Moving freight across the country by rail is a complex task under the best of conditions. Throw extreme weather conditions into the mix, and the job gets even tougher—how can a freight carrier adjust its operations to something as unpredictable as the weather?
Union Pacific Railroad Co. believes it has found a solution: AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions' track-specific storm warnings. In contrast to generic weather forecasts that focus on static population centers like cities and highways, these customized AccuWeather forecasts track conditions around moving assets and remote sites.
That capability made a crucial difference on May 25, when the service notified Union Pacific that an EF-4 tornado was predicted to cross its tracks just west of Chapman, Kan. Within 25 minutes of the warning, the railroad stopped eight trains that were scheduled to pass through the area. Inspectors later found that the storm's winds of 166 to 200 mph had shifted their steel rails by 18 inches—which would virtually guarantee derailment for trains engineered to run on tracks that are precisely 4 feet, 8.5 inches apart.