Evacuation planning for train derailment throughout La Crosse Co.

There are six areas in La Crosse County emergency officials are trying to create an escape plan for in the case of a train derailment.

This stems from a second Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line being added through La Crosse.

One of those six areas is Brice Prairie. Tuesday night La Crosse County Emergency Management held a meeting for residents and community leaders to discuss concerns and hopefully find a safe evacuation plan.

There are just two roads in and out of Brice Prairie, County Road Z and ZN, but both of those roads cross over the BNSF railroad tracks.

“Travel by car, truck, bus is almost impossible when both of those crossings are blocked,” said La Crosse County Emergency Management Coordinator Keith Butler.

Butler said the second BNSF rail line through La Crosse will allow for more crude oil to be hauled through the area. If one of those trains were to derail, the roughly 3,000 people on Brice Prairie could be in extreme danger.

“Well this particular product has the explosive nature of refined crude oil, it’s like gasoline so it’s much more intense,” Butler said.

That’s why an evacuation plan needs to be drawn up.

“It’s literally a two-way street, we need to get people out by the streets, but we also need to get helpers in there by street and we’re discovering that that may not be practical at all,” Butler said.

Brice Prairie EMS and Rescue knows all too well the issues that come with the crossings being blocked by trains. That was actually a big factor in deciding to create the team.

“It’s a regular occurrence; we’ll get on scene and begin providing care and we’ll hear from the ambulance, or we do have some responders on the other side of the tracks, advising that they’re blocked by a train and they’ll get there when they can,” said Service Director Chris O’Hearn.

Butler said Brice Prairie is almost like a disaster planner’s worst nightmare because there is no easy solution, but he said until one is found residents need to be sure they’re prepared.

“People need to understand that self-sustainment for maybe three days or longer may be the key to survival,” Butler said.

Creating an emergency evacuation plan is part of a grant La Crosse County was awarded. Plans needs to be completed by the end of September for all of the six locations.

Butler said he will be looking into the feasibility of evacuation options such as helicopter and boats.

The other areas emergency management will be looking into are Onalaska, three different areas in La Crosse and Goose Island.

The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. at the Omni Center Banquet Hall.

There will be a meeting for each location within the coming weeks, but those are not scheduled yet.