PRINCETON — Gibson County Emergency Management Agency Director Terry Hedges said a Indiana Homeland Security survey conducted a few years ago counted between 60 to 80 trains passing through Princeton every day.
"You don't want to know the commodities going through here, it's frightening," he told Gibson County Commissioners Tuesday morning.
He made that observation while reviewing the response to a June 17 CSX train derailment just south of the city.
Hedges said that while the formal investigation by the Federal Railroad Administration and Indiana State Police is not yet complete, it appears a portion of the rail failed, causing 23 cars in a 98-car two-engine southbound train to derail.
One propane tanker bumped another and an explosion and fire ensued, prompting an evacuation of a one-mile radius of the site.
Authorities said propane released at the site was not a health threat, and most of the smoke from the derailment site came from burning refrigerated cars loaded with packaged french fries.
Hedges said three other propane tankers on the train did not rupture. The train was also carrying malt liquor and roofing shingles, he reported.
Hedges thanked emergency responders and noted that CSX had hazardous materials response crews traveling from Florida and Maryland at the scene by 2 a.m. June 18. He said the railroad company is reimbursing expenses of responders and reimbursing documented expenses of those affected by the evacuation. He estimated the cost of emergency response resources at just under $100,000.
He said local restaurants helped, providing plenty of food, and volunteers including the Red Cross were on the scene in addition to first responders, law enforcement, medical crews, firefighters and haz-mat crews.
"It went as good as it could possibly go," he said of the three days of response at the site, noting no one was injured during the incident or in the ensuing days. "I don't want to see it again...nobody wants to see that again," he added.
Hedges said Gibson Countians have had their fair share of emergencies in the past few weeks. He said the National Weather Service came to Fort Branch Friday to make an assessment of last Tuesday's storm damage and determined the event was a microburst (storm down-draft). "They (NWS) had to retrace the path back to Posey County," he reported.
Hedges earlier said the path was about about three quarters of a mile wide and eight miles long, with winds averaging 65-70 mph and a peak gust of 90 mph. He said Fort Branch Town Marshal Rick Sides captured video footage of the storm coming into Fort Branch, which helped NWS make a better assessment.