Evacuees in Jefferson County meet long lines for reimbursement from train derailment


Norfolk Southern spent the last two days in Jefferson County working to reimburse those who had to leave their homes. People spent mostly all of Tuesday waiting.  Some even waited Monday night to complete an application, but were turned away.  We spoke others who said after burning gas and seeking lodging at other places in the middle of the night, they wanted to wait on the compensation. 

The packed parking area and long lines could be seen right outside of the Jefferson County EMA.    Some people sat in chairs in hopes of getting their reimbursement for money spent while evacuated during Sunday night’s train derailment.  

Annette Henry, of Wadley, sat in line with her husband.  She recalled the night they had to evacuate. 

“Frightening because we didn’t really know what was happening,” she said.

Louise Haddes, also of Wadley, left too.  “Made me feel mad cause it made me scared to even swallow my spit.”

Fears of a dangerous chemical spill forced people in and around Bartow out of their homes well into the middle of the night.  

Henry said, “1 o’clock.  1 o’clock.”

“Grabbed the first thing I could,” Haddes recalled.  “Of course, I grabbed my pocketbook.  Out the door I went with my bedroom shoes on.  We went over to my sister’s daughter and stay until they cleared it.”

Norfolk Southern issued a press release Monday offering two days for residents impacted by the train derailment to collect aid at the Family Assistance Center, located at the EMA.  Those impacted had to show proof of residency and receipts from out-of-pocket expenses.  It’s money back some say is well worth the wait. 

“We burned gas and we were just displaced, Henry said.  “They just said you had to leave Wadley.  They didn’t say where you were to go.”

“I could smell it.  So, I thought I have maybe got contaminated. I got asthma and I’m COPD too.  I left all my medicine and my inhalers at home,” Haddes said.

Norfolk Southern held a press conference too.  A total of 39 rail cars derailed.  Five remain on site and are in the process of being removed.  The site is also being remediated. 

The company stated the investigation is still ongoing.  The EPA and Norfolk Southern are conducting the investigation with the Federal Rail Association overseeing the investigation. NTSB is on furlough due to the government shutdown.  

Two deputies and a jailer were sent to the hospital with breathing issues after coming in contact with the cloud of smoke.  One deputy, Daniel Kurtz, remains at Doctors Hospital. 

The EPA is doing an air quality test as well as water and soil tests to make sure the chemicals did not impact those areas. 

Photojornalist: Mark Gaskins

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