Tornado hits BLE General Committee office in Fort Worth

The month of March went out like a lion for members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in Fort Worth, Texas.

BLE Vice-General Chairman Dennis Pierce reported that the BNSF/Montana Rail Link General Chairman's office was hit by a tornado on March 28.

The BLE office is located on the 18th floor of a 35-story "glass tower" in downtown Fort Worth. More than 80 percent of the building's windows were knocked out during the storm.

"Our building was right in (the tornado's) path, so we took a direct hit," Pierce said.

The tornado, classified as an F2, had winds of up to 157 mph. It hit Fort Worth at approximately 6:30 p.m. No one from the general chairman's office was injured.

"We've been able to get into our offices on a limited basis and our suite did receive substantial damage," Pierce reported. "Several of our windows were blown out when the storm hit and there was a considerable amount of water, both from the storm as well as from the floors above, that entered the offices."

Fortunately, damage to important computer equipment was not as bad as originally feared. "Our computer system did suffer some water damage but it is back up and running with no loss of data," Pierce said. "It appears we were lucky compared to some of the other offices in the building.

"Although some claims conferences that were scheduled the week of the storm had to be postponed, we are back on schedule and most of the meetings, Public Law Boards and conferences previously scheduled are slated to go on as planned."

Officers are now working out of a temporary headquarters until approximately the end of May.

In the meantime, temporary phone numbers have been established for the following: General Chairman Merle Geiger, (817) 352-4371 or (817) 946-3125; Dennis Pierce, (817) 352-4375 or (817) 946-2792; Steve Bratka, (817) 352-4374 or (817) 371-3863; Matt Wilson, (817) 352-4377 or (817) 313-5730; and Patty Peterson, (817) 352-4372.

Mail should be sent to the office's regular address, and the office fax number, (817) 338-9088, is still in use as it is forwarding to the temporary headquarters.

Any e-mail messages sent from March 28 to April 10 were not received and should be resent. However, the office e-mail is running on an intermittent basis.

"We appreciate everyone's patience as we try to get back up and running," Pierce said.

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