Cleanup continues after Pendleton County train derailment
Much of the city of Falmouth came to a grinding halt as a train derailed in the middle of town Wednesday morning. After concerns about a hazmat leak, a cleanup crew gave the all-clear.
"It's just like a crazy, wrong place wrong time, natural disaster -type thing," Tiffney McCoy, who lives near the scene said.
The company that owns the train, CSX, says the 125-car train was traveling from Cincinnati to Atlanta. 23 of the cars derailed near Woodson Street in Falmouth around 10:40 a.m. on Wednesday. Of the 125 cars, 76 of them were loaded. Crews believe some of those loaded cars had hazardous materials in them.
Pendleton County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Moore said the Northern Kentucky Hazmat Team was called in to investigate whether or not any hazardous materials leaked from the cars. Moore said the agency issued a shelter-in-place warning for people living within the city limits while the hazmat team investigated.
"The damage assessment team has been out there, the hazmat team, and they found out there's no hazmat leaking at all," Moore said.
There is an elementary school near the derailment scene. Students at Southern Elementary School were taken to Pendleton County High School. People living at an assisted-living home nearby were taken to a church.
"It was about 11:30 when we got the call saying that as a precautionary measure they wanted us to evacuate the kids and move the kids. So at that time we made that move," Pendleton County Superintendent Dr. Anthony Strong said.
Some roads, including U.S. 27 in Falmouth were closed for several hours. Since then, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says U.S. 27 and all roads, except those near the derailment scene, have been re-opened. Moore said he was relieved no hazardous material had leaked out in the crash.
"If it was hazardous material, we would have to go into another whole operation and now we're just standing here traffic flowing by, and dealing with... the railroad has to deal with the cleanup, but our residents are safe and there's been no release of hazardous material," he said.
Power was also knocked out to people along U.S. 27, which is about half the city.
People living around town were able to get a closer look at the derailment site Thursday.
"Never seen anything like this in my life. Probably never will again and hope I never do again," said Rick Moore. "Just glad nobody got seriously hurt. It's really something to see."
Kentucky Emergency Management says the shelter-in-place order has been lifted.
A CSX representative said it could take days, maybe weeks, to clean the mess up. Many of the 23 derailed cars sustained damage. The tracks were also damaged. New tracks are being delivered by the truckload.
"Now, we're into a recovery and cleanup stage. There will be a lot of heavy equipment here along railroad tracks clean this up so I'd like to ask for people to stay away from that area we're going to try to cordon that off as much as possible," Moore said.
Investigators have not yet said what caused the derailment. CSX will look into that. The EMA director says the stretch of track where the derailment happened is fairly straight.