Billboard down

Sunday morning's straight-line winds that blew railroad cars off a trestle across Loop 287 near U.S. 69 north also destroyed a couple of billboards at that intersection, sending debris into nearby trees and power lines.

Straight-line winds on Sunday morning blew rail cars off the railroad trestle across Lufkin's north loop, near the Pepsi plant and U.S. Highway 69 north.

Texas Department of Transportation officials said Sunday afternoon that they expected that section of the loop to remain closed for some or all of today as they clear the rail cars and repair the highway.

Two rail cars fell to the roadway beneath the railroad bridge. Dozens other rail cars came off the track, as well. A&NR Railroad owns and operates the railroad from which the cars were derailed.

Motorist Jose Torres posted this on The Lufkin News' Facebook page on Sunday morning: "I got there right after it happened and you could hear the metal clanking as it was still slightly falling. No cars were pinned and noone looked to be injured. The train is always stationary at that location so no train operators seemed to have been injured either."

Barricades will remain in place and motorists will be detoured until the roadway is cleared, according to Rhonda Oaks, public information officer for the Lufkin District. Residents with direct access as well as businesses within the barricaded area will be accommodated to and from their locations, she said.

“Removing the rail cars in the safest way possible will require certain things to happen,” Oaks said. “Our officials have devised a traffic control plan for motorists until the cars can be removed, and we are hoping that will be by Monday evening. We are waiting on equipment that is being sent from Houston before the cleanup can begin.”

Motorists are advised to follow all detour signs and to not attempt to go around barricades.

Oaks said Easley Cranes was being called to remove the derailed rail cars. The rail cars were empty, and there were no spills as a result of the derailment, Oaks said.

"In addition, TxDOT is also getting reports of high water in some areas of the Lufkin District," she said. "We caution drivers to avoid flooded areas today, and don’t attempt to drive through them. Some creeks are already overflowing, and we want motorists to remember that it only takes six inches of water over a roadway to push a vehicle off the roadway and possibly into a flooded creek. Don’t take the chance. Turn around, don’t drown.”

Lufkin street personnel on Sunday morning also responded to reports of limbs, trees and power lines in the roadway at several other places in the area.

Dave Gray, recruitment officer for the Red Cross in Angelina County, said the storm also did minor damage to at least one home in the Cedar Grove community north of Lufkin. He said there were reports of a tornado in that area, but that all the trees that were down were facing the same direction, indicating that straight-line winds were responsible for the damage.

Copper radar at the National Weather Service continued to show numerous showers and thunderstorms across much of eastern Texas on Sunday morning.

Forecasters said soils are already saturated and creeks are full, and the additional heavy rainfall will quickly run off and likely result in flooding.

Isolated to scattered showers are possible again Tuesday and Wednesday as another cold front moves through the region.

The series of weekend storms brought major damage to other parts of East Texas.

According to the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Lindale Mayor Robert Nelson declared the city a disaster area after a suspected tornado damaged an estimated 50 homes on Saturday. Emergency workers first responded to reports of two possible but unconfirmed tornadoes about 3:20 p.m. Saturday, the Tyler newspaper reported.

Andy Adams' email address is aadams@lufkindailynews.com. Steve Knight's email address is sknight@lufkindailynews.com.

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