Storm cleanup to cause Louisiana rail shippers some delay

Union Pacific

The nation’s Class I railroads expect to have service restored this weekend on tracks serving the ports and industrial facilities on the Gulf Coast between Houston and New Orleans.

Hurricane Laura, packing 120 mph winds when it made landfall early Thursday morning, caused significant damage in the Lake Charles, Louisiana, area.

Union Pacific (UP) (NYSE: UNP) said Friday it is still clearing away storm-related debris from several of its track lines through southern Louisiana.

“We continue to work diligently to remove trees, install generators and work with local power companies and contractors to address downed power lines,” UP spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza told FreightWaves/American Shipper on Friday afternoon.

She said UP advised customers with rail shipments in the area to expect a minimum of 72 hours in additional transit times as crews restore service to affected tracks.

Norfolk Southern (NS) (NYSE: NSC) said in a statement late Thursday that it was already returning railcars to its Oliver Yard and Chalmettle Branch, which were vacated ahead of the storm. However, rail shippers should expect delays between Friday and Saturday in New Orleans, the railroad warned.

CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) also said it sustained minimal damage from Hurricane Laura.

“Delays are possible at the New Orleans and Memphis gateways, however, as a result of disruptions on connecting railroads,” CSX said in a customer advisory statement on Thursday. “We are currently coordinating with our rail partners to determine the best gateways for interchanging traffic.”

BNSF and Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU) also experienced service impacts across southern Louisiana due to Hurricane Laura.

NS, meanwhile, said it will continue monitoring the storm as it moves across the Ohio Valley to the Mid-Atlantic region through Saturday. The railroad said it has staged equipment and materials along its network to ensure a rapid response to any further damage.

“The remnants of Laura — now a non-tropical, low pressure system over northeastern Arkansas — will remain a threat this weekend for inland areas as it moves through the Mid-South and toward the East Coast,” said FreightWaves Senior Meteorologist Nick Austin in a Friday news report.

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Click for more FreightWaves/American Shipper articles by Chris Gillis.