September 20, 2018: CSX Railroad Fought A North Carolina City’s Desperate Attempt To Prevent Devastating Flooding

As residents and city officials in Lumberton, North Carolina began preparations ahead of Hurricane Florence they requested permission to construct a temporary sandbag berm that would run across railroad tracks belonging to CSX in an effort to fill a gap in the city’s levee system.
Unfortunately, CSX refused to permit the berm and went as far as to threaten legal action against the city should they proceed with the berm anyway.
City officials were forced to reach out to Gov. Roy Cooper and to the State Department of Public Safety to intervene on the city’s behalf. They were finally permitted to begin construction late last week.
Sadie Weiner, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, said “CSX officials who were contacted did not consent to allowing for sandbagging of the tracks, arguing that there was no proof that it would work and that it would cause significant damage to their tracks. Upon further consultation and advice of local and state emergency management, the Governor issued an emergency order on Friday morning to allow for the construction of a temporary berm at the CSX railroad intersection.”
Local attorney Stephen McIntyre said “It is unfortunate that CSX proved to be such an obstacle to the protection and the safety of so many people’s lives along with their homes, businesses, and places of worship. I am sure that the last-minute efforts that were made bought time and saved some lives and property, but if CSX had been cooperative, we could have done so much more sooner.”
The residents in Robeson County were shocked at CSX’s refusal to allow the berm considering that very same spot was flooded with water from the Lumber River during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and caused catastrophic flooding in the area, displacing over 1,500 residents for several months.
A spokeswoman for CSX told reporters that she was unaware of any pending or threatened litigation made against the city for the construction of the berm. She said the reason behind the refusal to allow the berm was that CSX had to keep the rail line open the week before the hurricane in an effort to ensure that all hazardous materials in the area where safely shipped out and to make sure emergency rescue equipment could make it in. She went on to say that CSX stayed in constant communication with city officials and provided safe access to the site once the rail line was shut down Friday, suggesting that local officials would have been able to move forward with construction of the berm without an emergency order from the governor.

CSX Railroad Fought A North Carolina City’s Desperate Attempt To Prevent Devastating Flooding