When a hurricane hits, food and clean water are often the most immediate, most visible needs. But behind the scenes, other critical shortages emerge.
After Hurricane Irma, low propane supplies put some Florida facilities (hospitals, shelters, nursing homes) at risk of losing power from backup generators. Dairy farmers ran short of feed due to shipments held up in anticipation of the storm. And families evacuating by car struggled to find gas in neighboring Georgia when stations ran dry.
Large freight railroads can play a role in helping to meet challenges like these, especially when local transportation networks are still in recovery mode.
For example, when the Florida governor’s office called CSX to say propane supplies were running low in Tampa, Miami and Orlando, the railroad prioritized pending propane shipments to these areas. But getting trains to Miami and Orlando meant operating trains on tracks that still lacked power. (No power meant no warning gates to stop vehicle traffic.) CSX crews diligently worked to deploy flares to stop vehicle traffic at each grade crossing that lacked power so trains could get through, allowing CSX to deliver the propane within 48 hours of the governor’s request.
When feed mills and dairy farmers in the Okeechobee area started running out of feed, the National Milk Producers Federation set in motion a coordinated effort that involved federal and state government entities, agricultural groups and CSX. The goal: To get a week’s worth of feed to the area as soon as possible. Meeting that goal meant not only prioritizing feed shipments but removing — in some cases with the help of cranes — downed power lines and debris from tracks and, once again, stopping traffic at crossings that lacked power. It also meant local CSX crews, who were personally impacted by the storm, reported to work to help deliver the desperately needed feed shipments. The happy ending: Seventeen loaded railcars of feed were delivered a day or two before the feed mills would have run out.
When high demand from Florida and Georgia drivers began tapping out gas stations in metro Atlanta, CSX delivered 22 carloads of gasoline (about 660,000 gallons) from Birmingham, Alabama, to Lawrenceville, Georgia, for distribution at fueling stations.
After a disaster, something as simple as a clean, dry pair of shoes or fresh set of clothes can have an impact. In response to both Irma and Hurricane Harvey, CSX provided in-kind intermodal shipments to the nonprofit Soles4Souls to help distribute footwear and clothing, in addition to donating $10,000 to Soles4Souls to assist with other hurricane response efforts.
In response to Irma, CSX provided $100,000 to Feeding Florida. It also supported the American Red Cross, donating more than 8,300 cases of water (about 125,000 bottles) to the Red Cross of Northeast Florida after Irma and contributing $100,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund in response to Harvey; an additional $72,000 was donated by employees and through a CSX dollar for dollar match.
To prepare for future disaster events, CSX is coordinating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on plans to ship trailers of supplies to areas that need them. Because when it comes to helping after a hurricane, it’s group efforts that get the job done.