All clear in Ellendale after train derailment, evacuation

Approx. 10 train cars derailed outside Ellendale.
Roughly 10 train cars derailed outside of Ellendale, Minn., Friday morning. First responders had been monitoring two cars filled with propane and butane.
Ryan Anderson | People's Press

Updated: 4:36 p.m. | Posted: 9:12 a.m.

Authorities Friday afternoon gave the OK for residents in the southern Minnesota town of Ellendale to go home after ordering evacuations following a nearby train derailment and hazardous spill.

Several cars in a 146-car Union Pacific train left the rails after 5 a.m. Friday morning. One car carrying liquid propane had a tear, which prompted a "precautionary evacuation" in a 1-mile radius around the derailment site, the Steele County Sheriff's Office said.

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Ellendale residents were evacuated.
Residents of Ellendale sit inside United Methodist Church on Friday after they were evacuated from their homes.
Colleen Harrison | The Albert Lea Tribune via AP

The Minnesota Department of Transportation closed Minnesota Highway 30 into Ellendale, which is just off Interstate 35 in southern Minnesota, between Owatonna and Interstate 90. Evacuees gathered at the local Methodist church as hazardous materials crews evaluated the situation.

By early afternoon, authorities said the liquid propane had dissipated and the slush that remained posed no health threat, although officials are keeping a 400-foot perimeter around the site.

There's still no exact count of how many cars derailed or how long it will take Union Pacific to remove them.

Federal railroad data show an average of six trains pass through Ellendale every 24 hours.

Ellendale, Minn
Ellendale, Minn
William Lager | MPR News graphic

Data also show Union Pacific has reported 52 accidents classified as derailments from 2010 through August 2016, although none were in Steele County and it appears there is no recent history of problems in Ellendale.

Ellendale, incorporated in 1901, has long ties to the railroad. According to the town's biography, it was named in honor of Ellen Dale Ives, the wife of the president of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad, "for the many humanitarian works she had done, especially among the railroad employees."

MPR News reporters Dan Gunderson and Bob Collins contributed to this report.