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Floods curtail Midwest shipping

Manufacturing suspended until normalcy restored

Freight cars are stranded on a bridge in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Flooding in the Midwest has halted or delayed most shipping. Freight cars are stranded on a bridge in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Flooding in the Midwest has halted or delayed most shipping. (Steve Pope/Associated Press)
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Associated Press / June 14, 2008

NEW YORK - Flooding in the Midwest has swelled rivers and submerged roads and rails, halting or delaying shipments of food, fuel, and other goods. Manufacturers also have been forced to suspend production of everything from oatmeal to pork products.

At the earliest, barge, road, and rail traffic will get back to normal next week. But companies are focused on getting through the weekend, when at least one river is expected to crest at nearly 32 feet, making it possible transportation snags could drag on.

Union Pacific Corp., the nation's biggest freight railroad, currently has six mainline tracks out of service that carry freight through Iowa. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. is experiencing delays on key routes along the Mississippi River - from Fort Madison, Iowa, to Memphis.

A bridge over the Cedar River has collapsed and another owned by Union Pacific is being monitored for possible washout. Several more are under water. The shutdowns are expected to last about a week, but warned further delays are possible.

Flooding in Iowa and Wisconsin also is affecting Amtrak service on two major western routes from Chicago to San Francisco and Seattle.

Some service also is suspended between Chicago and Denver, spokesman Mark Magliari said. Amtrak is providing alternative service by bus and train in some areas, but not in Iowa, at least through the weekend. Major lines to Wisconsin and some parts of Minnesota have been suspended since Tuesday.

The situation is slightly better for trucks, which can more easily redirect cargo shipments to alternate routes.

David L. Miller, chief operating officer for Con-way Freight, said regional service has been shut down or delayed through virtually all the flooded areas. He expects service to be nearly restored by Monday, as freight is transferred to other routes.

Both FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. also said delays should be minimal. Barring any further severe weather, both shippers expect to return to normal operations by early next week.

As shipments are delayed across the country, the floods also have caused shutdowns at several food processing plants in Iowa, including a Quaker Oats facility in Cedar Rapids and two Tyson Foods Inc. pork facilities.

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