On Thursday afternoon two runaway barges, reportedly carrying fertilizer and weighing a combined total of 3,800 tons, crashed into Webbers Falls Lock and Dam 16 on the Arkansas River in east-central Oklahoma. One submerged within 10 seconds and the other broke apart after making contact and also sank. As of Thursday afternoon, the dam was holding.
According to Public Information Officer for Muskogee EMS, Trish German, two barges got loose on the Arkansas River late Wednesday night, and no one was onboard the barges.
At 5:30 a.m on Thursday, a team was working to secure the barges upstream from Webbers. But before 11 a.m., the barges had broke free again and due to the flood waters, it was unsafe for the team to pursue another attempt to secure them. Due to the stress on the dam caused by the flooding concerns were heightened when the barges could not be stopped from approaching the dam.
The town of Webbers Falls had been evacuated due to life-threatening flooding. Interstate 40 was temporarily shut down until the barges weren’t a direct threat to the I-40 bridge, which is downstream from the Webbers Falls dam.