August 22, 2023

Hilary disrupts Union Pacific’s Southern California network


Heavy rains and flooding from Tropical Storm Hilary are disrupting Union Pacific’s network in Southern California, forcing the railway to put parts of its network out of service, according to a Monday customer update.

Areas within UP’s Mojave and Yuma subdivisions are out of service due to water and mud over the tracks, UP (NYSE: UNP) said.

“Widespread road and interstate closures are impacting our ability to transport crews to operate trains, and public electrical outages are impacting operations in some terminals,” UP said. “Once the storm passes and we are able to assess the status of our network in this area we will provide an update on estimated shipment delays.”

Union Pacific’s map showing where service disruptions are located. (Image: Union Pacific)

Flooding could continue for several days, the railway warned, and once conditions allow for UP to respond safely, it will take steps such as strategically staging rail ballast and panels, personnel, and electric generators in areas affected by the storm. UP’s engineering and operating teams are also addressing service interruptions.

UP directed customers to view its hurricane planning and recovery page for information on how to plan for hurricanes and adverse weather conditions.

UP also said in its customer notice that it had inspected the tracks 13 miles north of Ventura, California, in Ojai, where an earthquake occurred recently, and the railway “discovered no impacts to rail operations as a result of this incident.”

The storm has now moved more inland and north to Nevada, according to the National Hurricane Center

But its impacts prompted California Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency on Saturday. At that time, Newsom’s office said Hilary was a category 2 storm that could bring catastrophic flooding to Baja California and the southwestern U.S.

President Joe Biden said Sunday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be available with personnel and supplies to aid response efforts in California, Nevada and Arizona. 

Separately, the Surface Transportation Board said late afternoon Monday that it is actively monitoring rail service disruptions caused by Hilary. The board also asked rail carriers, shippers and other stakeholders to contact STB if they are experiencing rail service disruptions that could create an emergency situation. 

“Freight and passenger rail service interruptions extending north and east from Southern and Central California have been reported,” STB said Monday. The board is prepared to utilize its emergency service authority granted under federal law should conditions warrant, STB said.

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