A barge accident in the early morning hours Thursday at the John C. Stennis Lock and Dam in Columbus could potentially cause flooding issues for areas between Stennis Lock and Aberdeen Lock on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. Anything north of Aberdeen is not in danger, according to officials.
“The Stennis Lock is closed until further notice. A loaded barge broke loose from the Clay County port sometime during the night. It hit the spillway and sunk,” said Mitch Mays, administrator of the Tenn-Tom Waterway Authority.“The water is already rising and with the barge blocking gates, they can’t move as much water through as they would normally do during a high water event like you have right now.”
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Operations Site Manager Justin Murphree said the barge hit the spillway close to midnight, and it sunk between 1:45 and 2 a.m.
“It’s got two and a half gates blocked but not completely blocked, but the flow through those gates is severely limited. We’re passing as much water as we can. We’ve got all the gates completely raised trying to get as much water through as we can,” Murphree said.
Murphree has talked with Corps of Engineers water management experts in Mobile, Alabama, who were working on calculations to estimate the outflow as of before 11 a.m. Thursday.
“Depending on what weather does is what happens on the headwater side of the dam. It’s rising right now but without knowing what the outflow is, it’s hard to predict how much it’s rising,” he said.
Mays is unsure of when the lock will reopen.
“It’s too early to say what kind of recovery they’ll have on the barge and assessing any damage to the gates and spillway itself,” Mays said.
The rainfall totals at the Aberdeen Lock and Dam registered 5.69 inches in the past four days.
The northeast section of Mississippi is drained by the waterway, and several counties have experienced major flooding issues this week.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers posted a message through its Facebook page Thursday morning that Blue Bluff Campground and Blue Bluff Recreational Area in Aberdeen were among sites temporarily or partially closing due to current flooding and the predicted forecast.
Other areas listed were Dwayne Hayes Campground, Dewayne Hayes Day Use Area, Town Creek Campground (partial closure for sites 20-30 and sites 83-94), Waverly Ferry Day Use Area, Pickensville Campground, Stennis East Bank Recreational Area, Cochrane Campground (partial closure for sites 26-53) and Barton Ferry Boat Ramp.
Mays advises people to exercise extreme caution and for boaters to not be out on the water during the current high water event.
“The Tenn-Tom provides excellent recreational availability but during these kinds of events, I’d recommend for people to stay safe and stay off the water,” Mays said.