Strong winds blew four Union Pacific Railroad cars off a section of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad in Elmwood during what was perhaps the most dramatic moment caused by a line of severe weather that moved through the metro area on Monday morning.
The cars — which fell from a height of about four stories — had about a dozen shipping containers that were empty and therefore did not contain any hazardous materials, railroad spokeswoman Nancy Stoltz said in a statement. There were no injuries reported as Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and other responders worked to secure the area later in the day, Stoltz said.
A Union Pacific spokesman said the derailment was reported to the company’s emergency call center about 11:15 a.m. Manned by a two-person crew, the train’s original departing point was the port of Los Angeles, and it was headed to the CSX Gentilly Yard in New Orleans.
About 1:50 p.m., Stoltz said one container was still listing on the tracks. Structural engineers were headed to the scene to assess damage to the tracks as well as any cars that remained on them, Stoltz said.
A WGNO-TV news crew captured video of the train cars as they plummeted to the ground just north of the approach to the Huey P. Long Bridge and east of Clearview. The cars were moving away from the bridge amidst intense rain when a strong gust knocked them off the left-hand side of the rail. A power transformer nearby exploded when the cars struck the ground, and the lights in the area went out as sparks showered down.
The video was shot from the parking lot of a Raising Cane’s chicken fingers restaurant in the 900 block of South Clearview Parkway.
Other restaurants in the area where the train cars fell are Buffalo Wild Wings, Copeland’s, Jaeger’s seafood and New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Co.
A New Orleans Advocate photographer at the scene late Monday morning said the downed power transformer and fallen electricity cables were flashing intermittently when he was at the scene late Monday morning. Around noon Monday, Jefferson Parish President John Young said emergency and railroad personnel were still trying to determine how best to remove the fallen cars from the area.
No more information was immediately available. Check back with The New Orleans Advocate for any more updates.
— New Orleans Advocate photgrapher Matthew Hinton contributed to this report.