Weather Causes Rail Disruptions in Western U.S.


WASHINGTON -- Severe weather conditions in the West forced Amtrak to cancel some trains and arrange alternative transportation by motorcoach where possible.

Service on the Coast Starlight north of Oakland, Calif., for example, was suspended through at least Jan. 24.

Alternative transportation was available from Seattle and Portland, Ore., to Eugene, Ore., but at press time, no alternate transportation was available between Oakland and Eugene.

Motorcoaches were substituting for Mount Baker International trains between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, as well as for Cascadia trains between Portland and Eugene and for California Zephyr trains between Sparks, Nev., and Salt Lake City.

Amtrak had suspended segments of Empire Builder trains out of Seattle and Portland to Chicago, but service was expected to resume normal operations soon.

Other trains serving the area, such as the Pioneer and the Mount Adams, were resuming normal operations, subject to delays.

Meanwhile, in northern California's sodden ski area, hotels and resorts were idled not only by local flooding but by washed-out access roads.

Highway 86, a main artery leading through Truckee to Tahoe City on Lake Tahoe's north shore, was under several feet of water after the Truckee River overflowed its banks.

Squaw Valley USA, one of the area's prime ski resorts, was closed for several days by floods and mud slides at the lower elevations. Two other resorts, Alpine Meadows and Ski Homewood, also closed for short periods.

Guests at the lodges and campsites in Yosemite National Park were evacuated, and officials were unable to say how long the wilderness area would remain closed.

Also uncertain is the reopening of Highway 101 at San Luis Obispo, a huge chunk of which disappeared during the floods and subsequent mud slides.

In the wine country, damage was minimal.

The Truckee River also flooded portions of downtown Reno, Nev., forcing five of the city's more than 40 casino-hotels to evacuate guests.

"We're back on track, and its business as usual," said Jim Meeker, president of the Hospitality Association of Northern Nevada and Lake Tahoe, and director of hotel operations for Harrah's Reno and the Hampton Inn at Harrah's Reno, two of the properties affected.

"The airport is open, the streets are cleared, and it's looking pretty much the way it was before the storm." Reno Airport had been forced to close temporarily.

Meeker said both properties, which together contain more than 1,000 rooms and were running at more than 90 percent occupancy when the flood hit, transported guests to other hotels after a power outage forced them to close.

The other three properties that relocated guests were Comstock, Holiday and Riverboat. All five have reopened.

"The damage we're sustaining now is the cancellation of reservations," a spokeswoman for the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority said.

"We have 17,000 rooms available, and Reno is open for business."

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