Winter weather shuts down railroads, roadways and power

February 16, 2021

Tyson Fisher

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Extreme winter weather continues to wreak havoc on roadways across the country, with some railroads shutting down terminals for up to three days as new winter storm forms in the South.

Railroad closures

On Monday, Feb. 15, Union Pacific notified customers that extreme winter weather and subzero temperatures have impacted its operations. Inclement weather has caused significant road closures, preventing the railroad’s ability to transport crews in several states, including Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington state and Wisconsin.

Consequently, Union Pacific will close ingates at terminals for about 72 hours beginning Tuesday.

“To keep our terminals fluid, all in gates at Union Pacific terminals will close effective tomorrow, February 16, 2021, at 8:00 a.m. in the terminal’s respective time zone,” a Union Pacific announcement stated. “We anticipate the closures to last approximately 72 hours.”

There are a few exceptions:

  • All international shipments that currently originate or terminate at LA/Long Beach on-dock terminals only will continue to be accepted and will operate on extra schedules as resources allow (in gates to ICTF will also be closed).
  • Westbound domestic interline shipments sponsored by NS, CSX, CPRS or CN will be accepted at all interchange points.
  • All shipments to and from Seattle and Tacoma will be closed for approximately 48 hours; however, international shipments to and from Tacoma on-dock will continue.

Meanwhile, CSX told customers to expect delays on shipments moving through the Ohio Valley and Midwest, citing the winter weather storm. According to the service bulletin, intermodal terminals are open and traffic is moving with minor slowdowns.

Winter weather emergency declarations in the South

Governors of Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky and Alabama have declared a state of emergency amid extreme winter weather, lifting some federal regulations for truckers.

In Texas, numerous state highways and interstates are shut down in portions of the state. In the Houston area, Interstate 10 at Crosby Lynchberg is closed in both directions due to icy conditions. The direct connector ramps from Interstate 45 southbound and northbound to SL 8 also are closed. In San Antonio, portions of Interstate 410 are shut down. For the latest closures, check DriveTexas.org.

On Feb. 12, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration that affects all 254 counties in Texas. The declaration was in direct response to the severe inclement weather that impacted the state. On Sunday, Texas was approved of a federal emergency declaration.

On Tuesday morning, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development advised motorists that priority routes U.S. 190 and U.S. 61 in East Baton Rouge Parish remain open. However, the Interstate 10 Mississippi River Bridge and Interstate 10 between Lafayette in Baton Rouge remain closed due to the icy winter weather. The latest traffic information in Louisiana can be found at 511LA.org.

Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency on Feb. 11 due to heavy rainfall and the potential for winter weather conditions in the state.

“Already in Louisiana we have communities that have seen the impacts of flash flooding and water on the roadways, and there is the potential for worse weather and bad conditions as the days go on,” Gov. Edwards said in a statement. “Now is the time for people to make a plan for the coming days that could include staying at home during severe weather.”

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced a similar state of emergency on Feb. 11 as well. Additionally, all state offices were closed on Tuesday, Feb. 16, due to extreme winter weather.

“The conditions on our roads are deteriorating very quickly,” Gov. Beshear said in a statement. “Parts of Kentucky are getting significant snow, sleet and freezing rain or an ice storm. We’re one of the only states getting all three in a very significant way. We’ve come too far in the last 11 months protecting one another to lose people in an event like this.”

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is reporting several state highways shut down in portions of the state. Many of the closures are due to downed trees and power lines. Check GoKY.KY.gov for up-to-date traffic information.

In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey signed a state of emergency declaration on Feb. 14 due to winter weather. Although there are no major closures, the Alabama Department of Transportation is warning motorists of ice on roadways throughout the state.

Winter weather outlook

Extremely frigid temperatures struck a good portion of the South, Midwest and Northeast over the weekend. However, warmer temperatures are within sight.

According to the National Weather Service, frigid arctic air and dangerously cold wind chills will likely persist in the Great Plains and Mississippi Valley through midweek. However, a new winter storm emerging in the Southern Plains on Tuesday is moving towards the Mid-South on Wednesday. Forecasters expect the bitter cold winter weather to continue east of the Rockies and west of the Appalachians for about one more day.

In the Kansas City area, temperatures will reach above freezing by Saturday. Meanwhile, in Houston lows below freezing will persist for most of the week, with a low of 34 degrees expected on Friday. Meanwhile, in Kentucky below-freezing temperatures will likely remain for the entire week.

Winter weather storms in the Midwest and South have caused numerous power outages. On Tuesday morning, PowerOutage.US was reporting more than 4 million outages in Texas alone. The Southwest Power Pool declared a Level 3 Energy Emergency Alert on Monday, Feb. 15. Member companies will implement controlled interruptions of service to conserve energy as demand overwhelmed the power grid. Rolling blackouts affected power companies in 14 states. LL

 

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.