Originally Posted by Glenritas
Sounds like they need to do some aerodynamic test modeling and come up with a solution.
No need for that.
Basic principle of accident investigation— there is never one
cause for any accident; there are always at least two causes, an unsafe act and an unsafe condition, or else two unsafe acts that synergize each other.
In this case:
1 - Unsafe condition: The city was under a tornado warning at the time. Even if a tornado didn't happen, high winds a virtually certain under those conditions.
2 - Unsafe act: Scheduling a bridge crossing by a train hauling empty boxcars that have a high surface-area-to-weight ratio.
The railroad would have shut down train movement if it had been a hurricane warning. Tornadoes can spawn higher winds than a hurricane— Hurricane Katrina at its worst when it was still a Cat 5 storm was only equivalent to an F3
tornado! So common sense says that if tornadoes are expected, one should take the same precautions as you would for hurricane-force winds.
Crossing a bridge that is over 150 feet tall during a tornado warning is an unacceptable risk. I'd personally go so far as to say it's gross negligence.
The fault lies with the railroad for not shutting down their train, and with the bridge authority for not shutting down the bridge during this storm. Either action would have prevented the unsafe condition— the high winds— from causing the accident.