Authorities are racing the clock to free nearly 200 passengers who have been stuck on an Amtrak train in Oregon for two days. Learn more about the situation, and how crews are saving them from a record snowstorm.
An Amtrak train heading from Seattle to Los Angeles has been stranded near Eugene, Oregon since approximately 6:00pm on Sunday, February 24. As of the morning of February 26, the 183 passengers were still on board, waiting for crews to arrive to get them back on track. The crews are expected to reach the train by 6:00am PST, according to Union Pacific spokesman Tim McMahan, who added that the train will move back to Eugene and Portland. Learn more about the situation and what passengers are experiencing in the meantime:
1. The train has been stuck since Sunday after hitting a tree. Oregon is currently facing a massive snowstorm, and with it, dangerously high winds. Trees have fallen on the tracks for miles, and the Amtrak train unfortunately hit one. Crews have been working day and night to clear the tracks and reach the train, but the weather is making it nearly impossible. Eugene, the largest nearby city, 45 miles away, experienced a record-setting 9.5 inches of snow on February 25. The National Weather Service expected two feet of snow to fall.
2. Passengers can’t get off the train because of the snowstorm. The train is just outside the small town of Oakridge, Oregon, but it’s impossible to let the passengers make the trek. The entire town has no electricity due to the weather, and Oregon Highway 58, visible from the train, is completely shut down due to snow and ice. Winds are currently around 20mph and temperatures have dropped to the low 30s. Oakridge averages 1.1 inches of snow in February, according to the National Weather Service, but by Tuesday morning, they experienced over a foot. They have no choice but to wait for the rescue team.
3. Passengers and crew aboard the train are safe. Amtrak confirmed that there is ample food and water on the train, and that passengers do not have to pay for it. There is heat, and nobody was injured when the train hit the tree. Some passengers have reported, though, that there are kids on board who are bored and getting antsy — and that they’re running out of diapers for their babies.
4. Despite the situation, spirits are (were?) still high among the passengers. “It’s just been like a giant kumbaya party,” one of the passengers, Rebekah Dodson, told CNN in the early hours of February 26. “Strangers are playing cards. A teenager played his ukulele to kids to get them to sleep. Ladies who have never met before were dancing in aisles.” Dodson said passengers were told that breakfast this morning would be their last meal on the train. She praised crew members, though, whom she said had been “professional and nice” throughout the ordeal.
5. But maybe things are actually “hell?” Dodson said in a Facebook post before the CNN interview that, “This is hell, and it’s getting worse. Today has been crazy … helping people out of panic attacks and chasing down toddlers. Among other things, the last 18 hours has been insanity and gone by in the blink of an eye.” As of publication, the train is still stalled — we’ll keep you updated when that changes.