An Amtrak train with 183 passengers has been stranded in snowy Oregon since Sunday

Posted at 8:55 AM, Feb 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-26 10:56:32-05
Amtrak stranded
Amtrak Coast Starlight struck a tree that had fallen onto the tracks. There were no injuries to the 183 passengers on board or crew members. (photo credit: Rebekah Dodson/Twitter)

After record snow slammed Oregon, almost 200 people remain trapped on a train that came to a sudden stop Sunday evening south of Eugene.

After 36 hours stuck in one spot, the train finally started moving Tuesday morning. But it stopped again after about half a mile, passenger Emilie Wyrick told CNN.

Amtrak said no one was hurt Sunday when the train hit a tree that had fallen onto the tracks.

With the help of heat, power and (so far) food, passengers said the mood on board has been surprisingly upbeat.

“It’s just been like a giant kumbaya party,” Rebekah Dodson told CNN early Tuesday. “Strangers are playing cards. A teenager played his ukulele to kids to get them to sleep. Ladies who have never met before were dancing in aisles.”

Still, she said, the ordeal has been stressful as passengers cannot go anywhere. The train is surrounded by feet of snow. Some Los Angeles-bound college students have “panicked” because their professors won’t accept their excuse for missing class, Dodson said.

Amtrak train stranded since Sunday
An Amtrak train headed for Los Angeles with almost 200 people on board came to a standstill Sunday evening after hitting a tree that had fallen onto the tracks. More than 30 hours later, there’s still no movement. (photo credit: Rebekah Dodson/Twitter)

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told CNN that none of the 183 passengers and dozen crew members were injured, but that after the accident “conditions further deteriorated with numerous track blockages from snow and fallen trees.”

“Due to worsening conditions, area road closures and no viable way to safely transport passengers or crews via alternate transportation, Train 11 stopped in Oakridge, Oregon,” he said. “We are actively working with Union Pacific to clear the right of way and get passengers off the train.”

The train had power and enough food on board, for which passengers will not be charged, Amtrak said on Twitter on Monday.

But Dodson said Tuesday morning that passengers had been told breakfast would be the last meal available. She said she can see nearby Oregon Highway 58, closed due to snow and ice. The town of Oakridge has no electricity due to the weather, she said.

The National Weather Service had predicted Sunday that up to 2 feet could fall in the area. By Tuesday morning, at least a foot had accumulated, the weather service said. Oakridge averages 1.1 inches in February.

Eugene, home to the University of Oregon about 45 miles northwest, had a record-setting 9.5 inches Monday, the weather service said.

Dodson was trying to return home to Klamath Falls after a teaching conference in Portland.

She said the passengers include families with children and a few dozen college students — including about 20 students from Japan. Crew members had been “professional and nice” throughout.

Passenger Carly Bigby told CNN affiliate KOIN 6the snack cart on the train is empty and people have run out of diapers for their children.

“A lot of the [older] kids have been really good but they’re having to run up and down and it’s a lot,”she told the news station. “Especially the food — it’s not really food they’re liking. Moms are doing all they can right now.”

Bigby also said some people don’t have good cell phone reception in the area where the train is stuck, and haven’t been able to easily contact their families.

Train 11, which operates daily between Seattle and Los Angeles, struck the fallen tree around 6:18 p.m. Sunday, Magliari said.

Amtrak anticipates the train will be able to return to Eugene on Tuesday morning, he said.

-Jay Croft and Gianluca Mezzofiore reporting for CNN

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