Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rail cars a-burnin'

I meandered into the office yesterday afternoon at 1:30 and immediately sensed that something was up.
Usually I say, tongue in cheek, "So— what happened while I was away?"
But yesterday the phone was ringing steadily, and My Pal Al (publisher) said "You haven't had your radio on today, have you?"
A freight train had derailed just down the road from Clair, one of the nearby villages. It had been carrying some hazardous materials, there were explosions and fire and evacuations and roadblocks and detours, and reporters from as far away as New York and Los Angeles were calling for photos and information.

I sat down and wrote up a brief report for the Wadena News webpage, and will leave you with a photo and link to that:

Photo courtesy Wadena News

Click here for more info: WADENA NEWS.

The webpage's hit count shot up from an average of 100 visitors a day to more than 2000 before I left the office last night. A TV cameraman was in to film Alison answering questions about what she'd seen as one of the first people on the scene, before the public was ordered back. CBC Radio's As It Happens called to interview her over the phone.

The local motel was booked solid by the afternoon and so was the bed and breakfast in town. Later that evening I heard that an evacuation centre was being set up in Wadena, and called to offer beds if anyone needed a billet. Everyone has friends and family in the area and it was unlikely anyone wouldn't have a place to stay. But you never know. The person answering the phone said that had I called a half-hour earlier, they had been looking for a host for a group of American hunters who'd been displaced.

This morning the fire is out and the emergency crews have been working all night to get things cleaned up. We have yet to hear what caused the derailment. I talked to Dad on the phone. He said he wasn't surprised there'd been a derailment, that the condition of the tracks at the crossings at both entrances to our home town, Margo, were so bad this summer that he'd actually gotten out of his car to decide where to drive over them so that his tires wouldn't get wrecked; clearly the railway companies were a bit behind when it came to maintenance of the tracks.

Anyway, no one was hurt. Some people have been inconvenienced; I hope that's the worst of it. Had this happened at a busier place, say the railway crossing at Wadena just a few miles east, who knows where the fire might've spread to, in the terrible wind we had yesterday.

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