All roads back open after Petal train derailment, evacuees return home

All roads back open after Petal train derailment, evacuees return home

PETAL, Miss. (WDAM) - More than a dozen railroad cars derailed in Petal just after midnight Friday.

Petal Police Chief Matthew Hiatt said 18 cars came off the tracks near the intersection of Central Avenue and U.S. Highway 11.

Norfolk Southern, the train company involved, said on of the cars that overturned was leaking denatured alcohol, which is used for fuel.

While the chemical does not pose an immediate threat, according to Hiatt, several homes in the area were evacuated as a precaution. All evacuated residents have since returned to their homes.

Among the evacuees was Billy Williamson. He lives on South Railroad Avenue, just a short distance from where the cars derailed.

He heard the cars come off the tracks.

“It was just real loud and kind of shook the house and rattled the windows and then, it got real quiet,” Williamson said. “A few seconds later, my dogs started barking. I got up and looked out the window to see where they were at and I saw the firemen out there walking around.”

Personnel and contractors from the train company who specialize in environmental cleanup and recovery responded to the scene and contained the chemical.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality was called in to assess the scene.

First responders set up a perimeter around the derailment, closing Highway 11 and several roads in Petal.

Petal police announced in a Friday night Facebook post that all roads are back open, though the railroad may have to close to complete cleanup.

Several roads in Petal are closed due to a train derailment.
Several roads in Petal are closed due to a train derailment. (Source: Chris Thies)

According to Norfolk Southern, the train was on its way to Hattiesburg when the derailment happened and they are now investigating the cause of it.

Officials at the scene were unable to give an estimate on how long the cleanup could take.

The Petal School District announced that there may be minor delays to city bus routes in the area of N/S Railroad Street, and the Center for Families and Children (CFFC) will be closed today but all other school and offices will operate as normal.

We will keep you updated throughout the morning as more details become available.

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