Irma, a category five hurricane with sustained winds in excess of 150 mph, is projected to make landfall in south Florida early Sunday and will likely track north along much of FEC’s mainline to Jacksonville. Sustained winds of 74 to 110 mph are projected for much of south and central Florida, while forecast projections estimate sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph for much of north Florida and Georgia as the storm tracks inland into early Monday.

CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle tells Trains News Wire that CSX has suspended all rail shipments scheduled into the greater Miami, Fla., area as of Thursday evening through the weekend. The railroad’s Transflo terminal services subsidiary is also adjusting its operations throughout much of Florida.

Transflo terminal operations in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., are closed for the rest of the week and Monday, while facilities in Tampa, Sanford, Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., will be closed on Monday. The company’s terminal services operation in Jacksonville closed at 11 a.m. Friday.

Following FEC’s announcement to suspend rail traffic, CSX decided to follow suit, saying it would temporarily discontinue delivery of intermodal traffic to FEC locations in Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Pierce, Miami, and Port Miami beginning 5 p.m. local time Thursday.

Railroad officials could not say when that intermodal service would resume.

Doolittle says the railroad has launched its hurricane action plan, which includes advanced storm monitoring, the repositioning of rail equipment and assets where possible, and collaborating with the engineering department to deploy compressors, generators, ballast, and maintenance-of-way equipment.

“The extent of the potential impact this system will have on CSX operations is not known at this time. Several regional operating departments are making tactical plan changes and curtailments to proactively minimize the impact of possible delays,” Doolittle says.

Norfolk Southern is taking similar storm preparedness measures.

NS representative Jonathan Glass tells News Wire that NS is preparing for Hurricane Irma based on current storm projections that show the storm will affect Southeast U.S. coastal areas.

“Traffic en route to these areas will be held at various yards throughout the Norfolk Southern system in an effort to alleviate congestion in the affected regions," Glass says.

Glass says the railroad is also issuing freight embargoes for locations in the Southeast.

NS’ engineering department is also in the process of staging resources like ballast trains, maintenance equipment, and generators near areas that are likely to be affected by bad weather.

“Norfolk Southern will be working with customers in these areas to identify switching needs and service curtailment,” he says.

NS officials urge their customers to monitor freight routings and other updates through its Pacesetter and accessNS customer platforms.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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