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When Amtrak’s Vermonter passenger train headed toward Putney, Vt., on the tracks of the New England Central (NEC) at 3:40 a.m. on Oct. 9, 2005, there was no way that the engineer could have known that a heavy rainfall had washed out the tracks ahead of the train at a bridge on the line. Although all of the signals were green, WeatherData, a private weather-reporting agency, informed NEC’s dispatchers that flash flooding could have damaged the track. After the train engineer was alerted, the train stopped, and an inspection was conducted. “If the train had gone over that section at 59 miles an hour, there could have been fatalities,” American Rail Dispatch Director Tom Murphy told The Wall Street Journal, as 90 feet of rail was suspended over a major washout.

WeatherData, which became a division of AccuWeather in 2006, provides private clients and subscribing cities with current storm data, often much faster than the National Weather Service (NWS), reported Don Phillips, a columnist for Trains Magazine in the Nov. 2008 issue. While the article focuses primarily on railroad-related storm warnings that have prevented or at least reduced potential damage from windstorms or floods, WeatherData serves the public, private companies, and the news media in an attempt to avoid some of the risks associated with high-impact weather. Chief Executive Officer Mike Smith founded WeatherData in 1981. Most of the nation’s major railroads subscribe to the service, or at least one similar to it.

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