Towboat, barges stranded on sandbar

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 27, 2001

The motor vessel James Ermer passes the motor vessel Miss Chris and several of its barges that have been stranded on a sandbar at the bend of the Mississippi River of Vicksburg since Thursday night. In the background, a towboat owned by Mid-South Towing Co. is also headed downstream. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN

[11/24/01]Swift currents caused by falling water levels in the Mississippi River were blamed for stranding a towboat and barges on a sandbar in the huge bend at Vicksburg.

The motor vessel Miss Chris, operated under a lease by Triple-M Transportation of Greenville, hit the bar at about 8:30 p.m. Thursday, said Albert Smith, fleet supervisor with Ergon Marine and Industrial Supply. The boat and about half of its tow were still on the bar Friday afternoon.

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“You have a bad right hand draft (current) across that bar, especially when the river is as low as it is,” Smith said.

The Mississippi River was at 4.8 feet on the Vicksburg gauge Friday morning. The fall was expected to continue with the river reaching a level of 4.1 feet today and 3.8 feet by Sunday.

Smith said the Miss Chris was headed downstream when a strong current reflecting off the Mississippi bank shoved the front of the barge string onto the sandbar. The bar is the remains of the spit of land that extended from what is now Delta Point to what is now DeSoto Island. The river cut through the spit in 1876, accomplishing what Gen. U.S. Grant couldn’t during the Campaign for Vicksburg.

Smith said boats from Ergon worked with the Miss Chris to move about half the barges from the stranded tow to a mooring location south of the Interstate 20 and old U.S. 80 bridges.

He said Friday afternoon getting the remaining barges off the sandbar was being delayed by the heavy southbound traffic. A slight miscalculation by a boat headed downstream could slam its tow or itself into the barges or one of the towboats trying to free the barges.