Runaway Barges Strike Bridge Over San Jacinto River

Traffic stranded on the I-10 due to flooding (Jefferson County Sheriff's Office)

Published Sep 20, 2019 4:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

As flooding from Storm Imelda continues to affect southeast Texas, first responders have rescued hundreds of people from high waters. On Friday, they also had to contend with a bridge strike: strong currents peeled away nine barges from a fleeting area on the San Jacinto River, sending them downstream towards the I-10 freeway bridge at Lynchburg, Texas. 

At least two barges struck the bridge, causing what appears to be extensive damage to the bridge's concrete pilings, and the I-10 crossing has been shut to traffic due to the damage. Detours require drivers to head north to Highway 90, which crosses the San Jacinto near the town of Barrett, or the Fred Hartman Bridge over the Houston Ship Channel. I-10 is also shut between Beaumont and Winnie, Texas due to high floodwaters. 

As of Friday afternoon, six of the barges have been corralled for transport to fleeting areas, including four containing soybean oil, one full of caustic soda and one containing lube oil. Two product barges remain lodged under the bridge, one filled with naptha and the other filled with ethylene glycol. The remaining barge is beached to the north of the bridge, and it contains a load of lube oil, according to the Coast Guard. 

The barge strike was the second to affect the I-10 bridge this year. In February, a single barge hit a bridge piling, causing enough damage to shut all but two lanes until May. 

Flooding hits southeast Texas communities

Rescue operations were in full swing in areas east of Houston Thursday. The Texas Game Wardens, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Harris County Sheriff's Office, and other agencies have conducted hundreds of rescues, and their efforts continue in some areas. Three storm-related fatalities have been reported. 

Showers continued in the southeast Texas region Friday, though at lower intensity than earlier in the week. Isolated areas in the San Jacinto River drainage received more than two feet of rain over the past 72 hours, according to the National Weather service, and a flood warning for the river remains in effect until Monday at the earliest. 

#USCG Air Station Houston and Air Station New Orleans have completed multiple medevacs and rescues in the Beaumont area due to flooding caused by Tropical Depression #Imelda.

????: @USCGHeartland pic.twitter.com/wGfV7tdGOG

— U.S. Coast Guard (@USCG) September 20, 2019

Here are scenes from search-and-rescue operations today around Beaumont. @TexasGameWarden and @TPWDparks Police continue to work with partners on #Imelda response.#txwx pic.twitter.com/irvRxgGb0T

— TX Parks & Wildlife (@TPWDnews) September 19, 2019