Trains and Tornadoes

Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

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Trains and Tornadoes

Postby GaryAF » Mon Jul 01, 2013 2:14 pm

Today's tornado warning got me wondering how the T handles such things.

Does the T delay trains for such a warning? Does it issue the warning to
riders waiting at stations in the warning area?

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Re: Trains and Tornadoes

Postby BostonUrbEx » Tue Jul 02, 2013 6:20 am

Well, no trains were delayed, and the MBTA informed me of nothing. So no, and no.

An alert wouldn't have been a bad idea. But I saw no reason to delay trains until something is actually confirmed or spotted.
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Re: Trains and Tornadoes

Postby Disney Guy » Tue Jul 02, 2013 6:40 am

By the time a tornado actually forms, it is too late for most trains that might be affected to get to an enclosed station or other partly safe loacation.

A "tornado watch" is issued and publicized when weather conditions are conducive to tornado formation. If all trains moved to safe areas and stopped, there would be many times when large regions have disrupted service and no tornado forms.

With message boards in most stations it is possible to relay tornado warnings to waiting passengers although their choices, too, are limited (at outdoor stations) if a tornado is headed that way.
(To the theater stage manager) Quit twiddling the knob and flickering the lights while the audience is entering and being seated. (To the subway motorman) Quit twiddling the knob and dinging the doors while passengers are getting off and others are waiting to board.
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Re: Trains and Tornadoes

Postby TomNelligan » Tue Jul 02, 2013 7:44 am

About five years ago I was riding METRA's Rock Island line into Chicago on a extremely hot and humid summer day as a severe thunderstorm approached the city. The dispatcher stopped us on the far South Side as the core of the storm crossed in front of us, and the conductor announced that trains through the area had been stopped due to a tornado warning. I remember that the wind was strong enough that I could feel the bilevel car rocking from my upper level seat. Once the front of the squall line passed, in 15-20 minutes, we were on our way to LaSalle Street. Since I only ride METRA a couple times a year I don't know if this is common practice out there.
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Re: Trains and Tornadoes

Postby Diverging Route » Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:46 am

Large freight lines employ meteorological services for just this kind of service. There are well-documented cases of trains being spared from severe storms thanks to timely warnings.

A good friend of mine who is both a professional meteorologist and rail fan has built a business in this area.

But to the best of my knowledge, MBTA/MBCR employs no such service. Should they? It's the old "cost/benefit analysis." Is it worth the cost of a monitoring service for very rare events, that can and will have false alarms? You might say that saving just one life over many years is worth it. This has been debated for years by economists and social scientists, and there's no easy answer.
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Re: Trains and Tornadoes

Postby jbvb » Tue Jul 02, 2013 1:24 pm

While it's clearly desirable for a train to avoid crossing a bridge or a fill when a tornado is nearby, I can't think of many "partly safe locations" on the Commuter Rail (best to worst): Salem Tunnel, Back Bay, Porter Sq., Quincy Center, Belmont? The deep cuts in Lawrence, Medford and Somerville are at risk of houses being dropped on the train. But regardless, US passenger equipment is more durable than most buildings, so I'd stay aboard, but lie down under the seats and hope the gum and coffee stickies would hold me in place.
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