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A fast roundup of 21 dry cargo barges averted serious damage when a towboat dinged the Mississippi River bridge at Natchez Sunday evening, according to Coast Guard officials.
The 168'x40'x11' Lindsay Ann Erikson was pushing the barges upriver, contending with high water and a fast current, when the stern struck a glancing blow on one of the pylons supporting the highway span over the river between Natchez and Vidalia, La. The impact broke loose the barges, and workers with Vidalia Dock and Storage Co. – designated first responders for that section of the river – got the barges corralled and moved to the west side of the river.
"The barges were pushed to the Vidalia side and the tow put back together," said Lt. Brian Porter, a spokesman for Coast Guard Sector Lower Mississippi, which along with the Mississippi Department of Transportation dispatched inspectors to the scene Sunday night. There were no injuries, only minor damage to some barges and "the bridge was minimally damaged, some scrapes," Porter said.
Operated by Marquette Transportation Co. of Paducah, Kentucky, the Lindsay Ann Erikson is listed on the company's website as a 6,400-hp vessel of 786 gross tons, built in 1982. "Between our boats and Erikson, we were able to collect them all," said Albert Smith, port captain for Vidalia Dock and Storage. "He was heading up the Natchez side of the bridge, and he had some trouble with the current." But the tow was soon reassembled and only one barge needed to be offloaded, Smith said. The National Weather Service reported the river stage as 49 feet at Natchez Sunday, which is rather high, Smith said. It's expected those levels should begin declining soon.Continued »
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