High winds blow rail cars off N.O. bridge

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 28, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Monday because of flooding and widespread power outages from storms that blew rail freight containers off the Huey P. Long Bridge and flooded streets and cut power across south Louisiana.

The storm caused power failures at more than 200,000 homes and businesses from Leesville in the west to the New Orleans metro area in the east. Power had been restored to more than 55,000 customers by midafternoon.

Five rail cars carrying 10 freight containers fell from the bridge outside New Orleans, Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Jeff DeGraff said. “They were all double-stacked,” he said.

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The National Weather Service reported a 70 mph wind gust at the New Orleans airport.

“According to the crew, they were on the downslope of the bridge heading off the bridge and were working on pulling off onto a siding. Before they could get to that siding, … the five cars were blown off of the back end,” DeGraff said. “They were moving very slowly because they were looking to pull into a siding and being cautious at the weather.”

A video by WGNO-TV, taken through a windshield into driving rain, shows a double-stacked freight container tilting, then apparently pulling over the cars just ahead of and behind it. The big, rectangular containers fall ponderously to the ground, followed by the flat, wheeled platforms that had carried them. There is a bright flash as one car lands, followed almost immediately by a shower of sparks from a nearby power pole.

The flash was from a power line the containers or cars brought down; it did not start a fire, DeGraff said.