Hurricane Ida forced the Kansas City Southern rail network to shut its main line in Louisiana and halt exchanges between railroads in New Orleans, which may worsen delays in a US shipping industry that is already stretched thin.
Kansas City Southern said it doesn't know when service will resume on its main Louisiana rail route because crews must wait for flood water to recede before beginning repairs. The railroad operator also shut a line in Mississippi from Gulfport to Hattiesburg, according to a statement on its website.
"Please note that once the line has reopened, customers should expect some delays until the backlog has been alleviated and normal speeds can be resumed over the affected area," the company said.
Almost all the major railroads, including Union Pacific, CSX and BNSF Railway, have lines that run to New Orleans. The service disruption could spread across the US rail network as freight cars have to be rerouted, which would exacerbate an already tight supply chain. It typically takes weeks and even months for railroads to fully recover from an extended shutdown of main lines.
At New Orleans, which is a major rail gateway, there's no interchange of freight cars between western and eastern railroads, Union Pacific said in a statement. This lack of railcar transfers adds another obstacle to cross-country shipping. The railroad is also grappling with road closures and power outages as it begins to inspect tracks and repair damage.
Norfolk Southern, which operates in the eastern US, said it closed a rail yard yesterday that handles maritime containers and plans to resume operations today.
"Customers with shipments arriving or departing from our New Orleans facility should expect delays of at least 24 hours," the railroad said on Sunday.
BNSF said its crews are conducting inspections of the company's main line between New Orleans and Lafayette, Louisiana.
Hurricane Ida caused major flooding and structural damage after making landfall Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane about 97 kilometers south of New Orleans. More flooding is expected as the storm moves north.
Along with the slowdown of rail service, the cost to hire a truck will rise as demand increases in the Gulf Coast region for trucks to haul in supplies for the relief and rebuilding of the area, said Adam Roszkowski, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence.