Update (noon): The barges now appear to be underwater after reaching Webbers Falls Lock and Dam 16. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is on scene, where troopers can be heard noting that the barges appear to be blocking the water flow from multiple gates while underwater.
Update (10:45 a.m.): The barges have come unlodged and are being monitored as they move further downstream.
Update (6 a.m. Thursday): The barges are lodged against rocks or a sandbar around Spaniard Creek a couple of miles from the Webbers Falls Lock and Dam 16.
OHP trooper Adam Wood said the situation is being continuously monitored.
U.S. 62 remains closed as water continues to cover the roadway.
Two barges that have twice broken their restraints were floating down the Arkansas River toward the Webbers Falls lock and dam Wednesday night.
The barges broke their restraints a second time late Wednesday evening after they had been restrained from a previous break.
“The concern is also for the (U.S. 62) and (Interstate 40) bridges,” Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Sarah Stewart said.
The barges reportedly cleared the U.S. 62 bridge. State troopers shut down that bridge in Fort Gibson on Wednesday evening due to flooding in the roadway. Troopers shut down the I-40 bridge near Ross Road in Muskogee County due to the loose barges.
Webbers Falls officials ordered immediate evacuations earlier Wednesday in response to flooding. They again ordered evacuations due to the looming threat of the barges.
“The barges are loose and has the potential to hit the lock and dam 16,” town officials said in a social media statement.
If the barges break the dam, “it will be catastrophic,” officials said in a social media statement.
The Muskogee County Emergency Management Agency said the barges, weighing about 1,500 tons each, are not expected to break the dam, but if they hit the dam, they could break a gate.
They had not reached the lock and dam by 10:20 p.m.
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