02 April 2015

Oil Train Derailment and Community Evacuation‏

The numerous trains carrying hazardous materials which travel through sandhill's communities has raised concern over safety and protection of residents, especially if a derailment occurs and if a fire ensues.

If a train with dozens of cars loaded with petroleum products such as oil would derail from the tracks, the standard practice is to evacuate everyone except emergency responders within a one-half mile distance (equals 2640 feet), according to Department of Transportation regulations. If there is a fire, the distance is one mile.

For informational purposes, an evaluation of distances was done for several communities to map the extent of evacuation required if a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train derailment occurred at a prominent point at a particular location. This site is typically where a highway or other prominent roadway crosses the railway tracks. Distances were measured using the online national map program provided by the U.S. Geological Service.

Lakeside: within one-quarter of a mile of where Highway 250 crosses the tracks, nearly the entire community would have to be evacuated.

Ellsworth: a one-quarter mile distance from Highway 27 crossing would require evacuation of the entire community.

Bingham: a one-quarter mile distance would include nearly the entire community, except for its very eastern extent.

Ashby: a quarter-mile would include the majority of the village, and a one-half mile distance would extend as far north as the Thurston place along the North Ashby road.

Hyannis (distance from railway track crossing at Highway 61) - one-quarter mile: north to the airport and east to the inter-village gas-station; one-half mile: the entire village to the north, west and south including the courthouse, elementary school, Winter building and as far east to nearly the motel; one-mile: the entire village and as far east as the Hebbert place and including the high school.

Within Hyannis, the hotel is slightly more than 220 feet from the railway tracks, the courthouse about 330 feet, the elementary school a bit more than 500 feet and the high school about 730 feet. Alden Avenue is less than 150 feet from the tracks, and most of the associated homes are 200 feet or less of a distance from the main railway. A majority of the buildings to the south are also just a few hundred feet away from the tracks.

In case of any derailment anywhere along the railway through town, there are no buildings more than one thousand feet distance north or south along the alignment.

Highway 2 and Highway 61 would have to be closed in the case of nearly any derailment within the Hyannis setting, since they are within the primary evacuation zone.

Whitman: all structures within Whitman, except for the few houses at the very western end of Weaver Street, are within one-quarter mile of where the road north crosses the BNSF tracks. The post-office is about 175 feet distance to the north.

Mullen (a one-quarter mile distance from where Highway 97 crosses the tracks includes courthouse square and the entire downtown): most of the village is within a one-half mile distance of the evaluation mark, which would include both schools, the nursing home and majority of residences. Only a portion at the west and east ends would not be included. No portion of the primary part of Mullen is more than 2000 feet distance from the railway.

All of Mullen is within three-quarters of a mile of the highway railroad crossing.

Thedford (distance from where Maple Street crosses the tracks on the south side): all of the village is within a one-half mile circle, except for a few places on the northern edge. The lumber-yard is about 175 feet north of the tracks. The courthouse is less than 390 feet distance away. The school on north Maple Street is about 1100 feet from the tracks.

Highway 2 is about 730 feet from the crossing, so a derailment would require that the highway be closed. The Middle Loup River channel is 850 feet to the south. Also note that Highway 83 is within one mile, so that highway may also have to be closed to traffic.

Halsey (distance from where Main Street and the railway tracks): the entire village is within one-half mile of the railway crossing. The school is less than 700 feet distance to the north.

Dunning (distance from where Carney Street crosses the tracks at the southwest area of the village): a quarter-mile circle does not reach Highway 2, but does include the majority of the downtown area, the school and reaches the Middle Loup River on its northern edge. A half-mile circle includes the entire place, including the Highway 2 - Highway 91 intersection. A mile distance would include the gas station along Highway 2 to the north, and the Zutavern feedyard at the south. None of the buildings within Dunning are more than 2000 feet from the railway.

Graphic images depicting a one mile radius circle centered at BNSF railroad crossings at four sandhill's villages.


Rings are spaced at a one-tenth mile distance.


Rings are spaced at a one-quarter mile distance.