Pittsburgh Closes Bridges As Loose Barges Drift Down Ohio River

Late Friday, Pittsburgh authorities shut down two bridges when a group of over two dozen barges came loose and drifted down the Ohio River, with several going over dams in the area.

According to statements from the Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Coast Guard, none of the barges contained hazardous materials. 23 of the 26 barges were loaded with cargo including coal and fertilizer, and three of the barges were empty.

As of now, there have been no reports of barges hitting bridges or any pollution, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Eyobe Mills told USA TODAY.

Mariners have been warned to avoid the region until the recovery of all barges is complete, Mills added. The area of the Ohio River near Pittsburgh has recently been affected by flooding, and the waterway will remain closed until the water level recedes.

Peggy’s Harbor, along the northern bank of the Ohio River in Pittsburgh, suffered significant damage.

As of now, city officials have accounted for 11 barges that have been secured, and 14 others continuing to move downstream. There is still one barge that has not been located. The Army Corps suspects this barge might have sunk, although a search cannot begin until the river conditions improve.

The barges involved are owned and operated by the Campbell Transportation Company, which is situated just downstream from the McKees Rocks Bridge along the Ohio River.

Campbell Transportation Company provided KDKA with a statement regarding the situation:

“Campbell Transportation Company, Inc. is actively responding to a recent development involving a multi-barge breakaway in Pittsburgh. Our immediate priority is ensuring public safety and minimizing any potential environmental impact. The incident occurred under high water conditions on the rivers resulting in strong currents due to flooding in the area.”

Following the incident, the National Weather Service issued an extended flood warning for the Ohio River near Pittsburgh. By midnight, the river had risen to 25 feet, surpassing the flood stage.

River navigation was halted due to the flood. While the exact cause of the barges breaking free is still under investigation, the Army Corps suspects that the high water levels were a contributing factor.

There have been no injuries reported.

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