Thursday, June 30, 2016

BNSF train wreck update

Train service resumed at 1:30 this afternoon. Nothing more eerie than the sound of the train whistles at the crossings after three days of silence. The effort to find the last victim is ongoing, the cleanup is ongoing, the whole effort is massive and the support of the community has been awe inspiring. Churches are rotating fixing meals for the workers, supplies and comforts are pouring in to the Methodist church, and all the churches are open around the clock for the workers to seek comfort and counseling.

The names of the two men who have been recovered have been released; the third, however, has not been made public. I was given the information by a BNSF source, but out of respect to the person's loved ones, I won't post it until it's given to the media.

Mr. Kenneth Smith, Jr, 59, was a conductor and had worked for BNSF for 39 years. He is survived by his wife, Donna, and a son and daughter. Smith's son works for BNSF in the Network Operations Center in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Mr. Cody Owens, 52, was a locomotive engineer and had worked for BNSF for almost 22 years. He is survived by his wife, Cynthia, and two sons and a  daughter.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of these three individuals.

Gender confusion in 3...2...1....

Don't tell me how to live my life!

The Shining twins grow up

And are even scarier.

Looks like Plumber Stew tonight

Now you know why I garden

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

When you're a redneck down to one tooth

Survivalthon, New for the Rio Olympics

Wreck update

Bright and early this morning, well around 9 am, a knock on the door and interviews with the NTSB representative who has officially taken over the investigation, and then the BNSF representative 30 minutes later. Don't know what I could tell them, I didn't see anything only heard the crash.

They have recovered two bodies, and are searching for the third. It's officially moved from a rescue to a recovery. I was talking to one of the crane operators this morning, and he said that all four men were assumed to have jumped, the engineers first and then the conductors after brakes had been set to slow the trains somewhat. They were hoping to find injured men under crumpled but not burning wreckage, you know, one of those miracle rescues you see after earthquakes and bomb explosions.

Last night was sleepless. 4 billion watt floodlights so they could work to clear the wreckage through the night. Coupling cars, moving debris, BEEPBEEPBEEP, BOOM, CRUNCH, BOOMBOOMBOOM, BEEPBEEPBEEP.... but this morning, the standing cars had been cleared from the tracks and they had started on the crumpled wreckage. I have to applaud the heavy equipment operators, the cranes, the backhoes, the guy that operated the claw thingy that delicately and meticulously picked apart and set aside barely recognizable pieces for the investigators to study.
It was truly remarkable. The guy with the Forklift From Hell that picked up intact boxcars and set them on the tracks and then gently smacked their little bottoms to scoot them out of the way for the next boxcar. The crane operator that picked up the piggyback trailers and set them expertly on the tops of the boxcars. Max and I stood there for probably half an hour watching from across the field before he reminded me that we were there for his walkie not for my lookie.

Continued prayers for the families of the men who lost their lives, and thanks to the first reponders who worked long hot hours to keep a huge accident from turning into a disaster.

Don't tell me how to live my life!

And then I named the butter knife Lola

Because whatever Lola wants, Lola gets...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Okay, so this happened...

About 8 this morning, Max and I were in the front yard pulling weeds and harassing rabbits when we were basically knocked on our asses. The homestead isn't that far from the BNSF train tracks, and we're talking a major artery for freight transportation. We're used to hearing the boom of cars being coupled, but this was a BOOM!!!!! Long and loud and seemingly never-ending. And then there was a fireball. And smoke, and more fire, and another explosion, and then hell. Two BNSF trains collided head on at full speed. Four crew members, two conductors and two engineers, were on board. One jumped before impact and was taken to a local hospital. The other three have not been found. The authorities are still, somewhat hopefully, calling it a rescue effort.

Then a succession of every available emergency vehicle in 4 counties. All Panhandle crews, then Claude and White Deer. Then Borger and Pampa. Then Amarillo and Pantex. Fire crews, ambulances, emergency response vehicles, sheriffs, police, BNSF, FRA, water trucks, chemical pumper trucks, crane trucks. All driving down our tiny little barely two lane almost rural road. We were told to shelter in place, then evacuate, then don't if you don't want to, then mandatory, then come back but look out for wind shifts. There's no HAZMAT threats, but the area is a tinder box, we're in a burn ban and that's a big ass fire.

The multiple fire trucks are constantly pumping water to keep the fire from spreading, they can't put it out. Diesel fires just have to burn themselves out. We have no water pressure and they're trucking tankers of water in from outlying municipalities. If there is a grass fire, with our high winds and dry conditions and lack of water, we're all fucked.

We're at home, less than 1.5 miles from the impact site, within the voluntary evacuation zone, watching the wind. If we have to bug out, I'll let wirecutter know so he can let y'all know. In the meantime, please send up prayers for the crew members and 1st responders.