Hurricane Laura hammers Union Pacific tracks near Lake Charles

A Union Pacific train moves on a track. Union Pacific says the railway experienced extensive damage to tracks in the Lake Charles area from Hurricane Laura.

Hurricane Laura delivered “heavy damage” to the Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) mainline and industrial tracks in the Lake Charles, Louisiana, area, resulting in both being taken out of service, the railroad said Thursday.

The hurricane made landfall as a Category 4 storm, with winds of up to 150 mph, moving across Louisiana before weakening to a tropical storm. Laura’s path suggested that Union Pacific (UP) and BNSF (NYSE: BRK) likely bore the brunt of the storm among the railroads serving the region.

As a result of the damage, UP issued an embargo covering 27 stations in the Lake Charles area. UP’s Houston-area rail yards, however, were left undamaged and are expected to reopen Thursday. 

UP’s Intermodal terminal in Avondale, Louisiana is slated to also reopen on Thursday along with the two intermodal terminals in Houston, the railway said.

The impact on BNSF wasn’t clear yet. The railway is inspecting tracks in the Houston, Galveston and Beaumont, Texas, areas, and is waiting to assess the damage in Louisiana. 

“Once conditions allow, [we] will assess our operations in Louisiana,” a BNSF  spokesperson told FreightWaves in an email. “We will continue to reroute train traffic as needed to ensure the safety of our people and our customers’ freight arrives securely at its final destination.”

Mike Baudendistel, a market expert at Freightwaves, said BNSF tracks likely suffered a similar fate as UP’s.

“BNSF goes through Lake Charles as well so their track is probably just as damaged,” Baudendistel said. 

CN (NYSE: CNI) could also see significant impacts from the hurricane because of its effects on the chemical plants it serves on the Gulf Coast, Baudendistel said.

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