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July 24, 2008

500 Year Flood

Submerged In the Midwest: R. J. Corman Storm Team Responds To A 500-Year Flood

R. J. Corman Storm Team repaired rain washouts in the Midwest in April 2008, but the devastating rains were yet to come. By mid-June of the same year, record breaking rain hit and levees along the Mississippi River started failing with Iowa and Missouri hit the hardest by flood waters. U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was quoted saying “nearly a third of Iowa is already under water and water levels are continuing to rise”.

This area of the Mississippi basin contains three major U.S. railroads: Union Pacific (UP), Burlington National Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) and Canadian National Railway (CN), each impacted by the flooding. An analyst from Morgan Stanley reported that UP was hit the hardest followed by BNSF and CN.

By June 17th, R. J. Corman Storm Team crews moved into Burlington, Iowa and set up a staging area near a BNSF rail yard. Crews prepped to stabilize and possibly rebuild track beds wherever needed. Until the water receded to the point the right-of- way could be seen, crews prepared equipment and staged material – thousands of tons of ballast and crossties. During the wait, R. J. Corman subcontractors used airboats to wrangle hundreds of floating ties.

R. J. Corman crews along with 13 subcontractors worked 42 days straight to get the railroads back on track. During that time, crews manned 195 pieces of heavy equipment. There were six different jobs in this response requiring 145 employees sourced from various R. J. Corman companies.

Like all Storm Team responses, this flood had its own unique challenges. The site occupied a vast area with limited road access. Some crews were forced to take airboats to safely get to the remote areas needing track repair. Submergible track hoes were brought in, as well as three rock trains. Crews expertly dealt with extreme heat, a variety of biting insects, snakes and an immense amount of debris-filled river water.

By July 18th, the railroads were rolling again and crews returned home.

What is a 500-year flood?
A 500-year flood has nothing to do with calendar years. It represents the quantity of water that has a one in 500 chance of happening in any one year. This means these types of floods have a 0.2 percent chance of occurring in any given year. (Source: The USGS Water Science School - 2016)