As the Gulf Coast prepares for a life-threatening storm surge, heavy rainfall and dangerous winds, freight railroads are quickly implementing a response plan to protect their employees, customers and infrastructure.
Quickly gaining strength, Hurricane Michael is projected to be the first major hurricane of the season to hit the U.S. Freight railroads operate and maintain more than 11,400 miles of track in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, states directly in the line of the storm.
Railroads are working with government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to monitor the storm’s path and its potential impacts. Shared information such as emergency declarations, regulatory waivers and response plans are aggregated into digital “Storm Information Dashboards,” which continually keep all teams up-to-date.
Railroads have established command posts and regularly hold conference calls with stakeholders to coordinate preparations, implement contingency plans, conduct impact assessments and initiate response actions. These plans entail a range of initiatives, including:
- Removing locomotives, rail cars, electric signals and switches from yards and areas at risk of flooding.
- Working with other railroads to reroute traffic out of areas likely to be affected.
- Requesting access waivers for impacted areas and staging rail employees, equipment and materials for prompt response and recovery actions.
- Continuously updating customers on storm preparations, potential service disruptions and projected restoration of service.
Railroads work with local, state and federal officials to ensure they can deploy teams to inspect, assess, and, as needed, clear, repair, or restore damaged infrastructure to resume safe train operations as quickly as possible. If necessary, railroads will often bolster local relief efforts by delivering critical supplies such as food, water, and lumber into affected areas and moving debris caused by storm damage out of these areas.
Hurricane Michael has the potential to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in more than a decade and railroads are taking this threat very seriously. You should too.
Visit ready.gov/hurricanes to learn how to stay safe.