Freight rail operations brace for Hurricane Ida

A photograph of a beach right before a hurricane.A photograph of a beach right before a hurricane.

The Class I railroads are watching whether Hurricane Ida will impact operations on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Ida strengthened from a tropical storm into a Category 1 hurricane and could strengthen before it makes landfall this Sunday, according to a  Norfolk Southern service advisory on Friday. 

By early Sunday afternoon, just prior to landfall, Ida could reach Category 3 hurricane status, with sustained winds of 111 to 129 mph, FreightWaves reported.

Heavy rainfall, a significant storm surge and flooding could impact operations in affected areas, including shipments to and from NS’ New Orleans facility, NS (NYSE: NSC) said. 

“Customers with shipments arriving or departing from our New Orleans facility should expect delays of 24 hours. Norfolk Southern will provide updates as conditions change,” NS said.

Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) told customers that its intermodal terminal in Avondale, Louisiana, has temporarily suspended operations and the facility will reopen based on the extent of the storm and the impact of any associated flooding.

The closure of floodgates by the City of New Orleans would “effectively prevent interchange” with eastern rail carriers, and the ability to conduct rail interchanges will be subject to change throughout the storm, UP said.

“We are making preparations along our network to ensure any potential outages are addressed and repaired as quickly as possible,” UP said in a  service advisory on Friday. “Measures taken in advance of the storm include staging generators, rail ballast and panels, additional diesel fuel, supplemental transportation for crews as well as contractor resources.”

BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B) said the floodgate closures would affect eastward and westward routes through New Orleans, including interchange routes with other carriers. The railroad plans to suspend all rail operations between Lafayette, Louisiana, and New Orleans at 12 p.m. Central Time on Saturday, according to a customer notice on Friday.

Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU) also said it is watching for potential impacts on its networks, according to an advisory on Friday, as did CSX (NASDAQ: CSX).

CSX “is implementing precautionary measures to protect employees, rail traffic and infrastructure – including repositioning assets and identifying alternative routings that may be required for some traffic. Updates will be provided as needed as the weather system develops,” the company said Friday.

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Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.