Witness describes Alma train derailment

Five tankers leaked unknown amount of ethanol into Mississippi River

No one is injured after a train derailed in Buffalo County Saturday morning.

Just before 9 a.m, the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department said 32 cars fell off the tracks near Highway 35 and County Road I, about 2 miles north of Alma.

The Sheriff’s Department said five of the cars were carrying ethanol that leaked into the Mississippi River. The leaks have been contained, but officials are not sure how much ethanol entered the water.

At about 2:30 p.m. the Sheriff’s Department said the clean-up process was underway, but not before more than 100 people in the small town of Alma were evacuated. The incident also shut down Highway 35 and forced boats off the Mississippi River.

“Basically I was the first one to see it when we had rounded the tree line and there it was, that one car sticking straight up,” said Adam Rogers.

Rogers and two friends were out early Saturday duck hunting on the river for his birthday.

Rogers said he hunts near Alma often, but Saturday was anything but ordinary.

“As we came out of there and broke the tree line there it was right in front of us,” Rogers said.

Rogers said he and his buddies saw the train go past them but never heard a loud noise or crashing sound.

“We went over, got as close as we could,” Rogers said. “We took some pictures with our cellphones.”

“There was a guy up on the railroad tracks in an orange vest and he said, he was yelling at us to, ‘Get out of there! Get out of there,'” Rogers said.

“As we got closer to it, we could see one of the cars was spewing out liquid and we didn’t know what it was, we knew that it was. There was a flammable sign right on it so we knew that it had to be something pretty serious.”

What Rogers saw leaking from the tanker car was ethanol, and it was serious enough for the Buffalo County sheriff to issue a voluntary evacuation to nearby residents.

“It was about a half a mile area that was evacuated, or asked for evacuation, approximately 150 residents were evacuated,” Colin Severson, chief deputy with the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department, said.

Severson said fortunately no one was hurt and the clean-up process was able to begin.

But Rogers said even when everything is back to normal on the tracks, it never will be for him.

“We knew that this was going to be something absolutely serious,” Rogers said. “It was just like I knew right away it was something I would never forget seeing.”

BNSF released a statement saying, “BNSF personnel are working to address the leaks and contain the product. BNSF will work with the EPA and state agencies on the best plan for mitigation and remediation efforts.”

Residents who were financially impacted by Saturday’s temporary evacuation can contact BNSF’s Claims Department at 763-782-3354.

BNSF said there were no reports of fire, smoke or injuries. The company has no estimate on when the tracks will reopen, saying the cars will have to be cleaned out and the tracks repaired. For now trains will be rerouted.

The Federal Railroad Administration will be investigating what caused the derailment.

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Ethanol has been leaked into the Mississippi River in Buffalo County after a train derailed Saturday morning.

The Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office said it happened just north of Alma around 8:50 a.m.

The Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office said 32 cars went off tracks and of those, five carrying ethanol did leak into the Mississippi River.

BNSF spokesperson Amy McBeth released a statement saying, “BNSF personnel are working to address the leaks and contain the product. BNSF will work with the EPA and state agencies on the best plan for mitigation and remediation efforts.”

Buffalo County’s sheriff said the leaks have been stopped by BNSF crews but they are not sure how much leaked into the river.

The multi-car derailment also caused a voluntary evacuation for residents and shut down portions of Highway 35 and 37.

The evacuation order has been lifted and there is no threat to the public according to McBeth. No one was injured during the incident.

McBeth also says for residents who incurred expenses during the temporary evacuation, they can contact BNSF’s Claims Department at 763-782-3354.

The La Crosse Fire Departments Hazmat team assisted at the scene. Around 9:30 a.m.  Buffalo County emergency personnel requested the foam trailer, which is kept in La Crosse. Captain Snow said there was no fire at the scene, but the foam trailer was requested for precautionary measures.

Stay with News 8 and www.news8000.com for the latest on this developing story.

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UPDATE (1:05 p.m.): Buffalo Co. Sheriff’s Department says residents evacuated because of the train derailment are now being allowed to go home.

Roads are still closed.

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Update (11:05 a.m.): Buffalo Co. Sheriff’s Dept. now says 32 cars are derailed. 

Emergency personnel are waiting for the Burlington Northern crew to arrive to evaluate on whether roads can be opened and evacuated residents can return to their homes.

The Alma Legion is set up for evacuated residents.

Amy McBeth with BNSF released a statement saying, “At about 8:45 CST this morning a train derailed approximately two miles north of Alma, WI. Initial reports are that 20 cars derailed, including empty auto racks and tanker cars of denatured alcohol. There are no reports of fire or smoke at this time. Local responders and BNSF personnel are responding to the scene. No injuries have been reported.”

The La Crosse Fire Departments Hazmat team is assisting at the scene. Around 9:30 a.m.  Buffalo County emergency personnel requested the foam trailer, which is kept in La Crosse. Captain Snow said there was no fire at the scene, but the foam trailer was requested for precautionary measures.

Businesses in downtown Alma are able to be open.

Stay with News 8 and www.news8000.com for the latest on this developing story.

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Emergency crews are on the scene of a train derailment north of Alma in Buffalo County.

It happened Saturday morning.

The Buffalo Co. Sheriff’s Dept. says the derailment includes between 12 to 15 cars.

Highway 35 is closed between North Main Street and Riverview Dr. in Alma to Highway 35 and Spring Creek Road.

Highway 37 is closed from County Rd. S to Hwy. 35.

A voluntary evacuation in the affected area is underway at this time.

Pictures from the scene show several cars derailed along the Mississippi River.

The sheriff’s office is requesting emergency personnel only at the scene.

There is no word on any injuries at this time.

Stay with News 8 and www.news8000.com for the latest on this developing story.

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