Bridge strikes happen, but credit experts for them being few and far between

Published 8:42 am Thursday, June 15, 2017

If you have ever sat atop Navy Circle or on the back porch of the Mississippi Welcome Center, you get glimpse of just how busy the Mississippi River is when it comes to boat and barge traffic.

Also sitting along the river, you can also gain some appreciation for just how powerful the river is. The rumble of the rushing water is noticeable, even on most calm of days.

This week, a tow, traveling north on the river, pushing three barges, struck the Interstate 20 and Old Highway 80 bridges. In the process, some of the barges broke away, and quickly headed south. Thankfully, none of the barges sank.

In late May, while the river was still above flood stage, the Old Highway 80 Bridge was struck by barges, this time as they headed south on the river.

Such strikes are not common, although there are times of the year when such strikes are more likely.

Navigation along the Mississippi River is always a challenge, but the area around Vicksburg, with the bends of the river and the bridges so close to a bend, is particularly challenging.

In January 2016, the bridges were struck a number of times as tows worked to navigate the challenging course, while at the same time battling a river that was above flood stage.

Those working along the river face dangers and challenges those of us who sit back and watch could only imagine and could never appreciate.

Do accidents happen? Yes. But, the lack of accidents along our stretch of the Mississippi is a credit to those who take to the barges and tows every day and the training they have received and continue to receive during their career.

The cause of this most recent strike is under investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard and lessons will be learned. But what we have learned — those who have marveled at the river traffic and the skilled hands of those who navigate the Mississippi — is that our local economy depends on the river and those who work daily to take the Mighty Mississippi.