Category Archives: Weather

FL freight networks resume operations post-Irma

Airports, sea ports and rail operations in Florida mostly returned to normalcy Wednesday following a devastating strike by Hurricane Irma earlier this week.

Florida’s main sea ports began to reopen Tuesday. Port Everglades reopened fully, but PortMiami, JAXPORT and Port of Tampa opened with restrictions. Most gates and terminals are open for truck and cargo operations, but the size of vessels allowed to call may be limited.


Florida Keys have history of destructive, deadly hurricanes. Irma could rival them.

The Florida Keys are no stranger to hurricanes, or to the death and destruction that have followed their worst storms. But Hurricane Irma, set to surge through the island chain overnight — potentially as a fierce Category 4 or 5 storm — may rival them yet.

Irma, which saw its sustained winds weaken to 125 mph winds after skirting Cuba on Saturday, was expected to restrengthen and lash the Keys early Sunday morning. It easily shapes up to be the most damaging hurricane to hit the Keys since Georges in 1998. And if it comes in at a projected 140 mph somewhere near Key West, it could prove much worse — driving the Atlantic Ocean across sections of the island chain.

It was storm surge that was the big killer in the Keys’ worst catastrophe more than 80 years ago. The most intense hurricane to strike the United States, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, tore first through Craig Key with estimated winds that exceeded 200 miles an hour. One estimate put the toll at 485 dead, including about 250 veterans who were caught in work camps building new highway bridges when the storm struck.

That storm was also the death knell for the Keys extension of the Florida East Coast Railway, which had been battered by hurricanes since it began operating in 1912. The railroad, which was then the only line of ground transportation to Key West, had weathered the 1926 Great Miami hurricane that killed 200 on the mainland as well as the storm in 1919 named for the Florida Keys that sank ships off the coast and killed more than 800. But the 1935 hurricane, with a surge that tore up tracks and overturned a train filled with evacuees, doomed the project financially.

A monument in Islamorada memorializes the victims of that hurricane. And author Les Standiford, director of the creative writing program at Florida International University, wrote a history of the tragedy in the 2003 book, “Last Train to Paradise.”

Hurricane-force winds have battered the islands nearly every decade since. A 1945 hurricane made landfall on Key Largo, damaged hundreds of homes and killed four people across the state. Hurricanes Easy in 1950 — the first year hurricanes started to be named — passed west of the Dry Tortugas in the Lower Keys before making landfall farther north with winds at 105 miles per hour.

Hurricane Donna in 1960, however, tore through the Keys with a distinctive fury, carving out a wide path of flooding and destruction, including several subdivisions in Marathon slammed near the eye’s path. Hurricane Betsy just five years later caused massive flooding throughout the Keys and left a jungle of debris that choked off the U.S. 1 route back to the mainland. Some areas were drowned in several feet of water, and five died across the state.

A handful of hurricanes swept past the Keys in the 1970s and 1980s, and Hurricane Andrew in 1992 also did some damage, hammering North Key Largo and knocking out power lines to the islands.

Hurricane Georges in 1998 tore through Cudjoe Key with a 10- to 12-foot storm surge that cut off water and electricity to the islands again, in some places for weeks, and flooded several hundred homes. During the unprecedented 2005 hurricane season, Hurricane Wilma prompted the most recent mandatory evacuation of the Keys before the storm swamped homes and businesses along the island chain.

But since Andrew, the Keys have not seen a storm with the kind of strength that Irma could unleash on the low-lying islands. The National Weather Service’s Key West station minced no words in one of its final warnings to get out: “Nowhere in the Florida Keys will be safe.”

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Southeastern railroads brace for Irma

Railroads serving Florida and the Southeast coastal region are making preparations ahead of Hurricane Irma, which is forecast to make landfall along South Florida and move up the East Coast.

The Federal Railroad Administration on Wednesday declared an “emergency event” for all freight railroad operations. Acting FRA Administrator Heath Hall called the storm “extremely dangerous” and advised “preparations be rushed to completion in the hurricane warning area.” The state of Florida declared a pre-emptive state of emergency for all 67 counties. Hall activated the FRA’s Emergency Relief Docket granting waivers for certain FRA regulations during and after the storm. Also, the Surface Transportation Board postponed the Sept. 12 public listening session, regarding CSX service issues.

Norfolk Southern in a service announcement said traffic en route to the region will be held at various yards throughout its system in an effort to alleviate congestion in the affected regions. The railroad is in the process of issuing embargoes for these locations. Its Engineering unit is staging resources, including ballast trains, equipment, and generators, and will begin storm recovery efforts once it is safe to do so.

“Norfolk Southern will be working with customers in these areas to identify switching needs and service curtailment. Customers with questions regarding local service should contact their Operations and Service Support, Unit Train, Automotive, or Intermodal representative,” it said.

CSX said it is taking precautionary measures to protect employees, rail traffic and infrastructure while it monitors the storm. “All necessary actions will be taken as conditions warrant, including relocation of personnel, and rerouting rail cars and locomotives out of areas in the projected path of the hurricane. Customers with freight moving through impacted areas will be advised of any potential delays.”

Amtrak has temporarily suspended services in Florida. The Miami-New York Silver Star (92) and Silver Meteor (98) are cancelled for Sept. 9-11. Silver Star 91 (New York-Miami) will operate from New York City to Orlando on Sept. 7. Silver Meteor 97 (New York City-Miami) will operate from New York to Jacksonville, Fla. Trains 91 and 97 are cancelled for Sept. 8-10.

Auto Train 53 (Lorton, Va.-Sanford, Fla.) is cancelled for Sept. 9. Auto Train 52 (Sanford-Lorton) is cancelled on Sept. 10-11. No alternate transportation will be provided.

Florida-based FEC Railway continues to monitor the path of the hurricane. On Sept. 7 the railroad will operate southbound mainline train 101, and northbound 202 and 222. Local service changes will be communicated individually to the affected customers. On Sept. 8 local and mainline service is suspended.

Commuter operator Tri-Rail, which operates from Miami north to Mangonia Park, will suspend all services as of Sept. 8 until further notice.

Railway Age

The devastating 1935 hurricane that surprised the Florida Keys

It was Labor Day, Sept. 2, 1935, when the nation’s first-recorded Category 5 hurricane struck the Florida Keys. The winds: between 200 and 250 miles per hour. The storm surge: 15 feet high. Thirty miles of a railroad track connecting a portion of the archipelago was decimated. Hundreds died, including more than 200 World War I veterans working on an overseas highway linking the Keys.

When survivors and rescue workers surveyed the damage, they were horrified by what they saw: people buried or partially entombed in muck and mangroves, bodies dangling off trees. One family reportedly lost 50 members.

With Irma headed toward South Florida, officials in the Keys — a series of islands set off the southern coast — have ordered mandatory evacuations. Hotels are shutting down, the airport was expected to halt operations, and residents and tourists began their trek along the single highway back to the mainland.

But the fear in the Keys isn’t just a matter of geography: Back in the late summer of 1935, when the country’s weather forecasters didn’t have satellite technology, some residents and government officials in the Keys were taken by surprise by the viciousness of the hurricane. It has haunted residents ever since.

American Memorial Day 2016 – Rhone American Cemetary, Draguignan France

Been here before and always loved it. This year a little different: Thunderstorms rolling through the region. Ceremony moved to high school gym. But still impressive. Congratulations to Mrs. Alison Libersa who manages the cemetary for the American Battle Monuments Commission. It still was a roaring success. 

It is a bi-lingual event. Some speakers are more bi-lingual than others. Mr. Richard Strambio, Mayor of Draguignan, is one. Besides his staff serves a great lunch.

Highlight of the event is United States of America participation. This year was General Arlan M. DeBlieck who is the “mission support” guy for US in Europe. He brought the Navy European Band with him. A great choice!

Like most ceremonies, all kinds of presentations. For instance, the Riviera Chapter of Democrats Abroad France lays a memorial wreath.

Thank you also to the French Ministries of Defense, Foreign Affairs and Interior, including regional, departmental and communal governments.

Amtrak to test restoration of rail service lost since Katrina

Amtrak is planning to test the feasibility of restoring rail service on the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Florida that has been dormant since Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago.

Trains on Amtrak’s Sunset Limited route, which used to run between Los Angeles and Orlando, have ended in New Orleans since the 2005 storm, which wiped out tracks along the Gulf of Mexico.

Amtrak is planning to operate a test train on the route, which includes stops in Alabama and the panhandle of Florida before it heads south to Orlando, to examine the feasibility of restoring the service, the company announced this week. The train will run from New Orleans to Orlando on Feb. 18-19 with Amtrak leaders and elected officials, according to Amtrak officials.

The company said “the goal of the invitation-only trip is to examine the existing CSX railroad infrastructure and to better understand rail’s economic, cultural and mobility opportunities.”

“We want to work with community leaders and CSX,” Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman said in a statement. “Additional regional economic development can come from shared infrastructure investments on a timeline to better connect the region to the rest of the country and more than 500 other Amtrak destinations.”

A recently completed study showed restoring the rail service between Louisiana and Central Florida would attract between 138,300 and 153,900 passengers annually.

The study, conducted by Amtrak for the Southern Rail Commission, also showed it would cost $5.48 million to operate a daily roundtrip train on the shuttered Gulf Coast route if states chip in under a 2008 law that allows Amtrak to contract with local governments to provide increased service on shorter routes.

The cost would rise to $9.49 million if additional service is instituted between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., under the proposal.

Other options that were studied include operating two daily trips from New Orleans to only Mobile, with bus connections from there to existing Amtrak service in Jacksonville, Fla., and operating the one daily New Orleans-to-Florida trip under Amtrak’s long-distance route structure.

The study said the long-distance proposal would attract 69,100 passengers and cost $14.4 million per year to operate.

Advocates of restoring the dormant Gulf Coast rail service have been hoping to convince Amtrak of the feasibility of the route since a provision authorizing the study was included in a highway funding bill that was passed by Congress last year.

“The Gulf Coast region is home to numerous regional, national and global tourist destinations and events, including New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, the theme parks of central Florida, Gulf Coast beaches and casino gaming/resorts,” the authors of the feasibility study wrote in the begging of their report.

“Major league sports teams, NCAA bowl games, three cruise terminals with weekly mass-market cruise ship departures and convention opportunities also draw visitors to communities in the region, while military bases and major defense contractor facilities bring business and military travelers,” the report continued. “Reintroduction of rail passenger service to this market presents numerous marketing opportunities and Amtrak has the marketing capability to assist in promoting any service which is implemented.”

The 1,995-mile Sunset Limited is one of Amtrak’s national, or long-distance, trains, which have been dubbed money-losers by critics for years. The truncated route between Los Angeles and New Orleans carried 105,000 passengers in the 2014 fiscal year, the lowest total of any long-distance Amtrak service, according to figures released by the company.

Amtrak supporters have defended the losses on national routes such as Sunset Limited by arguing that subsidizing long-distance trains in parts of the country with little air service is a big part of the reason Congress created the company in the first place.


Best Amtrak routes for snow lovers

The best part about train travel is watching the world pass by at ground level. For snow lovers, a winter rail journey offers a bonus chance to revel in the winter landscape from the comfort of a window seat.

For Winter 2016, Amtrak has identified five rail routes that promise great seasonal scenery.

California Zephyr, Chicago – Emeryville (San Francisco): This route passes the Rockies and Lake Tahoe.

Adirondack, New York – Montreal: See the frosted Hudson Valley as the train makes its way to Canada.

Empire Builder, Chicago – Portland/Seattle: Glacier National Park in the wintertime provides some stunning sights.

Lakeshore Limited, Chicago – New York: Frozen lakes and snowy shores are the main attraction on this route.

Vermonter, Washington, D.C. – St. Albans, Vt.: Nothing says “snow” like Vermont.

Winter storm threatens Cape Cod with up to 18 inches of snow

The second winter storm in four days to hit the Northeast centered on New England on Monday, bringing howling winds and coastal flooding and threatening Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts with up to 18 inches of snow.

The storm could last into Tuesday, when New Hampshire’s first-in-the nation presidential primary is held. The storm was accompanied by high winds that brought scattered power failures, as well as coastal flooding from south of Boston to Cape Cod and Connecticut. A major surface road in south Boston was closed by flooding late Monday morning.

By Monday afternoon, Cape Cod and the islands appeared to have met the conditions for a blizzard, the National Weather Service said. Much of the rest of Massachusetts and most of Connecticut were under a winter storm warning and could get as much as 10 inches of snow. Boston could see 6 to 10 inches.

The storm led to accidents, including in Connecticut, where a charter bus crashed and fell on its side on Interstate 95 in Madison. At least 30 people were injured, including six of them critically.

In Rhode Island, crowds of mourners lined the streets amid bitter temperatures and falling snow to bid farewell to former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, whose hearse was carried by horse-drawn carriage from City Hall to the city’s Roman Catholic cathedral.

Other parts of the Northeast, including Northern New England and the New York City area, was expected to get much less snow. New York City, Philadelphia and northern New Jersey could get 2 to 3 inches from Monday into Tuesday night, the weather service said.

The snow meant unpleasant outdoor work for some people.

Sean Nardone, a custodian for the U.S. Postal Service, was scheduled to spend the day shoveling and treating the front steps of several post offices south of Boston.

“I don’t like it very much,” Nardone said as he tossed rock salt on the steps of the Whitman post office while a howling wind blew.

“I hope global warming friggin’ helps out this winter,” he said. “I hate to sound selfish, but I could use some warmth.”

Raj Patel, who co-owns a convenience store in Whitman, said the storm is good for business.

“It’s convenient for the neighborhood. We are always open for them. In past storms, we’ve sold out of milk right away. Milk, bread, water — a lot of people walk from their homes, so we stay open,” he said.

Communities across the region closed schools and issued on-street parking bans.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker closed state offices in nine counties Monday, and state courts were closed in 10 counties.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which was crippled by a series of historic storms during Boston’s record-breaking winter last year, was operating on a normal weekday schedule with winter routes in effect for buses. Although there were delays, no major problems were reported.

Restoring confidence in the MBTA’s reliability is important, state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said.

“That’s what we all lost faith in last winter,” she said. “I think every storm where the T is able to run service pretty well, I hope, will help to restore that (faith).”

Boston’s Logan Airport remained open, but hundreds of inbound and outbound flights were canceled.

Ferry service to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard was suspended.

So Where Is The SNOW? Is A White Christmas on the Way ?

Pictured above is the snow plow (in French:  Chasse-Neige) that belongs to the Chemin de Fer de Provence railroad that runs between Nice, France and Digne. It is parked quietly on the turntable in Annot (midway between the two cities) just waiting for the dispatcher to call a crew.


Isola 12-17-15 at 02.16 PMAbove is the reason: this in noted ski resort ISOLA 2000. The trails and slopes have man-made snow, BUT look at the top of the mountains.

Same conditions in North America. Lots of railroad snow equipment just sitting and waiting on a quiet track waiting for a dispatcher to call a crew.

Cities and railroads are ready. But AccuWeather thinks no White Christmas.

the weather pattern is dashing the hopes of many for a white Christmas this year.

Due to the strong El Niño unfolding, many places that typically have a good chance of seeing snow on Christmas Day will miss out this holiday.

This includes the East Coast I-95 cities, where meteorologists say chances are slim.

“There’s just not going to be enough cold air to support accumulating snow,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

In the meantime, we have a good WebSite or two where you can see a lot about railroads with snow!!!

8 hurricanes that almost packed the punch of Patricia

Hurricane Patricia is now the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the eastern Pacific Ocean — and made landfall with 165 mph winds.

The storm is now rated a category 5, the highest on the Saffir–Simpson scale. Before landfall, it had sustained winds of 200 mph, and gusts of up to 250 mph. “This makes Patricia the strongest hurricane on record in the National Hurricane Center’s area of responsibility, which includes the Atlantic and the eastern North Pacific basins,” said the National Hurricane Center. Patricia currently has a minumum central air pressure of 880mb, the lowest air pressure ever recorded in that region. It had “weakened” to 160 mph late Friday, according to the hurricane center.

In fact, Patricia is so powerful, the name Hurricane Patricia may be retired.

US Air Force pilots from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron out of Mississippi experienced that power first-hand. They flew directly into Patricia. This storm is so powerful, it even made the pilots uneasy.

“They had quite a bit of turbulence going through the ‘eyewall’ which is the area of the strongest winds right before the center,” Lt. Colonel John Talbot, the squad’s chief meteorologist, told PRI’s The World. “They had a hard time fighting the aircraft and they were ready to head back after their three passes.”

Here’s a look at some other powerful hurricanes in the area, and how they compare to Patricia:

Hurricane Allen, 1980

Labor Day Hurricane 1935

Hurricane Gilbert, 1988 

Hurricane Linda, 1997

Hurricane Mitch, 1998 

Hurricane Wilma, 2005

Hurricane Katrina, 2005

1959 Mexico hurricane


Read more and see some great pictures