Train carrying molten sulfur derails in Lakeland

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Some Polk County residents woke up to an early morning emergency call warning them to not to leave their homes. A train derailment spilled hazardous chemicals, prompting the warning and closing roads.

The view from SkyFOX showed quite a sight: Nine CSX train cars derailed in the area of Kathleen and Strickland roads, almost half of them leaking bright yellow molten sulfur -- a hazardous material.

Nearby residents got a call at 2:30 Monday morning, saying don’t go outside and turn off your air conditioning.

Even after Polk County officials said it was safe, hours later, neighbor Terry Wright insisted on wearing a mask anyway.

“Because I am concerned about the acid.  I see a lot of workers have them on.”

The Florida Department of Environmental Resources says an unknown amount of molten sulfur leaked, along with thousands of gallons of acidic grease.

‘It is kind of scary what the after-effects are going to be, but there’s not much you can do about it,” resident Cindy Woodring offered.

Monday afternoon, the DEP tried to offer some assurances with this statement: “Soil excavation at the spill is expected to remediate all impacts from the spill, with no expected long-term environmental impact.”

Even if that’s the case, it has already impacted a lot of people who live in the area.  Kids stayed home from school and others were stuck because no one could drive in or out of their neighborhood.

Barbara Wade just wanted to get home after work, but couldn’t.

“I can’t go this way, that way, this way,” she complained.  “And I parked my vehicle and walked and the officer stopped me and said, ‘No way; you’re not going down that way.’”

Strickland and Kathleen roads are still closed while the cleanup continues, and could remain blocked through midnight.

The cause of the derailment is still under investigation. The Polk County Sheriff's Office says crews will work through the night Monday to clean everything up and the roads will remain closed, but they are expected to reopen sometime on Tuesday.


At approx. 2 a.m. Monday, November 27, a CSX freight train derailed approximately nine rail cars in Lakeland, Fla. A preliminary assessment indicates that four of those cars contained molten sulphur, a hazardous material used in making rubber, detergent and fertilizers. Several were reported to be leaking. Polk County emergency services responded to the scene and issued a precautionary ‘shelter in place’ order to residents who live near the scene. CSX personnel and contractors have responded to the site to assess the situation and develop a plan to remediate the scene, re-rail the affected cars and restore service. No injuries have been reported as a result of this incident.

The train involved in the incident was traveling from Waycross, Ga., to Winston, Fla., and comprised three locomotives, 120 loaded railcars and 72 empty railcars. The train was carrying a variety of freight, including molten sulphur, cardboard, oats and rock.

The cause of the derailment is under investigation.

CSX appreciates the quick response of Polk County first responders and the actions they took to protect the public’s safety. CSX’s first priority is to protect the residents of Lakeland, Fla., while we work to restore the scene of this incident.