Video: Barges Pile Up at Ohio River Dam
On Sunday, a total of 72 barges moored at fleeting areas on the Ohio River broke away due to ice and high water. 27 broke loose from Jack's Run Fleeting near Pittsburgh and headed downstream towards the Emsworth Lock and Dam; five are believed to have gone over, and at least 16 more are stacked up behind the dam's main channel and back channel. At least two remain missing.
An initial inspection found that the dam's structures appear to be unharmed, but a full determination will have to wait until the barges have been removed. The salvage process can begin once conditions improve, and will take an estimated two to three days. In the meantime, the wreckage continues to move in place. "Some of the barges are shifting and ice is building up behind them, and that's what we are monitoring continuously," said Jeff Hawk, spokesman for the Pittsburgh District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, speaking to the Tribune Review. "This is a dynamic situation."
The barges do not contain hazardous materials and the Coast Guard says that there are no concerns about pollution. The agency has closed the Ohio River from mile marker 93 to mile marker 110 and mile marker two to mile marker 20 due to the risk of channel obstructions.
“The Coast Guard is working in tandem with our federal and industry stakeholders to account for all barges involved in both incidents and to facilitate the reopening of the waterways and the resumption of commerce,” said Cmdr. Leon McClain, Jr., the Captain of the Port of Pittsburgh.
Flooding on the Ohio has also created difficulties on shore, including submerged roadways and traffic snarls. The Ohio River was expected to crest at six inches above flood level, with localized effects higher due to ice jams on smaller tributaries.