Hurricane Harvey: UP uses drones to survey damage; KCS, BLET donate to relief funds

(source: Progressive Railroading 08/31/2017)

UP is using drones and helicopters to assess Harvey storm damage.
Photo – Union Pacific Railroad

Union Pacific Railroad is using helicopters and drones to inspect by air its track, bridges and signals in areas east and west of Houston where road access is unavailable due to flooding and storm damage from Hurricane Harvey.

As weather and access to storm-damaged areas allow, UP is inspecting and repairing track, bridges and signals to return rail service as quickly as possible, the railroad said in yesterday’s customer notice. As of yesterday, the majority of of areas east of Houston were still inaccessible.

UP’s southern region has its headquarters in Houston.

UP crews expected to begin cleanup at the Englewood and Settegast yards yesterday and to reopen those facilities for service today.

“Routes through San Antonio opened up allowing us to run trains both north and south between San Antonio and Hearne, Texas,” UP officials said in the notice.

Now a tropical storm, Harvey has made landfall in the Beaumont, Texas, area with heavy rains and flooding in eastern Texas and western Louisiana. UP’s rail operations along the Gulf Coast from Brownsville, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana, remain suspended because of high water and storm damage.

Meanwhile, rail organizations’ financial donations to help storm victims continue to flow in. Yesterday, Kansas City Southern announced its charitable fund will donate $50,000 to the American Red Cross to aid hurricane relief efforts in southern Texas.

The Class I also will match employee gifts to the Red Cross via the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation-KCS Fund, dollar for dollar up to $25,000 for a total possible gift of $100,000 from KCS and its employees.

Houston and the Gulf Region are central to KCS’ rail network, with many customers and employees located there.

“KCS continues to monitor the situation and any consequences in other states where employees may be affected in the days ahead, and may provide additional relief,” KCS officials said in a press release.

Also yesterday, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) announced it will reactivate and expand its Gary Perrien Fund to provide financial assistance to members living in Texas and Louisiana who have been hardest hit by the hurricane.

The Perrien fund was established in 2010 to assist BLET member Gary Perrien pay for medical bills stemming from an illness. Perrien asked that the funds be used to help those more in need, BLET officials said in a press release.

As part of the fund’s expansion, the BLET Advisory Board will transfer $20,000 from the union’s General Fund to the Perrien Fund as part of fundraising for BLET members harmed by the hurricane.

“BLET members have suffered catastrophic losses as a result of the storm,” said BLET National President Dennis Pierce. “The union movement is built around members helping members, and the National Division is starting this fundraising program in an effort to help as many members who have suffered hardship as is possible.”

The Advisory Board also asked all BLET General Committees of Adjustment, State Legislative Boards, Divisions, and individual members to make matching donations to at least double the size of its initial contribution.

Moreover, the BLET will make a matching $20,000 donation to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Disaster Relief Fund.