Widespread flooding across the U.S. inland river system is slowing some freight and passenger transportation systems, mainly with road closures but including some rail line outages.
Some of the heaviest flooding is along the middle and lower Mississippi River, and has forced evacuations of some residential parts of the big transportation hub area of Memphis, Tenn., especially the low-lying suburb of Millington.
Arkansas closed parts of east-west Interstate 40 this week, a major trucking route. Amtrak suspended passenger train service from Illinois into Memphis.
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Roadway flooding in the Memphis area was so bad the Tennessee Department of Transportation was unable to post its normal traffic condition camera views. A general aviation airport at Memphis closed because of flooding but passenger jet and freight operations continued miles away at Memphis International Airport, home to FedEx Express.
Railroads in Memphis are mostly operating normally, but are seeing some effects from local shippers hampered by the high water or trouble using local roads.
There are serious disruptions to traffic in Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas, as the Ohio River and numerous tributaries feeding it and the Mississippi continue to overflow in banks. The National Weather Service’s lengthy flood warnings list covered those areas, plus parts of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa, Mississippi and Louisiana.
This follows weeks of earlier flood and storm outages for roads and tracks in the central and southern U.S., plus the savage spate of tornadoes that ravaged Alabama and other nearby states and forced railroads to briefly shift some of the east-west handoff traffic up to Memphis.
Canadian National Railway operates its Harrison Yard at Memphis, the carrier’s second-largest U.S. rail yard and a major terminal for ocean container traffic that originates at CN’s Prince Rupert intermodal port on the Pacific Ocean.
CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said Harrison Yard and CN’s main traffic routes through that area are operating normally. Although the city of Memphis closed a flood wall that stopped use of one rail line used by Amtrak, he said “all the core routes by which we move freight are still open.”
But he said one of CN’s north-south tracks up near Cairo, Ill., has been flooded out since April 27, forcing CN to put more traffic on other tracks.
BNSF Railway continued to list track outages from floods in the upper Midwest from the Red River, which has also affected CN and Canadian Pacific Railway. BNSF also said parts of its trackage south of St. Louis were closed either due to direct Mississippi River flooding or by closure of flood gates at the Missouri towns of Ste. Genevieve, McBride and Cape Girardeau.
Union Pacific also was rerouting some traffic from flood outages in southern Illinois and seeing some shipments delays, but said its Arkansas network was returning to normal from washouts last weekend from heavy thunderstorms.