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Georgia Train Derailment Forces Evacuations as Delta's Remnants Bring Flooding, Tornadoes Across South

By Ron Brackett and Jan Wesner Childs

October 11, 2020

At a Glance

  • A track washout caused by Delta's rains may have caused the train to derail in Lilburn, Georgia.
  • A tornado damaged a homeless shelter in Covington, Georgia.
  • In Louisiana, more than 338,000 homes and businesses remained without electricity.
  • Louisiana's governor blamed Delta for one death.
  • Damage was reported from two possible tornadoes in South Carolina.
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Intense rain and flash flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Delta may have caused a train derailment that forced residents from their homes early Sunday in Northeast Georgia.

Hurricane Delta, which made landfall Friday in Creole, Louisiana, left more destruction across storm-ravaged Southwest Louisiana before weakening and moving across the South on Saturday and overnight Sunday causing flash flooding and possible tornadoes. Rainfall from Delta will spread into parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast Interstate 95 corridor through Monday.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Sunday blamed the hurricane for the death of an 86-year-old man in St. Martin Parish who died in a fire sparked while the man was refueling a generator.

More than 440,000 homes and businesses across the South — from Texas to Georgia — remained without power as of 12:30 p.m. Sunday, according to poweroutage.us.

Here's a look at the impacts of the storm.

South Carolina

Late Sunday afternoon, possible tornadoes caused damage in parts of Northeast South Carolina.

Images shared on Twitter by WPDE chief meteorologist Ed Piotrowski showed a smashed roof on a home in Conway in Horry County, South Carolina, after storms caused by the remnants of Delta moved through the area about 4:30 p.m. WPDE reported that more than 1,500 customers had lost electricity.

In neighboring Dillon County, a possible tornado toppled trees onto Interstate 95 between the towns of Dillon and Latta about 4 p.m., WPDE reported. Northbound traffic backed up on the interstate.

Georgia

Thirty-seven cars, including two locomotives, derailed about 1:40 a.m. Sunday in Lilburn, about 20 miles northeast of Atlanta in Gwinnett County.

The derailment caused ethanol to spill from two tankers, one of which caught fire, a spokesman for CSX told weather.com.

The fire spread to nearby woods. About 3 a.m., residents living within a half-mile north of the tracks were ordered to leave their homes. Gwinnett fire officials said that at the time they didn't know what the spill was. The order was lifted about 6 a.m.

The fire at the tanker burned itself out, the CSX spokesman said, and the second tanker has been secured.

Two people on the train, the conductor and engineer, had non-life threatening injuries and were taken to a hospital, WXIA reported. CSX said they have been released.

Two people on a train that derailed early Sunday, October 11, 2020, in Lilburn, Georgia. The conductor and engineer had non-life threatening injuries and were taken to a hospital, according to fire officials. (Twitter/@GwinnettFire)
Two people on a train that derailed early Sunday, October 11, 2020, in Lilburn, Georgia. The conductor and engineer had non-life threatening injuries and were taken to a hospital, according to fire officials.
(Twitter/@GwinnettFire)

"Preliminary information indicates that the derailment was caused by a track washout from intense rain and flash flooding conditions in the area," a statement from CSX said.

That area of Northeast Georgia received 2 to 5 inches of rain, weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce said.

Flash flooding was reported in many areas of Georgia on Saturday and there were dozens of tornado warnings.

Before the train derailment, Gwinnett firefighters and swiftwater rescue technicians rescued two people whose vehicle was submerged in flood waters shortly before midnight. No one was injured.

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Atlanta Fire Rescue tweeted that by 10:15 p.m. it had responded to more than a dozen calls for vehicles stuck in high water.

South of Atlanta, there were several reports of damage caused by possible tornadoes.

Images on social media showed damage at Newnan High School in Coweta County, and officials told WXIA trees and power lines were down across the county.

A National Weather Service representative confirmed to WXIA that a tornado touched down in Covington in Newton County. The tornado damaged a homeless shelter about 5:15 p.m. Saturday, the Covington News reported. One person had minor injuries, Covington Police spokesman Capt. Ken Malcom said. Shelter director Clara Lett said the people living at the shelter would be taken to a nearby gym.

Police in Roswell, Georgia, reported that several of the city's roads were closed because of floodwater.

Louisiana

Meanwhile, residents of Louisiana continued to try to come to grips with the damage left by a second hurricane within six weeks of the first.

The blue tarps tied to thousands of roofs to cover the damage left by Hurricane Laura on Aug. 27 offered little protection against the winds and rain of Hurricane Delta.

“In the first five minutes, it blew the tarp off,” Brian Schexnayder told the Times-Picayune.

Delta destroyed what was left of Schexnayder's home near Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Floodwaters from Hurricane Delta surround structures destroyed by Hurricane Laura on Saturday, October 10, 2020, in Creole, Louisiana. Hurricane Delta made landfall near Creole as a Category 2 storm in Louisiana. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Floodwaters from Hurricane Delta surround structures destroyed by Hurricane Laura on Saturday, October 10, 2020, in Creole, Louisiana. Hurricane Delta made landfall near Creole as a Category 2 storm in Louisiana.
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Delta dumped record amounts of rain in some parts of Louisiana, causing flash flooding that stranded cars, made roads impassable and sent water into homes. More than a foot of rain fell in parts of Lake Charles.

More than 300,000 customers were still without power on Sunday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us. At a briefing, Gov. Edwards said 50% of all outages caused by Delta had been restored.

(MORE: Louisiana Just Spent Weeks Restoring Power After Hurricane Laura. Now, After Hurricane Delta, They're Starting Over.)

More than 9,400 people were being sheltered by the state Saturday, The Associated Press reported, citing Gov. John Bel Edwards. Nearly all of them were Laura evacuees.

The governor said 3,000 National Guard troops were mobilized after Delta and 10,000 utility workers were fanned out across the region.

“Add Laura and Delta together and it’s just absolutely unprecedented and catastrophic,” Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said. “We are very concerned that with everything going in the country right now that this incident may not be on the radar nationally like it should be.”

Many parishes had curfews in place, and those that were allowing residents back in urged them to secure their homes and leave again as soon as possible.

The aftermath of Hurricane Delta is seen Saturday Oct. 10, 2020, near Jennings, La. (Bill Feig/The Advocate via AP, Pool)
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The aftermath of Hurricane Delta is seen Saturday Oct. 10, 2020, near Jennings, La. (Bill Feig/The Advocate via AP, Pool)

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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