Winter weather disrupts Western rail service, logistics networks

Date: Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Source: Supply Chain Dive

  • Union Pacific began shutting all intermodal gates Tuesday morning as a result of weekend winter weather that impacted railroad crews in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin and Washington, it said in a service alert Monday. Adverse weather conditions are expected to continue this week.
  • BNSF also notified customers of potential operational impacts to its network due to the weather and said "extended delays" should be expected for shipments moving through Texas and parts of the Gulf Coast.
  • Union Pacific told customers to expect a delay of at least 72 hours for shipments moving through the affected region until conditions improve.

The disruptions to rail service come to a supply chain slowed to a crawl in some areas as a result of port congestion stemming from record levels of imports.

Along with railroads, logistics companies are also warning customers of potential disruptions. FedEx and UPS released service advisories warning of potential shipment delays. FedEx Ground has partial service in 16 states, FedEx Freight has temporarily suspended service in multiple cities in 18 states, and FedEx Express has temporarily suspended service in multiple cities in eight states. FedEx and UPS said they already had contingency plans in place.

"To help avoid delays, we encourage you to contact your recipients to verify whether their location is open or able to receive deliveries," FedEx said.

The winter storm dropped 4 inches of snow at the Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, which is the most snow the region has seen since 2010, according to The Weather Channel. It has left millions without power, including 4.3 million in Texas, according to

Union Pacific said intermodal gate closures would start at 8 a.m. in the time zone where the terminal is located. It said it would continue to accept shipments originating or terminating at on-dock terminals at either Los Angeles or Long Beach.

"Please note that all terminals will continue to be open for outgates, and we strongly urge you to assist the network recovery process by continuing to pull notified units," the railroad's service alerts read.

In 2019, BNSF said it started using two passenger rail cars that it referred to as "snow coaches" to reposition its crews when roads became impassable. The railroad also noted that it has hundreds of tons of salt and thousands of switch heaters to keep equipment from freezing.


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