Amtrak Train Freed From Snow After Being Stranded for 36 Hours in Oregon Mountains
An Amtrak train in rural Oregon was extricated on Tuesday morning after its 183 passengers had been stranded since Sunday evening because of a winter storm that dropped a foot of snow and toppled trees, according to Amtrak.
Crews from Amtrak and Union Pacific, which owns the tracks, worked through Monday and into Tuesday to clear trees, power lines and snow and reach the passenger train with a new locomotive. That engine, provided by Union Pacific, was connected to the train around sunrise on Tuesday and began pulling the Amtrak train to the closest station, about 30 miles away in Eugene, Ore., according to Union Pacific and Amtrak.
“We’re moving slowly, so things are looking up,” Carly Bigby, a passenger on the train, said in an interview on Tuesday. “We’re all ready to get off.”
The train is expected to arrive in Eugene around noon local time, she said.
The Amtrak train, the No. 11 train on the Coast Starlight route along the Pacific Coast from Seattle to Los Angeles, pulled out of the Eugene station around 5:10 p.m. on Sunday as a large snowstorm swept through the Cascade Range. About an hour later, the train struck a tree that had fallen on the tracks, Amtrak said, and the crew decided it was best to stop.
The Coast Starlight route is known for its breathtaking, panoramic views through Oregon’s valleys. But this trip was a bit more scenic than what passengers had wanted: From Sunday evening into Monday morning, more than a foot of snow collected around the train, which had come to a stop near the small town of Oakridge. It was too dangerous to get out and walk to safety, Amtrak said.
“With more than a foot of heavy snow and numerous trees blocking the track, we made every decision in the best interest of the safety of our customers during the unfortunate sequence of events,” Scot Naparstek, the chief operating officer and an executive vice president of Amtrak, said in a statement on Tuesday. “We will be contacting customers to provide refunds and other compensation as appropriate.”
During the roughly 36 hours the train was stopped, passengers were provided free food and drinks, Amtrak said. Some passengers had been on the train from the start. After visiting her fiancé in Eugene, Ms. Bigby said, she got on board there for what is usually a five-hour trip to Klamath Falls, Ore., where she is a teacher.
The snowstorm blanketed much of western Oregon, dumping up to five feet of snow in some areas. That part of the state is used to big snowfalls, but what made this one different was the type of snow that fell, said Clinton Rockey, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s office in Portland.
The ice crystals had higher than usual water levels, making for thick, heavy snow that weighed on the 60- to 100-foot pines and firs that dot the Cascades. Under those conditions, the trees can last only so long, Mr. Rockey said.
“That’s a lot of weight sitting on those trees,” he said.
In a typical snowstorm with fluffy specks, about a foot of snow will drop for what would have been an inch of rain in warmer weather, Mr. Rockey said. In Oregon in recent days, the ratio was closer to six to eight inches of snow for every inch of rain.
He allowed that while a 100-foot tree could have possibly held up, “at a certain point, nope, they’ve had too much.”