Barge strikes Highway 80 Bridge, shuts down river

Published 12:28 pm Thursday, February 8, 2024

An empty barge headed north along the Mississippi River struck the Old Mississippi River Bridge bridge just before noon Thursday.

Officials and eyewitnesses on the scene said the impact broke the barge apart, turning it sideways in the river and parallel to the bridges.

Officials on the scene said the combination of the higher river level and an increased current likely led to the collision. This was the third barge to hit the bridge in the last 36 hours.

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“I’ve been working this for 35 years. I’ve seen numerous bridge hits, but I’ve never seen one lay across the river like this,” an Ergon Marine & Industrial Supply employee on the scene remarked.

A fleet of Ergon boats were dispatched immediately following the collision in order to aid in the process of freeing the barges and correcting course.

Officials on the scene said most collisions occur with southbound boats, making Thursday’s incident particularly hard to correct, as workers will be fighting the current as they attempt to free the barge from its position.

The collision completely shut down water traffic through Vicksburg for an indefinite amount of time, with officials saying work to rectify the situation could take hours or days.

No injuries were reported and reports indicate the collision does not pose a safety threat to motorists crossing the Interstate 20 bridge, nor did it appear to have damaged the structural integrity of the Highway 80 bridge. The empty barge also poses no environmental threat to the river or surrounding area.

This is a developing story and will be updated as new information is made available.