Train Derails in North Carolina During Hurricane Florence Flooding

September 18, 2018 Updated: September 18, 2018

Floodwaters from Hurricane Florence washed a train off the rails in Anson County on Sept. 16.

A major cleanup was underway on Monday after the derailment of the CSX freight train in Lilesville.

“None of the derailed cars were carrying hazardous material and none spilled their contents. Some of the locomotives released an undetermined amount of diesel fuel and motor oil,” according to a statement from CSX obtained by Fox 46.

The company was working with the federal Environmental Protection Agency on cleaning up the site, and a hazmat team was among those responding.

A picture from the scene late Sunday showed rail cars toppled over, with one sticking far into the air.

WRAL reported that the train’s crew was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.

North Carolina Residents Consider Fleeing

Meanwhile, residents across North Carolina considered evacuating as rivers quickly rose due to rainfall from Florence.

The storm has claimed at least 25 lives as of Monday evening and an untold number of homes on its slow march across North Carolina, inundating city after city: Wilmington, New Bern, and Lumberton. Now authorities are warning that by the time the Cape Fear River in Cumberland County crests Tuesday at 62 feet—27 feet over its flood stage—it will threaten to swamp anything within a mile on either side of it. Its tributary, the Little River, is expected to flood, too.

Waheeda Reese and her 14-year-old daughter, Anissa, of Fayetteville were inside watching news reports about drowned towns all over the state and rain that hadn’t yet stopped.

“All that water is going to come this way,” Anissa said, trying to convince her mother it was time to leave.

The city had taped a mandatory evacuation notice to their front door, and a friend in the fire department had called to warn, “I don’t want to have to come pick you up in a boat.”

Hurricane Florence evacuation
Waheeda Reese and her daughter, Anissa, pack up the car to leave their home in a mandatory evacuation area in Fayetteville, N.C., on Sept. 16, 2018. (Claire Galofaro/AP Photo)

They still had 22 hours until a deadline to go, and Waheeda wanted to stay. She pointed out the window and said, wishfully, “Look, I think the rain’s letting up.”

As the days drag on, Hurricane Florence has taken this deceptive turn: The violent winds that rattled shingles off houses and tore down trees have subsided, and the pounding rain has eased, lulling many in the storm’s path into believing they’ve already weathered the worst of it—even as rivers quietly churn and continue to rise.

More than 7,000 people were ordered to evacuate by Sunday afternoon. But many, weary of a storm that’s lingered on and on, did their own rough calculations of the odds and decided to stay.

As the Cape Fear River swelled, rescue teams trudged along its banks, pleading with people to get out of its way. Police officers went door to door. The mayor of Fayetteville presented the problem in the starkest of terms: Evacuate or notify your legal next of kin.

Anissa’s friend down the street was evacuating with his family and knocked on her door, begging her and her mother to come. The Reeses had packed their things just in case, tucking important documents in a water-tight bag. They stacked chairs on top of tables and moved all the family photos upstairs. Then they waited to see what would happen.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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