2 Amtrak Trains Reverse Course When Avalanche Closes Tracks

Two Amtrak trains together carrying nearly 300 passengers stopped and reversed directions because of an avalanche that closed railroad tracks in the Sierra Nevada in northern California. More than 4 feet of snow has fallen over the past two days and winds have been gusting in excess of 100 mph.

Service on Amtrak's California Zephyr between Reno and Sacramento, California, has been suspended until weather conditions improve, Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said Wednesday.

Earlier this week in Oregon almost 200 people were trapped on an Amtrak train that was halted after it hit downed trees during a blizzard.

The Reno Gazette Journal first reported that the two trains halted because an avalanche and boulders closed the tracks, which are operated by Union Pacific.

Union Pacific spokesman Tim McMahan confirmed a "snow slide" occurred at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday just south of U.S. Interstate 80 near Donner Pass about 10 miles west of Truckee, California.

"Union Pacific is working to clear the tracks. There is no ETA on when the tracks will reopen," he said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

A 70-mile stretch of I-80 also was closed Wednesday from Colfax, California, to the Nevada line just west of Reno.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said a westbound train bound for northern California on the California Zephyr route halted Tuesday at Reno and early Wednesday and headed back east while an eastbound train that left Emeryville, California, Tuesday stopped at Roseville, California, before turning around.

Magliari said Amtrak put the passengers in Reno up for the night in a hotel and provided charter buses to resume their journey.

In Oregon, the Amtrak train with 183 passengers aboard was stuck for about 36 hours before it got moving again Tuesday.

The train was traveling from Seattle to Los Angeles when it got stranded Sunday, putting a strain on passengers as food, patience and even diapers ran short.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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