Barges broke free over the weekend on the Mississippi RIver near St. Louis, prompting a recovery effort. This is a still image from a video provided by USA Today and DesMoinesRegister.com.
Barge traffic remained closed Monday morning along a section of the Mississippi River near St. Louis after dozens of barges broke free during the weekend. A safety zone extends from Mile Marker 155 to Mile Marker 170, meaning that portion of the river is only open to vehicles assisting with the recovery effort, says Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Tippets with the U.S. Coast Guard.
A group of between 50 and 80 barges came loose at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, "floating freely and represent[ing] an immediate danger to facilities and bridges in the Port of St. Louis," a Coast Guard news release says. Boat operators worked to secure the majority of the barges. Nine holding coal sank.
It’s unknown when that section of the river will reopen to traffic, Tippets says. For now, barges needing to travel will have to line up and wait for clearance.
Meanwhile in Mississippi, a separate section of the river remained closed Monday after about 30 barges broke free over the weekend, The Associated Press reports.
High water levels already had resulted in light river traffic north of St. Louis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. On Tuesday in St. Louis, the river is expected to briefly reach the highest level seen in close to three years.
Additional moisture could mean more uncertainty for the river, the paper says, and rain is in the forecast Tuesday.
The situation this week on the river is a stark contrast to several months ago, when barge operators were concerned they might not be able to move because of low water levels and rock pinnacles extending up from the river bottom.
More information is available to barge operators and other mariners by calling the Coast Guard at 314-269-2332 or tuning into VHF-FM channel 16.