Instead of ringing in the new year, transportation executives and companies on the West Coast are trying to wring out after coping with floods, mudslides and mountain avalanches.
Widespread flooding throughout Northern California and Nevada over the New Year's holiday have shut down the area's principal rail routes, causing shipment delays that likely will be felt into next week.The storm also is causing delays in loading and delivery of cargoes moving through the region's seaports.
The most severe winter storm of the annual rainy season arrived on New Year's eve and by Wednesday had caused several rivers in Northern California to swell to dangerous levels.
Union Pacific Railroad reported that flooding had rendered impassable several sections of track on the heavily used I-5 and central corridor routes, bringing traffic on the main East-West and North-South rail routes to a standstill.
''It's a mess,'' said Mike Furtney, a UP spokesman in San Francisco. ''It's fair to say we are going to experience delays throughout our Western service areas.
MASSIVE SERVICE SHUTDOWN
UP said it shut down all rail movements except critical shipments on New Year's Day because of the problems.
Illustrating the problems UP faces is the situation on the central corridor route leading from Sacramento over the Sierra Nevada range into Nevada, normally used by 15 to 20 trains a day.
Mr. Furtney said flooding, washed-out track or avalanches, caused largely by melting show, have left the track impassable in four locations between Roseville east of Sacramento and Reno, Nev.
Impassable track near Portola, Calif., has closed an alternate route through the Feather River Canyon just to the north.
UP lines connecting Seattle with Southern California, used by some 25 trains a day, also have been shut down by obstructions in the Dunsmuir area in Northern California.
The problems are affecting domestic rail traffic as well as intermodal containers that move by rail and connect with ships at the Port of Oakland.
Mike Martin, a spokesman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, said UP has been given authority by BNSF to operate double-stack container trains on an 80-mile track in Southern California, skirting the Sierras.
The massive storm system also extends inland from the coast as far east as the northern Rocky Mountains. That puts it across parts of Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Montana, as well as the coastal states of California, Oregon and Washington.
Although harsh weather was easing in the Pacific Northwest, transportation providers are continuing to cope with messy conditions on roads, rails and in ports.
Over the past 10 days, storms closed crucial east-west rail and road passes over the Cascade Mountains, slowing the normal flow of export and import traffic to and from Puget Sound ports to a trickle.
Shipping lines in Tacoma and Seattle have been rerouting cargo to California ports, delaying voyages and adjusting schedules because of the delays in getting cargo to the docks.
''In the nine years I've been here, this was the most disruptive storm to our operations,'' said Mike Lingerfelt, APL Ltd.'s port manager in Seattle.
GRAIN STOCKS AFFECTED
Normally temperate Vancouver, British Columbia, did not escape the onslaught, getting about 18 inches of snow that affected transportation throughout western Canada.
On Monday, the passes in the Rockies were closed for 12 hours, but enough cargo had already gotten through, including grain, to cause no major disruptions at Canada's largest port.
Problems mounted a bit Thursday, with heavy rains causing snowslides in the Fraser River Canyon. The result was slower traffic. The port also has experienced delays in ship calls from Seattle.
Canadian National Railway trains were at a standstill early in the week, according to the Canadian Wheat Board. The board sends most of its grain by train to the port. It had enough stocks already at the port to continue shipping, however.
Conditions eased somewhat over the New Year. Mountain passes were open to limited service for trucks and rails on Thursday. And the threat of major flooding abated as new storms swept to the south.
Headaches abounded. North of Seattle in Snowhomish County, a BNSF train carrying hazardous cargo derailed when a mudslide destabilized the track. Gus Melonas, a BNSF spokesman, said no injuries or leaks occurred and the train likely would be righted late Thursday or today.
''Crews are working on all our routes around the clock,'' he said. The major mountain rail route through Stevens Pass was opened from Everett, Wash., to Spokane, Wash.