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21 coal train cars derail southeast of Lusk, temporarily closing the railroad 

Lusk, Wyoming

A Union Pacific coal train derailed near Lusk early Monday morning, temporarily closing some railroad lines going to the Powder River Basin, the top producing coal area in the nation.

At about 6:30 a.m. Monday, July 10, 21 coal train cars derailed just southeast of Lusk, as first reported by Wyofile.

No one was hurt and hazmat was not involved, according to a written statement from Union Pacific.

James Santistevan, emergency management coordinator for Niobrara County, was on the scene shortly after the wreck. He said they are not sure yet how much coal was lost. Typically one car carries about 100 tons – so that would be about 2,100 tons of coal.

“They've got mangled cars with coal out of them,” Santistevan said. “They don't have a real big mass but it's a time consuming job to get all them cars pulled apart and get them out on the road so they can inspect what is underneath the wreckage and then clean up the coal.”

Santistevan said the area has been getting hit with heavy torrential rains, which is why he thinks the train derailed.

“Maybe some of the ballast washed out from underneath the track. And if it dipped enough to where it knocked the car off and then it just didn’t chain reaction,” he said.

Union Pacific said the cause of the derailment is under investigation.

The last derailment in this area was in 2016. Santistevan said it was also after flooding.

Union Pacific said it does not have an estimate on when the railroad track will reopen, but Santistevan said he hoped for later Monday evening.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.

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