US Class I railroads prepare for Hurricane Sally

A photograph of a train passing by a rail crossing.

Several U.S. Class I railroad operations are preparing to safeguard their networks ahead of Hurricane Sally’s anticipated landfall on Tuesday.

The National Hurricane Center on Monday morning issued a hurricane warning for Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Alabama/Florida border. 

The hurricane warning also was in effect for Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas in Louisiana, as well as metro New Orleans. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. Weather forecasters previously categorized Sally as a tropical storm.

Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) alerted customers to potential service issues arising from closed floodgates at New Orleans. The railroad said that closed floodgates would prevent interchanges with eastern carriers until further notice, according to a Monday update. Some trains are being rerouted to Memphis, Union Pacific (UP) also said.

Plans are also in place to suspend local operations in the Avondale area in Louisiana, which is located near New Orleans, according to UP’s Monday update. This includes the Avondale Intermodal Terminal and applies to inbound and outbound gate activity, UP said.

UP urged customers to visit its hurricane planning and recovery page

Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) said customers should anticipate delays as the result of closed floodgates into and out of New Orleans. The railroad also temporarily ceased operations at its Mobile, Alabama, yard because of anticipated heavy rains and high winds, according to a service update Monday.

APM Terminals Mobile’s gate operations also were closed to truck traffic Monday. 

Norfolk Southern (NS) “will work with our foreign line partners on possible alternate routing, but customers should expect delays to their traffic until this system passes,” NS said.

Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU) noted that the Flood Protection Agency of greater New Orleans ordered all railroad flood gates serving the New Orleans area to be closed as of noon Monday. 

Meanwhile, the last interchange with the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad occurred Sunday evening and interchanges won’t resume until the storm has passed and floodgates have reopened, Kansas City Southern (KCS) said.

“As always, the safety of our employees, customers’ shipments and the communities we serve remains the priority. We are closely monitoring the storm and will notify if there are any changes to our network or service,” KCS said in an operations update Sunday. 

The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad said it ceased operations on noon Monday.

Meanwhile, the Port of New Orleans said Sunday that the New Orleans Terminal and Ports America closed at noon Monday, while Empire would close breakbulk operations at 2 p.m. 

CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) said in a Sunday update that it was “closely monitoring” the weather disturbance, with precautionary measures being undertaken for protecting employees, rail traffic and infrastructure. So far, the railroad projected hurricane conditions to occur along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts beginning on Monday, with widespread flooding extending into Florida. 

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

Related articles:

Rail service still hampered, but truck stops, roadways reopened following Hurricane Laura

Hurricane Laura’s impact on spot and capacity – On The Spot (with video)

LTL, parcel networks return to life as Laura leaves Gulf

Most refineries coming back online after Laura exits

Hurricane Laura hammers Union Pacific tracks near Lake Charles