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I-80 reopens after train carrying munitions derails in Northern Nevada

Updated June 19, 2019 - 3:51 pm

A train carrying ammunition, grenades and aluminum oxide derailed Wednesday morning in Northern Nevada, closing a stretch of Interstate 80 for several hours. None of the most dangerous cargo was spilled, however, authorities said.

About 9:50 a.m., 23 railroad cars from a Union Pacific train went off the tracks near Wells, according to the Elko County Sheriff’s Office and Union Pacific Corp. None of the affected cars was carrying the “small arms ammunition” or hand grenades that were aboard the train, Sheriff’s Office Lt. Kevin McKinney said.

The derailed cars — including at least nine flat cars, two tankers and three box cars — dumped diesel and aluminum oxide, a chemical compound often used in ceramics and refractories, according to the Sciencedirect.com website. Union Pacific initially thought vegetable oil was among the mess, “but it was not,” Union Pacific spokeswoman Kristen South said.

The train was heading to Roseville, California, from North Platte, Nebraska, she said. The railroad company is working to clean up the site, although a timeline for completion wasn’t yet known.

The Federal Railroad Administration is investigating the derailment, which did not injure anybody.

The spilled aluminum oxide, which was blowing from one of the rail cars, resulted in the I-80 closure, affecting a roughly 60-mile stretch between West Wendover, on the Utah border, and Wells, according to the Nevada Highway Patrol’s Northern Command. The interstate was reopened about noon.

Aluminum oxide is not hazardous but should be washed off it comes in contact with the skin, the Highway Patrol said.

State leaders said they were keeping tabs on the derailment and its aftermath.

“My office and other relevant state agencies are monitoring the situation and will provide more information as it becomes available,” Gov. Steve Sisolak wrote in a tweet.

U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, a Republican whose congressional district includes the site of the derailment, thanked the first responders for a swift response.

“As cleanup efforts get underway, I will continue to closely monitor any updates surrounding today’s derailment,” Amodei said in a statement.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto also thanked first responders and said she was in touch with local, state and federal authorities.

“I’ll do all I can to provide the support our local community needs to respond to the derailment,” her statement read in part.

Nevada’s second U.S. senator, Democrat Jacky Rosen, added that her office reached out to local and military officials.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Rio Lacanlale and Gary Martin contributed to this report.

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